My passion? I am an entrepreneur

Passion and entrepreneurship are inextricably linked. At least, that's what the many entrepreneurs’ stories we hear every day suggest. But are successful entrepreneurs always passionate about what they do? What actually defines passion? What role does it play for entrepreneurs? And how might we be able to encourage it more successfully? These questions are addressed in a recent study by the Flanders DC Knowledge Centre at Vlerick Business School. Veroniek Collewaert and Jacob Vermeire approached BRYO, a VOKA initiative that aims to support entrepreneurial talent in Flanders.

Successful entrepreneurship is often associated with daring to take risks, perseverance and an inexhaustible reserve of energy, creativity and inspiration. In fact, passion for entrepreneurship is the ultimate source. But what exactly is this passion for entrepreneurship? The generally accepted definition includes two important aspects.

Firstly, it's about the experience of intense, positive feelings. This is the aspect of passion we refer to when we talk about an entrepreneur with fire in their belly, hunger and enthusiasm. It also includes the degree to which someone identifies with entrepreneurship: how important is entrepreneurship for me as a person? It answers the question "who am I?". If you are passionate about entrepreneurship the answer will probably be “I am an entrepreneur”.

Entrepreneurship can cover three roles: the inventor, the founder or the developer. Inventors mainly focus on coming up with new ideas and solutions. Founders are most passionate about making their ideas a reality and establishing a business in practice. Finally, for developers growing and continuing to develop a business is the most enjoyable and energising aspect. Some entrepreneurs identify strongly with one role, whilst others may see themselves in more than one. 

One thing is certain: the more passionate, the more motivated. “To succeed you have to believe in something with such a passion that it becomes reality”, said Anita Roddick, founder of The Body Shop. So how can we fuel and maintain that passion for entrepreneurship?

The passion entrepreneurs experience prior to establishing a business can decrease due to the creation of unrealistic expectations. Most entrepreneurs seem to begin the start-up phase with a lot of dedication, but that can quickly change. Given the positive relationship between entrepreneurial passion and the success of the new business, this is obviously detrimental.

This could be avoided through better assessment of the market. The earlier you approach potential customers, the lower the chance of negative experiences whilst establishing a business.

Role models can have a positive influence, but not all types of entrepreneur are seen as role models. Well-known names or speakers with great success stories may even decrease entrepreneurial passion. New entrepreneurs feel most encouraged by entrepreneurs who present a familiar story about establishing a business, entrepreneurs who have fallen and got back up again and can talk about this realistically and with nuance.

Finally, the study shows that new entrepreneurs can also take action themselves to do business with passion. In this stage it is important to play to your strengths as a new entrepreneur or if necessary form a team with a partner.

The study concludes by stating that programmes to stimulate entrepreneurship should ideally focus on action, rather than simply functioning as an idea tank.

Source: “Everything you didn’t know about passion in entrepreneurship” by professor Veroniek Collewaert and researcher Jacob Vermeire for the Flanders DC Knowledge Centre at Vlerick Business School (2013).

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