Keeping the Passion Alive
6th April 2017
It’s the fire in the belly and the zeal to succeed that drives most entrepreneurs to success – but how do you keep that fire burning through the humdrum grind of managing your business?
According to research carried out for the Harvard Business Review (HBR), which tracked more than 100 entrepreneurs in the founding stages of their ventures over a period of 10 months, that passion and enthusiasm can fade. HBR suggests two strategies for keeping those belly fires burning – being highly adaptable to consumer needs and seeking strong, objective and challenging feedback from a diverse network including fellow entrepreneurs, investors, advisors and industry experts.
Words: Áilín Quinlan
Two successful entrepreneurs Natasha Czopor and Denise O’Callaghan who have built thriving businesses from seed, offer their advice. Constant innovation, pushing past the comfort zone, and a willingness to delegate mundane chores are the key to keeping your passion alive, says Natasha, who founded her successful raw food company Natasha’s Living Food on a Dublin market stall in 2007. The dynamic young company now employs eight people at a factory in Donegal producing a range of raw snacks from kale crisps, to wholefood bars and confectionery for a network of health food shops as well as the big retailers – Dunnes Stores and Supervalu and, as of March, Tesco.
Natasha is also exporting to the UK and to Italy and is currently making plans to sell her wares further afield. “I keep my passion alive by constantly changing, improving and innovating – I’m always pushing out of my own comfort zones and boundaries and I find that exciting,” she told WMB. “Being challenged in business keeps me on my toes with lots of different products coming on board.” However, she warns, it’s crucial to understand that entrepreneur-founders will inevitably get weary – and this is where delegation comes in: “You have to keep connecting with your vision – that is a big challenge because otherwise you lose sight of what you’re doing,” she explains adding that keeping sight of your goal feeds your passion. To do this successfully, however, you need people to take some of the load off your shoulders. In turn, this allows you more time to be creative and gives you the energy, the space and the time to innovate. “It’s the everyday chores that leach your energy,” she explains, adding that she is also motivated by small successes in the business world: “It’s like an acknowledgement that you are going in the right direction.”
For former banker Denise O’Callaghan, innovation and supporting her customers are some of the keys to keeping her passion alive. After initially establishing Denise’s Delicious Gluten-free Bakery as a small bakery and deli, she expanded to a much larger, award-winning company, published a successful cookery book, makes regular TV appearances and is planning to open her own cookery school next summer: “We are constantly innovating and doing new things and expanding,” she says, adding that as a result she is “utterly engaged and preoccupied” by what she does: “It’s a way of life; it’s not nine to five pm, it’s very organic. We’re always looking for new ways to turn the business on its head and finding ways to improve what we do to help the business grow.” Another huge driver is her genuine interest in helping people who need advice or support in terms of gluten-free products: “When the calls come in, we really like to help people, whether it’s baking the product for them, or helping them find the ingredients to make it themselves – or providing advice about the kind of food you give a newly diagnosed coeliac. “It’s not just about the business; it’s the human side as well and that keeps the interest alive. “It’s very much about being interested in what we do and about looking after the customer. I love the buzz of the commercial side as well so it is all good!”
If you’ve been feeling ‘dragged down’ at work, consciously look for the cause, advises clinical psychologist Dr Malie Coyne a lecturer at NUI Galway. It may be something that is simply not working in the business, or an employee issue that needs to be dealt with. To keep your entrepreneurial ‘flow’ going, try making a list of the aspects of your job that you don’t like and those you do like. Then incorporate the more likeable parts of your work more frequently into your day. Dr. Coyne also strongly believes in the importance of delegating – but warns that to do it effectively you need a good team of positive people around you. It may be an idea to hire a part-time or contract employee to take over the more tedious chores such as administration, which in turn allows you to channel your energy into the work that really matters to you and the success of the business.
Take time out if you begin to feel weary, she suggests, because “prolonged stress can really deplete your resources in your body and weaken your immune system.” Have a social network of people who will encourage you; replenish your passion in what you are doing is also crucial to re-fuelling the entrepreneurial drive. “Don’t isolate yourself,” she warns, adding that some entrepreneurs who are really focused on their business may find that they don’t work much in the company of others. If you’re in that situation, advises Dr Coyne, make a point of attending regular networking meetings with other entrepreneurs, business people or simply, like-minded people. If you’re feeling your enthusiasm wane, consider providing mentoring to younger, enthusiastic like-minded young people starting out – or seek mentoring for yourself from a positive, experienced and successful role model.