Passionate one Featured

1:06pm EDT September 22, 2003
Another consultant and I were discussing a company we had both worked with. Why, we wondered, was this business -- with a long history in the owner's family and a good niche product and market -- not able to break through and reach its potential?

We agreed the company was not a very exciting place, and a gloom hung over it. The owner was a nice person but very low key. He spent a lot of time on committees and causes outside the business, and his business was in desperate need of a full time leader.

What was missing was passion. The owner lacked a true passion for the company and his role. He was there because the family owned the business, and it provided him with a good opportunity to make a decent living.

When you talk with business owners who have passion, you can feel it. They are excited, proud and committed to their business, its people and its success. A client, who built a successful business from scratch, told me he even loved the smell of his business. Passion will not overcome a lousy product or a lack of customers, but it can help companies overcome some large hurdles.

An owner's passion can be contagious. Once it begins to spread, the power of the organization can be overwhelming. Customers, employees, banks and everyone important to your business success can see and feel it. Employees pick up on it and build on it. They pass it along to the customer.

Employee pride and retention increase. Customer service happens naturally because you don't even have to think about it as the passion takes over.

The consequences of no passion can be worse than the benefits of strong passion. Without the owner's passion, the company simply exists. There's no
excitement. Good employees, who started their careers with a strong passion lose it because it is not reinforced.

Remember that machine in the penny arcades where you squeezed the handle and a string of lights turned on? The machine supposedly measured your degree of passion, and you stood there with your date hoping the lights would reach the top. What if we had machines that measured passion for your business? How high up the scale would you score?

Squeeze the handle and measure your passion. Is it still there? And, is it strong enough to spread throughout your organization? If your passion is gone, you need to consider what is best for the company and for yourself, including the possibility of getting out of the business. Joel Strom (jstrom@jsagrowth.com) is director of Joel Strom Associates, LLC, the growth management practice of C&P Advisors LLC. The firm works exclusively with closely held businesses and their ownership, helping them set and achieve growth objectives while maximizing profitability and value. Contact him at (216) 831-2663.