Love what you do, and you’ll never work a day in your life.
It’s a phrase shared by entrepreneurs and parents everywhere and it’s one I took to heart four years ago when I started Empower3d. I knew I wanted to make an impact and follow my passion.
A lot of us have the dream, but transforming a dream into a business is a harder hill to climb. Here are a few thoughts from my own journey on crafting a passion into a career:
Know your why
Creating a business is hard. It is important to understand why this passion is driving you. It’s also important to keep believing in your why when confronted with one of two inevitable obstacles:
- Other people are already in this field, so what makes you different?
- No one is doing it (which means people don’t feel that they should pay for it because they don’t see it as a true business).
My why came from personal experience. My dad played in the NFL and when he retired, the world stopped knocking on his door. My “uncles” (many of my dad’s friends from his playing days) would come over and everyone was trying to figure out what was next, but no one was there to help. It was a room full of big-name athletes and they had no resources to go to. I could not figure out why -- it did not seem right. As I got older and began playing ball, I was always surprised with the push to not worry about anything else but the next game. It was not everyone, but most people were willing to compromise so you could go hoop, but once you were done, so were they. I knew something needed to change.
That’s what drove me and what continues to drive me. I’m not thinking about whether there are others out there doing it, or whether some might not see what I do as a true “business.” I’m secure in my why because I own what I do on a deeper, personal level. My why is who I am.
My wife hates when I do this, but I’ve always talked to whoever will listen about how I want to make an impact. My first big at bat was sitting at the NFL headquarters in front of Troy Vincent more than four years ago. I told him what I wanted to do and why -- and he gave me a shot. That opportunity was the NFL’s personal finance camp. My sessions centered around building an effective financial team to help achieve success. It was the start that got the ball rolling.
Seek scalability...but don’t rush it
You can only be in so many places at once so you need to figure out ways for your business to grow without you always being there. But make sure you’re ready. Scalability comes after you have built your business and proved the concept. Initially you will need to be everywhere at once. I spent my first four years (and counting) on the move. I needed to understand my customers, the market, and my business trajectory. Once you have pounded the pavement and have a better understanding of your opportunities to scale and how to execute, then it’s time to build your plan and go for it.
You will get “no’s” no matter what, but it is important to understand where the no is coming from. Is it because your product isn’t effective? Is it because no one in the history of your industry has ever paid for your service? Or is it just not in the budget this year?
Knowing how to decipher the “no” is important in determining whether your business needs a tweak or just your sales pitch. Someone once asked me during a pitch what I did for my full-time job. I walked out disappointed, but I knew the market and knew the value of what I was doing. I recognized that the comment came from a lack of understanding; it did not mean I needed to go get another job.
You’d better be different
Differentiation is key. Why is your business different? Is it the impact? Is it your background? Do you provide a more cost-effective solution? You don’t have to reinvent the wheel, but you should know why your business is different and be able to effectively communicate the reasons. You have the ability to define why you are different, and you’d better be comfortable with that decision. Your differences should be clear in a pitch and in your day-to-day execution.
Take everyone’s advice (including mine) with a grain of salt
I read articles and had conversations with everyone before launching this business. Many people told me it was a waste of time and that I could never make a living doing it. It is the nature of doing something new. People cannot always see what you see. Don’t make decisions based on someone else giving you the thumbs down or the ok. Jim Carrey shared what I think is an applicable quote: “I learned many great lessons from my father. Not the least of which was that you can fail at what you don't want, so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love.”
So if I am going down, I am going down swinging.