You stand in front of would-be investors and proclaim your passion for the business you’re starting. I see it often in angel investment meetings and business plan competitions; and every time I watch Shark Tank on network TV. You say something like:

Chris Devers Flickr cc Dreams Cancelled

I am soooo passionate about this business that I can’t fail. I won’t fail. I’m dedicated. I love this business idea and I’m never going to give up.

That bothers me every time I hear it. Passion in entrepreneurship is a concept full of myth and misunderstanding. Alleged experts toss the passion concept around too often, and too carelessly. As if you having passion for what you’re doing will make it successful.

Sure, passion is important when a struggling business will grow and prosper if it can just survive temporary hard times. But if nobody wants what you’re selling, your being passionate about it doesn’t make it succeed. Being passionate about a bad idea just deepens the failure.

The real passion test isn’t about you or what you like. It’s about your customers, their problems, needs, and wants. You do something other people care about enough to pay for it, and you do it well enough to be able to charge more than your cost, and then you begin to have a business.

Ask yourself this question: Who cares? Whose life is better for your business existing — yours, or your customers’. And this related question: are you giving your customers value for their money? Will they come back again? How much passion do they have?

To make it clear, pretend I want to build a business selling recordings of me playing guitar and harmonica and singing. I can have infinite passion for this business and fail completely because nobody but me wants my product. The more passion I have, the more time and effort I waste. Not that it isn’t something I do occasionally, but it’s not a business.

So forget what you want. Figure out what other people want, and how many people, and how badly they want it. That’s where passion becomes business opportunity.

(photo credit: Chris Devers via photopin cc)

Tim BerryTim Berry

Tim Berry is the founder and chairman of Palo Alto Software and Follow him on Twitter @Timberry.