I had an email the other day from someone who asked a very interesting question. So do I do what I love, or do I do what I’m good at? She explained that she has started a couple of local ad agencies that were doing well when she left them, but she saw the keys to success there as “selling ads.” And, she added “I’m just sick of selling ads.”

Unfortunately, emails being emails, she didn’t add what she loves into the equation, but she did get me thinking.

Aren’t those the same thing? Aren’t you good at what you love to do, and don’t you love to do what you’re good at?

I’ve always assumed that one of the best ways to build a business is to build it around what you love to do. I know this is weird, but I’ve always liked the way the words and numbers come together in a business plan, and, despite having been a words person first, I’ve always seen the beauty of the numbers, when the balance balances, and the cash projection is accurate. And I liked spreadsheet programming. So those various things explain how I came to start and then build Palo Alto Software. I was doing what I like to do, and I was (if I do say so myself) good at it.

Get ahold of the Wall Street Journal’s D5 interview of Steve Jobs and Bill Gates Steve Jobs and Bill Gateslast June and listen to what these epic entrepreneurs have to say about their lives and their businesses. It’s clear there that they loved what they were doing, and for a very long time.

My view is that starting a business is a lot of work, so you need to like what you’re doing. And, let’s not forget, even if you like the main idea of it, it’s still a lot of work that you don’t like. Aside from the core work there’s the administration, dealing with customers, cleaning the shed, emptying the garbage, and all the rest of it.

My email person didn’t say what she did like to do, but even if she didn’t like selling ads, I can’t help wondering if there isn’t another part of the ad business that she does like. And a way to focus on that part instead of the selling that she doesn’t like.

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Tim BerryTim Berry
Tim Berry

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