Why passion, ideas and mission are overrated

I love Luke Johnson's weekly column in The Sunday Times, a weekly dose of practical advice from a successful entrepreneur.

His latest column was on the myths about what it takes to succeed in business and what is really important. Words like "passion", "genius" and "mission" are sexy and make a good headline

Here are some highlights from the column.

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Overrated = IDEAS — "anyone can think up a new product or service, but very few can build a business. Often it is not the pioneer who reaps the rewards of innovation, but a latecomer who learns from their predecessor’s mistakes and does it better."
Underrated = EXECUTION — "actually carrying out a plan and delivering on a hypothesis separates the few winners from the many losers. Running a company is a gritty, demanding task, which is why so many fail."

From 15 years of experience starting and growing the brandgym, I can testify that hard work, persistence and stamina are key to success. And indeed, "2nd mover advantage" can help a brand succeed: see an example here on Titan watches in India 


Overrated = PASSION — "millions of people are passionate about something, but zeal is not sufficient to ensure a profitable business. Do not mistake blind enthusiasm for a practical proposition." 
 — "money makers tend to deliver the goods even if they are dry, unemotional characters. You do not have to be charismatic to be a high-performing entrepreneur."

A key focus of brandgym work is helping teams "follow the money" by being commercial and business savvy. Marketers are often full of ideas and passion, but less good at thinking through "ability to win" with a sustainable, profitable business model, as I posted on here.


 Overrated = HEROIC FOUNDERS  — "solo entrepreneurs can be remarkable individuals, but the best returns are usually achieved by teams of capable executives, with each one making a vital contribution to the project."
Underrated = PARTNERS
 — "your chances of making it big in any business endeavour are greatly improved if you take on a partner. I have always had equity partners. Without them I would have accomplished nothing."

The success of the office I opened for Added Value in Paris, growing from 2 to 50 people, and in building the brandgym both came from a partnership with someone talented with complementary skills (thanks Marie-Hélène and David N. !)


Overrated = MISSION — "operating a business is not like leading a religious cult. Having an insightful mission statement is fine, but it will not bring customers to your door or repay your overdraft. Business is about doing the basics well every day, looking after the detail"
Underrated = CASHFLOW — "companies that do not do this tend to go broke. A sound chief executive understands her margins, profitability, cash flow and all the key financial ratios."

Companies sometimes spend way too much money and time on perfecting a mission statement. Of course, having one helps a business and we do projects in this area. But we recommend moving quickly into action to bring the mission to life through leadership actions to make it real.

In conclusion, Luke's advice is gold dust for any aspiring entrepreneur. Yes, you need a smart strategy and lots of passion. But you also need excellence of execution, a very thick skin, bags of stamina and a ruthless focus on what really makes money.