Real estate mogul Barbara Corcoran has seen a lot of passionate entrepreneurs come and go on ABC’s reality pitch show “Shark Tank.” She’s learned that overexcitement can drive a business into the ground.
“Too much passion blinds an entrepreneur, just like a guy who’s madly in love,” Corcoran tells Business Insider. “He can’t see clearly, he can’t listen, and he knows for sure that the girl is ‘absolutely perfect!’ Being too wrapped up in a love affair with your new business idea doesn’t allow you to change what’s wrong.”
Corcoran, who recently launched online class “Fundamentals of Entrepreneurship: Pitching Your Business and Yourself” with Skillshare, first realised that being too passionate could be bad for business when she invested in a young, aspiring entrepreneur. He had a great product with a lot of consumer appeal but refused to budge an inch from his vision.
“After giving him my $US100,000, along with my truthful, experienced feedback about what needed to be improved — like a needed design change and offering a lower-priced model that everyone could afford — he didn’t listen and changed nothing,” says Corcoran. “He was too much in love with his original product to hear or act on a single word. One year later, his business is still bumbling along, but it’s sure not going to succeed.”
Of course, Corcoran readily admits that she’s made this same mistake herself. She recalls falling head over heels for one of her business ideas in the early ’90s. She decided to put all of her apartments for sale on videotape, so buyers could view them without leaving their La-Z-Boy chairs, and named it H.O.T. for “homes on tape.” A year later, stacks of unwanted videotapes sat untouched in her office basement, and not one person had checked out what Corcoran had considered an “ingenious” video tour.
“My blind passion didn’t allow me to realise my idea had one big flaw: Our salespeople wouldn’t show their customers the tapes because they included the names and phone numbers of the other competing agents in my office,” Corcoran remembers. “My great idea was dead on arrival, and my pig-headed passion had cost me $US71,000.”
Today, Corcoran thinks of a healthy business passion as more of a slow burn than a raging fire. Sure, it should start out strong, but it should also grow stronger as the business evolves, she says. When she evaluates entrepreneurs, she now looks for their persistence and ability to stick with the business the way a committed spouse stays with a marriage. “It’s mostly hard work and doesn’t feel very passionate when the bad times hit, but stay you must.”
How can you tell the difference between a healthy passion and a blinding lust for your exciting new business? Corcoran recommends not going the traditional route and asking friends and family what they think of your business idea. They love you too much to be objective, she says.
Instead, she believes you’re much better off going outside your circle of friends and family to get unbiased responses to your product or service. If you get lukewarm or negative reactions, you can use that feedback to make your idea stronger. And if they love it, Corcoran suggests you “tell them you’ll take an order right then and there, and see if they will hand over the money!”
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