Productive Leaders

Ph.D., CSP, CDR, US Navy Ret.,
CPAE Speaker Hall of Fame

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Are you running a business or a hobby?

Working by the SunflowersIt sounded harsh responding to the person asking for business advice at a networking meeting. She was grilling me about how to get more business.

I asked how many years she had been in this business (several) and then asked what she did to market her business. I was surprised when she didn’t have in place what most people consider to be the basics for her industry. I suggested that she ensure that she had the foundations, such as getting a website, making follow-up phone calls, using a CRM, and creating an online marketing strategy.

She told me she didn’t have time to do any of that. She airily replied that she was too busy helping her friend who was decorating her new house. And doing other things.

The reality is that she just isn’t willing to do the work necessary to be successful in that industry.

I was wasting time. Hers and mine. So I gave it to her honestly.

“What you are doing isn’t a business. It is a hobby.” She looked slightly taken aback. Maybe a little stunned. But not surprised.

I tried to reassure her. “That’s okay. If you want this to be a hobby, there is nothing wrong with that. In fact, there is a lot less stress. But if you are not willing to put in the time to make it a real business, be honest with yourself and focus on doing just what you want to do.”

She still looked unhappy.

She liked the idea of a business, she protested. She just didn’t want the work of a business.

I don’t know of any business that happens without work.

Why are people worried about the work involved with running a business? Part of that concern is because running a business is a different skill set than what do you for your business.

Running a business is about accounting, knowing the laws, taxes, writing business plans, securing funding, marketing, advertising, and selling, while your actual business (hopefully) is doing what you love, such as arranging flowers or installing roofs, or cutting hair.

You may enjoy working with people, because you have experience working as a host or hostess in a restaurant, but there are a million more details to running a restaurant than just making sure people are able to sit at a table.

Thoroughly research the aspects of the running a business for what you want to do. Ask questions such as:

  1. Are there other people who produce this good or service? Are they successful? What do they do well? Can I do what they do?
  2. Is there a market for this good service? Will there be a market for this for several years?
  3. Am I on the cutting edge or at least current in this field? Am I good at this?
  4. Do I like spending time doing this business?
  5. Do I wake up, happily, thinking about how I can make this business work?
  6. Is this business sustainable? Can I make a living doing this? Do I want to make a living doing this?

What are some of the steps needed to run a wildly successful business?

  1. A great idea to do something that plays to your strengths.
  2. Produce whatever it is you are selling.
  3. Test the idea to see if people like your product or service. 
  4. Test the product’s price in the marketplace, (use elasticity formula to determine where to price your product for the best revenue for your business).
  5. Create and implement a strong marketing strategy.
  6. Advertise.

Yes, sometimes we are lucky enough to do what we love. But it’s still a lot of work.

If it is was easy, we’d call it a hobby. 

1 Comment

  1. Kelly Rostad


    I enjoyed reading your article about the difference between a hobby and a business. I have learned this but I had no idea how much work it would be to own a business when I started out.

    Kelly Rostad


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