Entrepreneurs, beware of 'Quixote Syndrome'

An entrepreneur's quest is often driven by single-minded passion. And passion can get in the way of good judgment.

Oliver Krato/dpa/picture-alliance/Newscom/File
A windmill in Luebecke, Germany, is shown in this March 7, 2011 file photo. Just as Don Quixote's enthusiasm blinded him from seeing that he was attacking windmills, an entrepreneur's passion may cloud good judgment.

Passion is what drives entrepreneurs.

Passion is often what pushes us to take the risk to launch our venture. Passion is also what keeps us going when we face the many hurdles and roadblocks that are inherent in almost every entrepreneurial endeavor. Passion is what helps us break into the market and convince a skeptical market to part with their precious dollars to buy what we have to offer.

But passion also can create an interesting paradox for entrepreneurs.

If we let our passion cloud our vision as we assess opportunities we believe are in the market, it leads us to only see the positive evidence to support launching our venture. I see this in my students everyday.

Today's students, just like many generations before them, have some strongly held beliefs and values.

For example, I see many who want to translate their passion for healthier lifestyles into businesses. But when they are asked to objectively evaluate whether their passion for being healthy is matched by market demand, they become blinded by their strongly held vision. Rather than look for the trends and evidence that their passion will translate into a successful business, they view the start-up as a virtuous mission to change the world. They plan an attack of all of the wrongs in society that have created an unhealthy lifestyle, and translate their passion into a business start-up with little hope of success.
I call this Don Quixote Syndrome.

Mind you, a passion to change the world is a good thing. I tilt at my own windmills everyday. It is just that I have learned that most of my "causes" don't make good business opportunities.

But this kind of passion does not always mean that they will have a ready market waiting to buy what they are selling. I am not saying that a business model based on passions such as healthier lifestyles are fatally flawed. Rather, when they present their rationale for their business model and the value proposition they are tackling, it is rarely based on a ready and eager market. It becomes a quest to change the way their intended markets think and behave.
While a noble goal, it is a time-consuming and expensive path to creating a successful venture.

So when your passion leads you to want to start a business, take the time to make sure that their are enough willing customers ready to join your quest. If not, stay true to your passion, but find less expensive ways to pursue it than starting a venture that is doomed from the start.

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