This is a frequent topic of conversation among people considering entrepreneurial ventures- is it better to do what you know or do what you love?
My response is that it is usually best to do what you know in a way that you can love.
For me, I love working with entrepreneurs and hearing about new businesses and helping them get off the ground and operating profitably. I can do that with the bookkeeping business I own and for the parts of bookkeeping I love less, I have employees!
Does this strategy work? Well, here is a story that profiles 18 successful women entrepreneurs, and of those, 13 are doing something directly related to their previous work experience. So, I think for most cases, looking for something you know that you can do in a way that you will love is the best way to identify a business you can start yourself and be successful.
Why do I say that? For two reasons. The main reason to do what you know is that it dramatically lowers the risk of starting a business because you are already very familiar with the industry, the customers, how sales and marketing works, the kinds of product pricing and features that are important to customers, and all kinds of other factors that an outsider to the industry would have to learn from scratch.
Chances are you also already know some key people you can hire, and have a Rolodex full of people you can call on to be customers, vendors and advisers to your new company. You will walk in with built in credibility before you even have your first sales call. This is not an advantage to be given away lightly.
The second reason it that often the reason you don’t like working in the industry you are in is not so much the industry itself but the current job or position you have. For example, you might not like working for a general contracting company because of the ethics of the people you work with, or the constantly behind schedule nature of the job.
But that doesn’t mean that if you were running your own company you would have to operate the same way- you could change the things you don’t like about it for the business that you run. Very often people who leave to go do their own thing do so because they believe they can do the job better, and this includes creating a work environment much more in line with their personal desires and needs, rather than having to try to adapt to whatever culture is already built into the place they currently work.
This is an excellent motivation for starting a business, unlike a lot of other reasons people come up with, because the strong belief in your own ability to create a better situation will get you over a lot of rough spots that other potential motivations won’t.
So what does this mean if you really hate the job you are but you probably could do it better on your own- is that the only choice for getting started? No- you might have a hobby you really love that could turn into a business. In this case, it comes out nearly the same, because chances are you know the hobby so well you will have the same advantage of being able to quickly get yourself set up and will know exactly who the customers are and what they are looking for.
It may take some time to learn how the industry itself works, as opposed to just being an end user hobbyist, but since you know the products and the customers and likely the vendors as well, it shouldn’t take you too long to learn the business side.
The hardest business to get into is one you know nothing about. There are ways of dealing with this as well, and it certainly doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ever start a business doing something you don’t know. It does mean you should spend time learning everything you can about it, however, and talk to as many people active in the industry as you can.
In the end, you should start a business that you can do well and will also love doing- at least mostly. Usually, this is doing something you already know well, and that is always the first place I suggest you look for a business you can start.