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Can This Business Be Saved?: Choosing Your Business

Q. I’ve been reading SUCCESS for about a year, and I’m ready to quit my job and start a business. I’m deciding between two diverse ideas: one that’s based entirely on my expertise or one that I’m told can be lucrative in an industry that doesn’t hold much interest for me. Which way should I go?

A. Glad you’re ready to join the ranks of entrepreneurship. I’m a big believer in going with what you love, while keeping in mind that passion alone won’t boost your bank balance. If you can combine your spark—that expertise or idea that fills your thoughts during the day and keeps you awake at night—with some serious hustle (read: marketing muscle and sales success), then you could be onto a winning formula.

Building on your existing skills and knowledge is great, as long as you truly love what you do. Don’t just move in this direction simply because you know the ropes.

Take, for example, the accountant who is brilliant with numbers, but if she has to prepare another tax return or audit another balance sheet, she’ll lose her mind. The skill is there, but the passion is most definitely not, so she should flee from this field. She dreams instead of opening a jewelry boutique that stocks a beautiful assortment of collections from local designers. As long as she’s committed to learning this new line of work and doing all it takes to run a thriving retail operation, there’s no reason why this business can’t be successful. It may just take a bit longer—and present more growing pains—than a business built on existing skill and related contacts.

What I wouldn’t do is dive into something that other people—so-called experts—tell you is a “sure bet,” because there are very few, if any, of those today. Unless you’re confident about the business type after researching its potential risks and rewards as well as the day-to-day realities of running it, then there’s no point in pursuing something that holds little to no interest for you.

Being pressured in this direction is a prescription for disaster. That’s because when the going gets tough, which it always does—often with great regularity—in small-business ownership, you’ll be less inclined to keep plugging away. When you don’t absolutely love what you do, it’s much easier to throw in the towel.

Before you make your final decision, talk to as many people as you can in both businesses to fully understand the opportunities and challenges that exist so you can paint a truly accurate picture of what you’re about to take on. You want to feel incredible optimism and excitement unclouded by wishful thinking or empty promises.

I’m rooting for you!

See more of Tory Johnson's advice on picking the right business and making it work.

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