Today I give words of caution about mixing business and pleasure – not always a bad thing, but certainly something to approach carefully.

Do any of your hobbies or pastimes match, support, or wrap around any of your venture ideas? If yes, they are worth a closer look. In this section, I want to simultaneously warn you and encourage you. Building a business around something you’re passionate about can be fun and fulfilling. It can also be torture. Before you turn your hobby into your livelihood, make sure to ask yourself these three important questions:

1. Is this activity your release valve or primary escape?
2. Would doing it full time cause conflict with your significant other?
3. Will working in this field undermine your interest in your normal recreational activities?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may want to be wary about transforming your favorite hobby into your entrepreneurial venture. Maybe golfing helps you relax and adds invigorating downtime to your schedule. But how will it affect your nerves if all of a sudden you are not only working on your swing, but watching your business go up and down at the same time?

In the year 2000, Abi Hunter, a member of one of the technology teams I was leading, came to me expressing interest in starting a business together. I had tremendous confidence in her abilities and half-jokingly stated, “Great! As long as it deals with my passion for golf or mountain climbing, I’m in!” Sometime later Abi returned with a bootstrap proposal to launch a business that focused on international exporting of golfing and hiking equipment. Out of her proposal came the Cyclone Trading Company.

As I entered this business I thought that the local representatives of the manufacturers like Nike Golf and TaylorMade Golf had the ideal job. They got to go around promoting and selling the latest toys and tools available in the golf industry. In other words, they lived and breathed golf for a living! I couldn’t believe their good fortune. I soon discovered that the situation was not as I thought.

One day I was speaking with Phil, the area representative of TaylorMade, and we began talking about our last golf outings. I was shocked when Phil said he had not been out yet that year. Mind you, this was the first of July! As I queried Phil, he admitted that although he loves golf, after talking shop all day long and visiting all the golf courses, his passion had turned into labor. As a result, he doesn’t golf much for enjoyment any more. I saw this time and time again as I spoke with both golf and outdoor representatives. They had transformed their favorite sport into a dreaded job.

Maybe you really do enjoy an activity enough to have it be a part of your life Monday through Friday and over the weekend as well. Your passion and skill could really give you a leg up on your competitors. As I set up Cyclone, I followed the principles outlined in this book. As a result, it was one of the most fun and rewarding businesses I have ever owned. However, if you are not careful and do not approach your venture properly, a business based around your favorite sport or hobby could transform your passion into your poison.

Porter’s Points – Passion or Poison?

• Create an “I’m passionate about…” list. Cross all the items off the list that are not potential wave items.
• Remove from the list those items that you neither have the skill nor capital to pursue in a business setting.
• Focus thought and energy on this process by employing the tools found in chapter 3, “Power Tools.”

We’ll get to Chapter 3: Power Tools in a few days, so until then, just focus on creating and editing your “I’m passionate about….” list.