At Your Service: June 3, 2009

Scratch the surface of almost any successful venture and you will find someone with a passion for a critical aspect of the business. There is usually a direct link that connects, say, a love of vehicles to an auto repair shop. Sometimes it is more indirect, as when someone who really loves to sell things makes a go of it selling a particular product. It is this passion that drives the business through the tough times and makes palpable the 1,001 mundane tasks that are also necessary to the creation of any success.
Passion is one of the emotions we all experience; when it manifests in our work it can take many forms. A love of food drives one local chef; he seems to never grow weary of preparing entrees for our enjoyment. Another local entrepreneur sells kitchen wares and other food related products, motivated by the same core passion for food. Yet another is a farmer and sells fresh produce to restaurants and grocers.
When you go behind the scenes, you discover the angst behind the smile as they place orders, manage time schedules, keep up with the latest trends, design ads and on and on. They either wear many hats or have someone to share the burden by picking up some of those responsibilities; usually a combination of the two.
For instance, our chef shares the trials and tribulations of restaurant ownership with his wife who manages the front of the house. His chores include all things related to the kitchen, but his contact with the public is reduced to the occasional handshake for a particular dish well done. This engages his charming wife in serving customers, an aspect of the business less well suited to his personality. Many a local family-run business benefits from the inherent availability of multiple skills and personalities; the family farm is the classic traditional example.
When a business is owned and operated by one person, the passion must burn bright enough to be contagious. Our housewares retailer makes an adept use of computers to simplify order placement and bookkeeping functions, but must hire staff in order to stay open seven days a week. She has infected those who work with her with an enthusiasm that keeps customers engaged.
Passion often spreads like a virus. Effective supervisors in every type of business find ways to connect their employees’ work to those things that most matter to them. Someone passionate about the children at home may use the energy derived from thoughts of family as motivation for tasks they don’t particularly enjoy doing. Of course the best match is found by hiring people with a natural affinity for the related industry and igniting their passion about the given business; the family oriented person would do well in a day care center or perhaps a children’s clothing store.
In reality, a very small number of us earn our living doing just what we love. The rest of us muddle along in some combination of work we love and hate. In these tough times, many must simply take whatever work is available in order to make ends meet. The more we engage our passions as we perform the tasks we must do, the more likely we are to find satisfaction in our work, whatever that work may be.
When we find ways to connect our work to our passions, we find ourselves feeling like the one who uncovered “jackpot” on the scratch-off lottery ticket.