How To Remain a Passionate Small Business While Growing

We only hear the success stories. The garage stories. The stories about how someone simply wanted it badly enough and it happened.

What we don’t hear about are the struggles. The juggling of schedules to be with family, while still finding time to get work done. The tension between passion and paying your bills. The struggle to feel worthy enough to charge for good work, while feeling guilty for making money.

There’s not much out there that honors these kinds of struggles.

It’s helpful, comforting even, to believe that it’s possible to have a business you’re passionate about. But having passion isn’t enough to make money. You have to work hard too. Sometimes, I’m not sure there’s room for both. But I know it’s worth trying for.

This post is about trying, about reconciling both sides.

Working Through the Friction Point

For years, I’ve thought about one key question as I’ve built Quadrid: How do you build a business you’re still passionate about 10, 15, 25 years down the road?

I’ve been building variations of Quadrid for 16 years. Deep down, I’m passionate about connecting with people on a human level; I want to model what it looks like to be publicly genuine and vulnerable. There are lots of ways to do this; I’m best at doing it through video.

If I’m producing videos and not connecting on a deeper level, than I’d rather not do it. If the videos aren’t genuine, I’d rather not be involved.

But just a few years ago, I wasn’t sure that my passion was supposed to be delivered through video. I don’t know that having people pay me to poke and prod as I film them is an economically viable business strategy.

So this became the crux of a personal and business dilemma. I felt that my value for realness was less valued by some of our bigger clients – ultimately, making them less candid on camera. This conflicted with our essence-based model.

Emotion gives value to what we do with story. If that’s lacking, then I begin to question the value of our work.

Over time this became even more of a friction point. Clients would hire me for a project, and I’d steer that project in a direction that made it interesting to me; one I felt was more faithful to Quadrid’s values.

This caused some challenges when we got into editing. It was difficult to deliver projects that accomplished both visions for the project: the client’s and mine. We made it work and to my knowledge, clients were always happy, but ultimately, the finished videos suffered from this duality. In time, it became clear that we needed to find a new client base that was more closely aligned with our values and style.

Finding the Passionate Small Business Sweet Spot

Over the past several years we’ve been able to shift the focus of most of our work towards clients who value our process more than ever before. Now, when we get into the editing process we’re working towards a unified goal.

We’d love to keep pushing in this direction, but we’re not sure how many people are out there who share a similar passion and vision.The million dollar question, as I continue to grow Quadrid, now becomes: “How big is that audience?”

As we figure that out, we also take on work that might not look likes it’s within our niche. From the outside, this might appear to be purely for financial reasons, which is definitely a part of it, but there are other factors as well.

passionate small businesses - the tension between pursuing your passion and making money.

Sometimes the client is a good fit, but the project doesn’t seem very “Quadrid” on the surface (our unique value comes out more in the process). Other times, we take on projects for the creative challenge — it would be kinda boring to only do one type of video for one type of client. We all need a little variety in our lives!

One thing has become clear as I continue to pursue my passion – there will always be a tension between what I love and making money from it. That’s the thing with passion, it’s never satisfied.

This can get tiring and discouraging, but I’m trying to find a peace in the tension. To be thankful for how I get to do the things I love and for the progress I’ve made. Some days are better than others.

What’s so cool about this – where things are at right now – I really believe that we’re on the right track. I now have the confidence that Quadrid has something unique and valuable to offer our clients.

As we continue to grow through these tensions, we’re also going to be profiling other business owners to hear how they balance their passion with business. We’ll keep you posted as we dive deeper into the tensions and struggles that come with owning a business.

I’d love to hear of your intentional ways for heading toward your passion. Write them in the comments below.

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Showing 4 comments
  • Noah

    Thanks for this post, it definitely helped me a lot 🙂 I’m passionate about commercial work but realized I haven’t been very intentional about getting it! I’ve been intentional about baby, family, wedding and headshot work (the stuff I know I can get) but have really slacked off in terms of branding myself or educating myself in the direction of what I really want to do! (High five emoji)

    • cspinks

      Hey, Noah! Yeah, it’s so tough to be intentional about work you’re passionate about when there’s paying work at your doorstep. It’s also tough (at least for me) because you have to think about the long game. It’s not like there’s a switch that gets flipped and suddenly you’re doing passionate work – there’s a lot of balancing that happens in between…and possibly always. Thanks for your comment (High five emoji back at you).

  • greg

    Being a web nerd, I share your passion for creativity and “joy in the details” when it comes down to the nitpicky steps of execution. I actually enjoy finessing the twiddly bits, *IF* a project has captured my imagination. But like yourself, there are things I’ve done strictly for the cash flow, which didn’t have any compelling purpose in my own sphere; wouldn’t contribute to my portfolio or amplify my career emphasis. Those were treadmill exercises instead of fresh air and sunshine. During those intervals I’ve made concerted efforts to set aside time for rejuvenation, whether that meant skiing, moonlighting pursuits, cooking for the family, using Skype to contact far-flung friends, or just cycling to work at a favorite cafe with WiFi. I’m lucky my career allows me to flex the schedule around in these interesting ways. And I’m lucky to have found the communities and people who’ve all helped to keep me sane along this journey — including yourself. It’s the insanity that keeps people sane. Randomness, variety, freshness, wanderlust, exploration, tech advances, gadgets, and yes, even blank whiteboards which attract scribbles. Call it advanced slacking. Call it time to breathe. Call it what you may. Hats off to you, friend. One of the loopiest and therefore most balanced people to be found anywhere. Lack of pretense endears you to most, and makes you an asset to all.

    • cspinks

      Greg – yeah, isn’t it amazing how “finessing the twiddly bits” is easy on passion projects and the most difficult and tedious task on ones that aren’t!? Cheers to insanity! p.s. You’re whiteboard art is missed here at Converge:)

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