Entrepreneurs’ intense devotion to their business concepts can create “the passion trap,” a self-reinforcing spiral of beliefs, choices, and actions that can lead to several mistakes. These mistakes can include underestimating what is required to launch a new venture, overestimating customer interest in the new product, making irretrievable commitments to unproven concepts, and sticking to a failing strategy until it is too late to recover.
The core pattern of the passion trap is that new founders become attached to an idea, they invest time and energy into it, they receive feedback, and then they accept only the information that supports their original idea.
The passion trap has six major negative consequences:
1. Founder misalignment: Problems are created when entrepreneurs either focus only on what they love to do or try to take on all aspects of the business themselves.
2. Missing the market: Many startups suffer from early sales that are far below projections. New founders often think that if they believe passionately in the product, everyone else will.
3. Rose-colored planning: Passion-trapped entrepreneurs can be overly optimistic in their financial projections — or they may make no projections at all, operating in a financial fog.
4. An unforgiving strategy: Some entrepreneurs put most of their resources into a new venture before its viability has been proven; leaving them without a contingency plan should their product fail.
5. The reality distortion field: After building overly optimistic plans, founders often avoid or deny bad news and seek out data that validates their visions.
6. An evaporating runway: The first five negative consequences increase the chances that entrepreneurs will run out of cash, time, support, and personnel before they can develop an adequate revenue stream.
Entrepreneurs who are most vulnerable to the passion trap tend to be overconfident, ambitious, independent, and extremely imaginative. They are also often driven by the sheer excitement of risk-taking, and can possess a single-minded focus that leads them to stubbornly stick to an outmoded game plan. New founders may be in danger of being trapped if they say that their new ideas are “sure things,” they lose patience with people who point out shortcomings in their plans, or they assume they are entering a space with little or no competition. Healthy optimism that leads to solid planning can be the keys to avoiding this trap.
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