The phrase “getting on with your life’s work” is used often, which implies a career transition for individuals in which they exploit their achievements and experiences to date. This is often true of successful entrepreneurs. It is the rare entrepreneur who starts a business as his first job.

The forces driving such transitions come from many sources. In the case of former athletes or retired military personnel for example, it was the inevitability of the end of their careers. Others start businesses because they believe in the opportunity represented by a product or an idea. For others, still, unemployment may be a factor, especially with elevated unemployment levels that have exceeded eight percent since February 2009.

Is it time for you to “get on with your life’s work” and start a business? The following questions will help you determine the answer.

(1) Are your reasons for wanting to start a business the right reasons? Right reasons are ones which motivate you towards a goal — you want to be your own boss, you want to see your ideas bear commercial fruit and have others acknowledge what you have achieved. Negative reasons, such as running away from a job you don’t like, rarely breed success.

(2) Do you have a “fire in your belly,” and are you determined to start your own business regardless of what others say? If so, that tenacity and drive will probably be more critical to your success than any words of wisdom offered to you.

Opportunity doesn’t knock — it waits to be discovered. With the three Ps: Problem, Pain and Passion. While this article focuses on the three Ps as sources of inspiration from which to start a business, these three dimensions can also be applied to evaluating an idea for a business. Specifically, if an idea addresses all three dimensions, most likely, it is a good foundation for a business. If, on the other hand, the idea fails to address any of the three, it should be rejected or restructured. While the idea may still be viable, redefining your target market and how you sell into that market will be necessary.

PROBLEM – The essence of any good business is one that responds to the market. There must be a need or a problem among potential customers that an entrepreneur can fill or solve. For most small businesses, creating a market because of new technology or some other revolutionary approach is not feasible. Under those circumstances, the cost of marketing the revolutionary concept will often exceed available resources. Early stage businesses should be in a sales mode and have a Declarative Imperative statement that effectively communicates, and sells, the company’s solution to a given problem.

PAIN – While having a problem is necessary, it is not sufficient. The true basis for a business is a problem that causes “pain.” The more “pain” potential customers experience, the greater their motivation to find, and purchase, a solution to eliminate it. The greatest challenge for every early stage company is making the transition from development into commercialization, i.e., getting targeted customers to part with their cash for the product or service. The existence of “pain” is a critical element in closing such sales. Creating revenues is the first step toward commercial success.

PASSION – Finally, the entrepreneurial team needs to have “passion” about the solution it is providing. This passion needs to be sincere and it must permeate the entire organization. The “passion” quotient, in the early stages of a business, is one of the most important elements in closing sales. New businesses have so many things going against them; the customer has to believe in the people promoting the product or service. Similarly, from the entrepreneurial perspective, things will go wrong and mistakes will be made. Without passion, an entrepreneur may not have the fortitude to stick it out and successfully navigate these pitfalls.

If you pass the problem, pain and passion test, put some power and punch into your pitches to prospects.

Who knows? You may just be able to use your unique experience to gain a strategic advantage to launch your start-up and gain some space on the competitive landscape.


Dr. Farrah Gray is the author of “The Truth Shall Make You Rich: The New Road Map to Radical Prosperity,” “Get Real, Get Rich: Conquer the 7 Lies Blocking You from Success” and the international best-seller “Reallionaire: Nine Steps to Becoming Rich from the Inside Out.” He is chairman of the Farrah Gray Foundation. Dr. Gray can be reached via email at or his website at

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