I do business much like I cook.

I was reminded of that this weekend at The Creative Connection Event in St. Paul, Minnesota. I took a cooking class with Terry Walters, author of Clean Start. At the beginning of the class, she reminded everyone that, while measurements appear in her books, she never cooks by measuring. We shouldn’t either.

Oh, and the ingredients are just a guide. Don’t have something? Substitute something else.

Really, the whole recipe is just a template for your own creations. Get creative. Try new flavors. Mix it up.

Too many people are looking for a recipe for business success. They want to know exactly how much of this and exactly how much of that it takes to create a 3 course meal of profitability, sustainability, and life fulfillment.

I’m a business coach – not a consultant – because I know that’s not how it works.

Business is about using what you’ve got, trying new things, and seeing how it comes out at the end. That’s not to say that you don’t consult the recipe binder or make a trip to the farmer’s market. But you don’t let small hang-ups or unexpected events ruin your dinner.

You learn a framework that allows you to create success for yourself with as many different ingredients and in as many different environments as possible.

The three pillars of my business framework – my recipe – are passion, profit, and productivity.

Passion you get. That’s why you’re here. Even if you haven’t discovered what moves you to work at 3am or to forget about the passage of time, at all, you sense that “great work” is out there. That your heart is calling to you.

Profit you get, too. She may not be your best friend yet but you’re certainly her Facebook friend. You understand that being in business means making money above and beyond your output.

Productivity is often the missing link.

Productivity in cooking is making breakfast, lunch, and dinner 365 days per year. Maybe you don’t cook all of those meals – but you cook day in & day out. You feed yourself daily. You know what to do when you’re hungry.

My idea of productivity is not that kind that comes on a micro level. I believe the missing link between passion & profit is actually producing the things that you put on the shelf to sell.

Literally, the manner in which you make products.

Productivity in business is not about answering 5 hours worth of email in only 3 hours. Productivity in business is about producing – innovating – creating without end. It’s not once & done. There is no finish line to cross. It’s continuous and constant.

All too often, I hear about passionate people who long to become passionate entrepreneurs but they are too busy struggling with the hows and whats of producing a final product that they never produce anything at all. They wait for the illusive “great idea,” they pine away for the perfect process, they linger at each stage of development to make sure it’s “just right.”

But the final product isn’t an ending point. The final product is the jumping off point.

Once you’ve got a final product – something you can bring to market – created, it’s your job to discover what it’s missing, what is unnecessary, and what can be improved. Then you create the next final product, and the next, and the next.

You can’t get to the awesome thing until you produce the great thing and you can’t produce the great thing until you produce the good thing.

Productivity is not just making more stuff, but systematically figuring out the right things to build.
– Eric Ries, The Lean Startup

When you believe there’s a right way or a wrong way to make the dish, you get stuck in the recipe. You measure out the right ingredients and you ignore the opportunities to get creative or try something new. You fixate on making everything come out just so.

Just as in cooking there is no perfect dish, in business there is not perfect product or service. Stop waiting until you think you have all the ingredients necessary and start working on the recipe right now. Pay attention to opportunity, chance, and possibility. Allow them to inform your work.

Your great work is not an epiphany, it’s a process.