As a business advisor, I listen to many of you entrepreneurs talking about achieving your dreams, but too few of you have structured that dream, and can express it in a set of specific goals, with a timeline for getting there. You all hope I have some magic formula for success, but the reality is that only you can pick the goals that match your passion, work ethic, and desired outcome.
I believe part of the problem is a fear of failure, or hesitancy to commit, perhaps due to a lack of self-confidence, or a habit of waiting for someone else to tell you what to do. I can’t help you get into the right mindset, but I can offer some proven specific steps for translating a business dream into reality, based on my own years of experience working at all levels in the business world:
Narrow your focus, to identify your major business goal. As Yogi Berra once said, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll end up someplace else.” Without a measurable objective, you will be constantly frustrated by not seeing progress, and you will never feel success satisfaction. Avoid fuzzy goals, like making big money or being a market leader.
Develop an “elevator pitch” as an initial path to your goal. An elevator pitch is a problem-solution summary that anyone can understand in a sixty-second ride up to their office in an elevator. It has to embody enough passion and reality to convince yourself, as well as a rational business person, that you have moved beyond the dream stage.
Create a timeline to success, with quantifiable steps. You can break any reasonable business dream into at least ten smaller milestones, to be completed in one to two years. It’s fair to be optimistic and aggressive, but don’t be afraid to get help from advisors and domain experts to make sure your assumptions are realistic in today’s business world.
Populate each step with actions required for success. You probably already know the key challenges to complete each step, but it helps to write them down, review them with peers, and have a written list to update as you learn more. If necessary, break big steps into smaller ones, since most can only accomplish a big goal as a series of small steps.
Prioritize the activities and execution within each step. Remember the old 80-20 rule, that 80% of the value typically comes from 20% of the actions. Do the most important things first and celebrate each small success. By the way, you now have an viable business plan – which puts you well on your way from a dream to business success.
Stop talking and writing, and start executing the plan. Completing that first step is now a well-defined action, rather than a nebulous step into the unknown. The market changes quickly these days, so the slower you move, the more likely that changes will be required in your plan, and that competitors will pass you by. Celebrate your successes.
Network to find inspiring and needed team members. Building a business is not a solo operation. You must surround yourself with team members and partners with complimentary skills and dreams that mesh with yours. Don’t be too busy to attend industry conferences, mingle with experts, and negotiate partner relationships to fill gaps.
Register what you learn each day, and update the plan. No business plan can win by remaining static, so take advantage of what you learn each day to improve your plan. The result is that tasks become easier and more satisfying. New momentum will be energizing and inspiring, rather than stressful and discouraging. Keep track of every progress step.
In my experience, visualizing a dream is a necessary, but not sufficient step in achieving success in business. In fact, a much different mindset is required for the focus required to plot a set of execution steps, and manage them through to success. As an advisor, I concentrate on the proper outline and measurement of these steps, since activities are common for all businesses.
So don’t give up your dreams. The challenge is to apply the same passion and energy to the next stage of business execution that is required for dreams to come to fruition. There are many resources out there to help you make it happen, including incubators, accelerators, advisors, mentors, and even investors. Now is the perfect time to take that next step.
*** First published on Inc.com on 09/17/2020 ***
Martin Zwilling is the Founder and CEO of Startup Professionals, a company that provides services to startup founders around the world. See more details at www.startupprofessionals.com
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