The most common question aspiring entrepreneurs ask me at the beginning of starting a business or developing an idea is; What separates someone who has succeeded at doing ‘it’ from someone who hasn’t? The answer of course, is within the question – one did it and the other didn’t.
I have a friend who has been going to start a dog training business for the past 13 years and another who has been planning a cookie business for 5 years. Both are adequately suited for their pursuits and had they taken even a small amount of action, they could now be operating full service businesses. Instead they continue to talk about what they hope to someday be doing.
The common denominator for not taking action? Fear- it has a way of paralyzing us. You’ve heard me say that ‘nothing is anything until it is something’ and the greatest amount of intention is still not as great as the smallest amount of action. From the simplest idea to the most expansive – the process is the same. Aspiring entrepreneurs are afraid of failure, of not having enough money, not knowing how to operate the business they want, not having enough time, experience, education, etc. the list can be endless. Very often it is that they are afraid that they don’t have the initial ability to create the grand scheme from their minds into a reality.
Starting a business is not any different than any other pursuit in that you start at the beginning and move forward from there. I remember being frustrated when I first took piano lessons and struggled with ‘London Bridges’ when I had imagined myself tapping out ‘Piano Man’ on my first day. People starting businesses are often frustrated by having to start small and in a manageable way because it doesn’t align with the fantasy they had created. They want the equipment, the office, the supplies and the notoriety that can go with a successful business. I call this playing house. They want the set up and big picture before they have customers. This is why I think they remain in the fantasy instead of the reality. My friend imagines a big kennel, many dogs, a retail shop and vehicles for transporting dogs and my other friend imagines cookie shop franchises throughout the country. However, the founders of Stonewall Kitchen started at the farmer’s market with a few jars of jelly and Dog Whisperer Cesar Milan began by walking one dog.
So to start, think big: when I am developing an idea I am “at the drawing board”. It is a time for free thinking without censorship and wild imagination. Scaling the idea back will happen naturally, but knowing that an idea has a long life with a lot of potential avenues for variation is important for future growth. I usually write on any legible material I can find, as the ideas come quick and randomly. I sleep very little because my mind is spinning so fast.
I then take my big idea and make small active steps forward. In an earlier newsletter I wrote about the essential need for having a written plan. It is the plan that will guide you through each of the steps and keep you on a well-guided course. The creation of a written plan is your active step forward.
Whatever your idea for a product or business may be, I encourage you to start small. We are typically not afraid of small. It is manageable and pursuable. You’ll have limited risks and investments that eliminate fears of too much too soon. If your idea is to start a cookie business, begin by making cookies. Give a cookie to friends and anyone else that will eat one. Doing this will provide a lot of information for you. Do people like them? How much does it cost to make a batch of cookies? Enter your cookies in a contest and sell them at small venues. A test market process will most likely give you all of the confidence you need to continue pursuing your business. You will also have taken the first active steps from dreaming about a cookie business toward having one. If all goes well with the little steps, your fears will subside and you’ll become someone who has actually done ‘it’ versus someone who hasn’t.