With all the upheaval and uncertainty these days, I find many entrepreneurs and business owners are reluctant to pursue new dreams, waiting for the world to stabilize and risks to go away. As a long-time business advisor, I see things just the opposite.
Now is a time of great opportunity, with people knowing they have to adapt, and proven successes such as Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos.
Sometimes the hesitation I see is not just the qualms of starting and growing a business, but an actual inability to think big, chase dreams, or build a support community around you. To counter this hesitancy, I was inspired by a new book, “Make No Small Plans,” by entrepreneurs Elliott Bisnow, Jeff Rosenthal, Brett Leve, and Jeremy Schwartz.
They make a strong case, by virtue of their own experiences, that anyone can think big, and with the proper humility, thirst for knowledge, and a talented team, we all can accomplish the impossible.
I will highlight here just a few of the many lessons that they mention, and I also recommend, to get you started down the path to the satisfaction and success you dream about:
1. Make sure some crazy ideas are added to your list.
No idea should go unspoken. You need to give yourself permission to think outside the box, and seriously consider a dream idea or two that your rational mind would rule out quickly. In addition to something you want, just make sure it’s something you can build, and many others may pay for it too.
A popular and effective way to generate a range of ideas is brainstorming. Good brainstorming requires you to assemble a half-dozen of the right people who are not afraid to speak up and participate. Your challenge is to listen and keep it positive.
2. Expect to have and acknowledge some failures.
Don’t let the fear of failure keep you from taking risk and learning from your mistakes. That doesn’t mean trying the same thing over and over again, and expecting different outcomes. It does mean owning up to mistakes, pivoting, and really listening to customers, advisors, and industry experts.
Take inspiration from Thomas Edison, who called every failure an “experiment” (now it would be a pivot). He made no excuses for 10,000 light filament failures and soberly responded: “I have just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” He then succeeded.
3. Capitalize on authenticity versus perfection.
Trust in the real you, including imperfections, and move forward. Perfection in business is undefined and unattainable. Keep your focus on customers, who are never perfect, and build productive relationships. In these days of full communication through the Internet and social media, you can’t hide.
Authentic leaders are forthcoming about both their strengths and weaknesses. Don’t be like the startup CEO I once worked for who always pretended to have all the answers, even when it was clear to everyone that his depth did not match his marketing passions.
4. Find a partner to complement your weaknesses.
We all have strengths and weaknesses, and too many of you spend your energy trying to fix a weakness, rather than leveraging a strength. Spend that energy instead finding and building relationships to balance that weakness with the strengths of others. One plus one can equal three.
For example, I worked with Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer, who founded Microsoft and achieved success together. Bill was certainly the idea person and technologist, while Steve brought the business experience from Proctor & Gamble to close the equation.
5. It’s not all about the idea – focus on the execution.
The idea alone is not what’s valuable in business. The real value to you and the customer comes later, through hard work and execution. I learned long ago as an investor that the bridge from thinking and talking, to doing, is a long and difficult one for many to get over. Too many never make it.
In my experience as an angel investor, I was never impressed when a startup founder claimed to be an “idea person.” Entrepreneurs often tout that “million dollar idea,” but I haven’t seen anyone pay that much for one yet. Focus on delivery results to show value.
I see many business owners who are linear thinkers, and they usually survive, but rarely boast of having achieved their dream, and often they don’t seem all that satisfied with their lifestyle choice.
Maybe it’s time for you to take a hard look at your own progress and satisfaction in the business you are in. It’s never too late to starting thinking big, chasing your dreams, and having more fun.