New entrepreneurs often cultivate an image of what life is like when they become successful. No financial worries, not answerable to anyone and a healthy subscription to all the finer things in life. The image rarely includes the late nights, rolled up sleeves and all the baby steps and small wins it takes to get there.
Don’t mistake me, dreaming big is awesome and helps create the vision of where you are going but it is winning small that gets you there.
My Parents Story…
My parents came to Canada from Lebanon with the goal of giving our family the safety and education that evaded them. They had come through significant strife and political upheaval to create opportunity. Although English was their third language, starting out a convenience store didn’t rank among the most difficult things they ever have to do.
They understood, in 1994 when they started, that success was based on achieving milestones with hard work, dedication and support. Piece by piece they built Big Bee into what it is today, a chain of 50+ convenience stores. It was never their aim. It was just the result of hard graft and winning small.
Dreaming Big – What is it and How Does it Help?
Far from delusions of grandeur or unrealistic hypotheses, having big dreams gives you direction.
Relying solely on the laws of attraction is not the best strategy by any means but setting out your vision for success gives a landmark to aim for.
Whether your definition for success is diversification of product lines, making your first million or an initial public offering, the dream is almost secondary. It is having the vision set out ahead of you that is important. Make it big. Make it scary and make it worth chasing down.
The size of your dreams might intimidate but that creates adrenalin and its own energy. It brings with it a creativity, passion and drive that tend to storm past doubts and fears in pursuit of the goal.
Of course it doesn’t work out for everyone but if you always aim for an A+ and end up with an A- you have still achieved success.
Keep it Simple and Win Small
Small wins are multi-functional and underpin every major success story. Every psychologist you speak to will give you the same problem advice even if it’s packaged differently… big problems can be tackled by breaking them down into small, achievable tasks.
The same applies to entrepreneurial dreams. Break them down. The small wins are the bedrock of future success. They teach you all the things you need to know for growth and bring you one step closer.
Take rock climbing for example. Starting out, you foist yourself on to a wall, struggling your way up, shakily expending significant energy. Then you look at the pros that glide up like gravity doesn’t matter. The difference is they are planning moves. Experienced climbers visually work their way down from the top before starting. They have figured out each move required to get to the top.
Your first client shows who is likely to buy your offering and gives confidence that there is a market. The first sales tell you if your product is profitable enough per unit to scale effectively. Your first marketing campaign tells you if your target customers are hearing your message. Each win helps to reduce the fears and imposter syndrome that beset most entrepreneurs with big ideas.
It’s easy to get caught up in the grand scheme of things but keeping things simple eradicates much of the difficulties and pressures you get with only trying to think big.
In 2010, I visited a friend in Dar Es Salam, Tanzania and I’ve never forgotten the vision he had for his business. “I just want to provide a product or service in which I make a single dollar off of one person once a year. After I succeed in that, my goal is to then work towards doing that off of every person just in Tanzania.” I asked him, what the population is in Tanzania, and he said it is 35M people. He made his idea seem so simple, but when you look at the bigger picture, his goal was to make $35M a year. Now imagine off the bat he had said he wanted to own a business making $35 million a year profit, it would have sounded like a much more unrealistic challenge. It is often how we frame the challenges in front of us that make them seem unachievable.
Keep a Patient, Entrepreneurial Mindset
Dreaming big and winning small isn’t to say you should decline opportunity. It means accepting opportunity on your terms in line with your vision. My parents never set out to own 50 Ontario stores. They set out to provide a future for their family and found a community in Hamilton willing to support their dream. The opportunity to expand came later.
I’ve regularly fallen prey to the entrepreneur’s curse of needing a million dollar idea. I’ve caught myself thinking everything had to have the potential of scaling into a huge company. It happens easily. I enjoy hashing out a huge plan or hypothesizing over success.
However, I’m regularly reminded that Western Red Cedars grow out of seeds that fit in the palm of your hand. The real magic of business is that you don’t start with the tree; you start with the seed and a bucket of water. Exponential growth comes afterwards and if ever I need it, my mom regularly reminds me “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush”.