03/14/13

Entrepreneurs, Go Big or Go Home

Walk into any corporate headquarters with thousands of employees and realize it was started by an entrepreneur with a vision. Steve Jobs had a vision. Next time you're in a fast food restaurant, think back to the person who had a crazy dream. Colonel Sanders had a crazy dream. Now walk into your office (even if it's in your home) and think about your future. Are you dreaming big enough?

I recently signed up for EO Accelerator. EO is the Entrepreneurs' Organization and is focused on growing companies that have hit $1M or more. It's a network of successful entrepreneurs who know what they're doing but need to be around others like themselves to continue to grow. The Accelerator program is for those of us who are striving to grow but haven't quite made it to $1M in revenue yet.

At their recent quarterly Learning Day, we heard stories of these million-dollar entrepreneurs and how they started with very little only to dream big enough to grow their businesses to great proportions. Some talked about how they made mistakes the first 10 years and finally learned how to do it right. Others talked about finding their niche. The common thread through all of them was "Go big or go home."

When I started Sisarina, I had lost my job. I didn't plan on being a full-blown company. I figured I'd be the main person with a few contractors. Then business picked up and I had to start hiring. Even a year ago, I was enjoying the small business idea and planned to have a nice office in downtown DC and keep it to under 10 people. Then I heard the statistic that only 11% of women business owners ever hit $1M in revenue.

I started dreaming bigger.

A client came into the office and explained her business model and what she hoped to do. While she was talking, I noticed she wasn't like others in her industry - she had a drive, a focus, and the clarity to know her target market. She explained that she didn't want to hire more people to help her but she was only one person. She knew one person wasn't scalable but was conflicted. When she asked my opinion, I said: "You have to dream bigger."

When was the last time you wrote down your vision statement? Read this and then take some time to write it. Write it like you're living in it… a vision for 1 year, 5 years, or 10 years. Get it down on paper and then think bigger. Think in ways you've never thought before. Pretend it's someone else's company and ask yourself what they would do. Stop thinking of it as your baby and start thinking of it as a tool to take you where you want to go.

Most of us don't believe in entrepreneurship as something we're going to exit. Most of us are born with the traits and just can't let  go of the title Entrepreneur. We start a business thinking we'll just do it until we die. Then reality hits and working a lot of hours for years on end is not the life we want to lead. We want to dream bigger, but we don't necessarily want to add more work to our already full plates.

After attending the EO Accelerator Learning Day, this is what I had running through my head:

"7 years after you start your business, you should be able to leave it for 6-12 months without having any contact with it. If you can't do that, you're doing something wrong."

It's time to start dreaming bigger. You don't have to build a company of thousands of people, have offices all over the world, or make loads of cash. You do, however, have to start thinking about how you can be a better entrepreneur and leverage what you've built so you can live the life you always hoped for. It's time. Go big or go home.