While it is certainly important to dream and think big—no, think HUGE—it’s absolutely critical to begin your business venture on sure footing. Just like featherweights don’t box in heavyweight bouts, a newly founded microbrewery doesn’t open with a contract for a concessions deal in major professional sports stadiums.
Dreams are rarely achieved in one daring dash of luck and perfect timing, though it is possible; just ask any lottery jackpot winner, or Michael J. Fox’s character in The Secret to My Success. The reality is that for most of us, dreams are long-term goals achieved with practical and tenacious plodding, working our way through smaller goals that help lay the foundation essential to the success of any startup—reputation, experience, capital, and capacity.
Aim small and miss small. This is a sound strategy in the infancy of your venture. Regardless of your service or product, approaching other businesses that are young and fresh affords you the opportunity to make that crucial first impression. You can also troubleshoot liabilities in your business model by analyzing a client that is experiencing similar growing pains, and they are likely to be more understanding of missteps. Consider the microbrewery that works food trucks and farmers markets. Any bugs in the system can easily be managed at that level. Compare that to the potential for colossal failure through overextension or inexperience if they were to land a deal with a larger distributor.
You can’t win them all. However, those inevitable glitches, mistakes, or even failures are opportunities to showcase your integrity. One of the best ways to cement a stellar reputation, other than seamlessly perfect service, is to make things right when something goes wrong. In fact, absorbing a small cost up front proves your eagerness to maintain a long-term relationship, and it goes a long way to ensure that relationship continues. Frankly, if the customer or client in question does not recognize your efforts, then you’re probably better off without them on your roster.
Keep moving. But be smart about it. While it may be true that fortune favors the bold, fate can manhandle the impetuous. Once you’ve established a solid foothold within your startup’s weight class, it’s time to stretch to the next level. Again, consider the microbrewery, a mainstay at the local farmers market or neighborhood watering holes. The next step could be a regional franchise or smaller sports venues (minor league parks, etc.). Steady growth implies consistency and longevity, whereas improbable, rapid expansion could remind folks of a certain economic bubble that burst not too long ago.
Patience. Say it out loud. Nice and slow. It’s easy to abandon a strategy if it doesn’t produce mind-blowing results. But be patient. Let things develop at a speed that allows you to keep up.