I was meeting this morning with a client today about a million-dollar idea. “Ashley” has mapped out product and services lines, she networks within several prominent circles in Grand Rapids, she bubbles with passion about her entrepreneurial venture, she recognizes the nearly infinite market potential, and her research shows a “gap” her business could fill.
Our session today was to work on the service line Ashley sees as the most lucrative. Waving color-coded charts and binders, she dodged my probing questions deftly building into a crescendo of endless possibilities and successful outcomes leading to her climatic question: “Do you see how there’s no way this can fail?”


“I’m a dreamer, too, and I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t see the possibility in what you’re doing,” I said after a short pause. “And I’m on board with your idea, now you need to get me on board with your business model: set goals, establish budgets, create deadlines, and start experimenting. Experiment and make mis-takes.”

We have a great rapport, and I love to be the cheerleader for my clients to encourage them. Because I too have failed. I have made mistakes. I have made poor choices. But I have learned. And the help they need usually revolves around advice and direct feedback wherever there are opportunities for improvement. I encourage clients to anticipate problems, experiment, and record what goes right and wrong.

“Look I did it,” Ashley beamed as she slid her 5-year goal sheet across the table. Among the items listed for her goals for 2018 was the following entry in bold green ink: “$$ PAY MYSELF 1 MILLION DOLLARS!! $$” The bottom of the page had images of her dream house and dream car.

Those goals had always been driving her, but writing them down and having the pictures seemed to remind her why she was doing what she was doing.

“You’re on a roll! Now let’s blow it up!” We fistbumped and “blew it up.”

“You’ve been selling people on this idea for months and it’s clear you have a lot of support. You know where you want to go. Now it’s time to start mapping how you get there with a 12-month action plan and 12-month budget projection (profit and loss). Before you can make your millions, you have to frame your first dollar.”

Usually, this conversation is the defining moment for those entrepreneurs willing to bridge the chasm from dreams to reality. While these monthly and day-to-day operations plans can help highlight successes, they also showcase failures. And mistakes and failures are essential because every successful business has leaders who have grown wiser through trial and error.

While Ashley seems up to the task, I met with a colleague this afternoon who made me swallow my own medicine when I said I hadn’t been working with anyone on my goals and operations this month. Just as I had setup deadlines with Ashley a few hours earlier, he promised to check in with me next Thursday to ask about my progress.

From the entrepreneur’s ideas to the success of an organization, businesses require regular planning, review, and revision of short-term and long-term goals. It begins with the first dollar paid by a client or customer and it never ends.

Curtis Burdette
Principal Consultant at Starfish Training, Learning, and Consulting