Do you love stories? I do. They are the heart and soul of good conversation. So let’s start with a story!
My dad was a contractor. He built custom homes in the booming Bay Area of California. I grew up on job sites, watching him and his crew start from an empty plot of land, slowly building the most elaborate, intricate and beautiful homes I’ve ever seen. When they began the project, it was all big equipment, bulldozers and dump trucks and backhoes, clearing and leveling the land, making it suitable for a structure to be built upon it. Then the cement trucks and lumber trailers would enter, preparing to lay what I considered the lamest part, THE FOUNDATION.
You see, my favorite part of watching my dad build a home was after the walls were up and the pieces started coming together. Walking through the hollow house, deciding which room would be which and imagining what those rooms would hold. Speculating why the owner wanted the door here instead of there, what the plan was the for the dining room table, how in the heck they are going to fit a king size bed in that room…
All of these pieces intrigued me. Imagining not the final product, but imagining the family that would be in it.
Later, as I started building my own business and began helping others build their dreams, I thought about the process of building a home. I asked my dad over dinner one night, “What are the most important steps when building a home, Dad?”
- The land you decide to build it on.
- The foundation you pour.
- The family that fills it.
Oh. My. Gosh. Mind blown. Mic drop. Boom.
Building a home, never mind a business, is no easy task. The steps are endless, the work ongoing. However, a business and a home have the same structure when it’s all said and done.
So, I asked myself, what are the most important steps when building a business?
- The dream I decide to pursue.
- The foundation I pour.
- The joy that fulfills me.
The dream is the plot. It’s what you find that looks suitable to build upon. It may begin as a messy, dirt laden, abandoned landscape. That’s when you bring in all the equipment, groom it, clean it up, spit shine it until it sparkles and becomes suitable to lay a foundation upon it.
Develop the dream into a reality in your own heart and mind. Imagine what that plot of land would look like if you developed it. Would it bring you joy? Would it be a good investment in yourself, in your family? Would it bring our good Lord satisfaction to watch you groom His earth?
Write down the dream: the big picture, the ultimate goal. The “make your stomach churn, get on your knees and pray” dream. It may seem scary, it may seem impossible, it may seem like you need more Sun Stand Still prayers than you have time to pray to pull this off. That’s ok - write it down.
Groom it. Which parts of that dream are emotionally driven, which pieces are financially driven, what particulars are not necessary additions? Break them down, chart them out, set them in their own piles where you can grab a bucket full from them later. Get that dream clean, clear, level and ready to build upon. Warning, this is the longest step in the Dreaming process. It takes time to process these things, time to run them by your husband and mom and best friend. It takes time to lay awake at night and wonder if you’re crazy or not. It is all part of the process.
The foundation is quite literally, the bottom. What everything else sets upon. It’s either wood or cement, and not something you can do without the right tools. This step requires planning, coordinating, and help. You can’t build walls and rooms without a foundation. You can’t have a roof without the walls. And you certainly can’t decorate…
Start a business plan. Don’t Google “business plan,” please. You’ll be overwhelmed by your third click and will say, “screw it, I don’t need a business plan.” I promise, you do. Your business plan does not have to be some formal, 10 page document with paragraphs about your investment strategies and month by month budgetary guidelines. See, I’ve overwhelmed you already. No, stop. Breathe. I said DOES NOT HAVE TO BE.
What it does need to be is this:
A clear roadmap with stepping stones, chutes and ladders and Candy Land enthusiasm, walking you through the pieces of your business. It is, quite literally, the Who, What, When, Where, Why.
ALWAYS start with WHY. Take it back to the beginning, refer to those dream buckets you made. Need more proof than my word, watch this Ted Talk. This will help you find your mission statement, your value proposition, your core program.\
Next, finances. I know, it’s a scary, fire breathing beast that lives under the bed. Start learning to UNDERSTAND finances. Even if you don’t need to do your own books, at least know what they mean. Start to understand the difference between a gross and net profit, cost of goods sold and client service costs, and most importantly, DEDUCTIONS. There are so many amazing resources out there for learning to understand your finances. The more you know about your money, the more you’ll take home. It’s that simple.
Finally, your program. This is the elaborated part of the WHAT in your business plan. Working to develop a specific and refined list of services is best. I recently read an article that explained the difference between essentials and non-essentials. If it is not essential to your business (and by that, I mean moving you towards a bigger goal), then don’t do it. That time you’d be spending on non-essentials (and dreading it) could be time spent planning out your next business moves, engaging with your social media tribe, or better yet, spending time with your human tribe.
Now, the best part. THE JOY.
You’ve spent a fair amount of time BUILDING your business. Spending time on the plot and the foundation. Now, simply, go wander around your hollow walls of a business and FILL THEM. This is your dream after all. Paint the walls whatever color you want. Hang the weird chandelier, go network with the people you’ve been dying to tell about your business, and the best part, GO TO WORK! This is the joy that will fill your business, your new home. And you will enjoy it so much, knowing everyday that you are walking on a strong foundation that YOU BUILT.
Designed specifically around this post, helping you think through each of these steps. Have fun!
Photos by Emilie Anne Szabo