Hard-charging entrepreneurs turn their dreams into reality. And that's not easy.
It's not enough to innovate, overcome obstacles and woo investors and customers. Goal-driven visionaries also need to transform their grandest dreams of success into practical building blocks on which they can ascend.
To set effective goals that spur entrepreneurial triumphs:
Stay close to customers. It's fine to dream, but stay grounded. As you formulate your business model, keep checking in with your target market to ensure you're on the right track.
"Entrepreneurs tend to convince themselves that they're right and then set lofty goals," said Toby Rush, chief executive of Zoloz, a Kansas City, Mo.-based identity verification and biometrics platform. "It's better to force yourself to do market validation early on and establish goals that flow from customer input."
Proceed in steps. Brimming with confidence and passion, entrepreneurs may set wildly ambitious goals and assume they'll attain them. But it may make more sense to do a reality check.
"Entrepreneurs like to think their assumptions are correct, that they can go from zero to 100," said Rush, a serial entrepreneur who sold a previous firm to Alibaba Group ( BABA ) in 2016. "But you have to set up incremental milestones along the way. You set your feet to the fire with the milestones."
Knowing what results you need to see each month or quarter helps you advance in steps toward your larger goal. If you miss a milestone, you can make course corrections and test different strategies while mitigating your overall risk.
Heed wise counsel. Beware of setting goals in a vacuum. Instead, ask a trusted ally to help you distinguish between a realistic target and pie-in-the-sky aspirations.
Rush, 43, remembers launching his first company in 2005. He kept modifying his business plan as various ideas ricocheted in his head.
Finally, a board member said, "Toby, how will we ever know if you're successful if you keep changing the idea?"
"I was jumping around too much," Rush recalled. "The lesson is, it's fine to change direction as long as you stick with your defined milestones and you're consistent in how you get from A to B."
Hire winners. You cannot turn dreams into reality on your own. You'll need to assemble a team of skilled, motivated stars to help you.
To recruit winners, don't just focus on candidates' technical qualifications. Also consider their psychological makeup.
"It's important to hire patriots, not mercenaries," said Jack Teboda, founder and chief executive of Teboda & Associates, a financial advisory firm in Elgin, Ill. "Patriots have that inner drive. They'll help you reach your goals," while mercenaries lack the buy-in to go beyond the call of duty.
Focus on how, not what. While important, goals themselves have limited value. The real driver of success is how you climb the ladder to attain your objective.
For Courtney Reum, the process of setting goals is only part of the picture. He's co-author of " Shortcut Your Startup ."
"Goal-setting is not about digging in your heels for the sake of reaching a goal," he said. "It's more about the tactics and action steps you take to get there."
Reum urges entrepreneurs to ask themselves, "What are we doing to reach the goal? How will we get there?" rather than "What is the goal?"
"It's not about the what," he said. "It's about the how."
Balance micro and macro. Turning your dreams into dollars requires a mix of detailed analysis and big-picture visioning. Beware of neglecting one at the expense of the other.
"A good entrepreneur needs a microscope in one eye and a telescope in the other," Reum said.