Dream, Plan, Do. Owning a business requires a lot of things: money, vision, ambition, passion, support, research, skills, and of course goals. But no matter how much money one may have, or how passionate or goal-oriented one may be, without the courage to take risks, a business will never even get off the ground, or if it does, it may just never meet the owner’s expectations. I have several wipe boards in my design studio listing all my bedding and furniture projects, orders, and active clients. The list can be overwhelming and the boards are filled to capacity. But at the top of each board, I have my mantra: “Dream, Plan, Do.”
When wanting to start something new – whether a business, going back to school, or maybe even just moving to another part of the country - the dream stage is the easiest and safest. How many people have you met over the years that have big ideas and big dreams, but just never seem to get beyond the dream stage? For some, just dreaming is fulfilling enough. For others, it is only the first step. That is me. I am a doer, plain and simple. For example, how many of us dream of taking an exotic vacation? Maybe climb the Great Wall of China, explore remote islands of Hawaii, or even cruise along the Italian coastline? It is fun to dream, wish, and wonder what it would be like. So, then we start to plan it out. We get maps, make hotel reservations, buy new clothes, get our airline tickets, update our passport, and pack our suitcases – only to never leave home. How silly is that? We couldn’t imagine going through all that planning and then just never leave for our dream vacation. It is exactly same with owning a business. Dreaming is great; planning is great, but unless we take risks, the business will never materialize.
Owning and running my retail and interior design business, Elizabeth House, was a dream that I dreamt for years. Yes, years. When talking about my dream, I would always say “if I ever own a store, I am going to make sure I have items for sale that no other store has.” I would start every sentence with “if I ever own a store…” Then one day, very naturally, my “if” turned into “when.” "When I open my store, I am going to stay open until 6PM so that people getting off work can stop in.” Simply stating “when” gave me the confidence to really start to plan. Dreams are filled with “ifs.” Planning requires, no demands, a “when.”
Now, it is very exciting to plan and plan and plan. To wait until everything is right. Everything is in order. But be careful. One can plan so much that the dream is never fulfilled. It is easy to just plan. Planning is very important, and I wouldn’t advise anyone to jump in headfirst like I did. I did it out of necessity. I would have loved to taken at least several more months (maybe even a year) to plan and get ready, but instead, I did it all in less than a month. I don’t advise this. But on the other hand, I’ve met many store-owners-wanna-be’s that just can’t let go of the planning stage and never open their doors for business.
But at some point, the planning stage must turn into the “do” stage. And it is in this stage that everything is on the line: your investment, your taste, your vision, your reputation …you better have thick skin and just accept that you are not going to please everyone – nor should you. By the time you open for business, you should already know your market. Who are you selling to? I am very aware that I get some customers in the store that “can’t believe!” that I painted that mantle, chair, or Victorian settee. But that is okay…my designs aren’t for them. But then I get a lot of customers who come in and get so excited by what they see or they “can’t believe” they finally found someone who sells exactly what they love.
But it is during the “do” stage that risk taking continues. In fact, it should never stop. It is hard to work outside one’s comfort zone, but it is the challenges of working or producing outside your initial dream that keeps things fresh, alive, and exciting. That is why I have decided to expand Elizabeth House to the Chicago market. I am to be a part of an existing store, and while I am scared that this expansion may not live up to my expectations, I am also excited at this new adventure…the challenge of working outside my comfort zone.
In my next blog, I will tell you the story of my expansion to Chicago. Until then, never stop dreaming. Ever. And get busy and start your plans, and then finally “just do it” as the popular phrase goes. You’ll never regret it. Now that I can promise you.
From my house to your house,