Say you’re a budding entrepreneur ready to launch a small business in hand-crafted soaps. You’ve created your own logo (which everyone loves), you’ve handed out soaps to every friend and family member (and of course, everyone loves them), and you’ve had a record 26 comments to your business announcement on Facebook. Looks like you are ready to take the soap world by storm, right? Well, not so much.
Here’s another example. I was watching Restaurant Impossible a while ago and there was a couple half a million dollars in debt and about ready to close the doors. When asked if they had any previous experience in the restaurant industry, they replied “no.” When asked why they had gotten into the restaurant business, they replied “our family said we make really good food so we thought ‘why not?’.” If you’ve ever seen the show, Mr. Irvine gave them a laundry list of reasons ‘why not.’
They may very well make excellent food and the entrepreneur may make exquisite soaps, but just because you expect great things doesn’t mean it’s going to happen. Seth Godin refers to this as “magical thinking”, and that’s exactly what it is. It’s tossing out all the practical things that are required to run a business and hoping your social media posts go viral, you’ll have orders up the kazoo, and retire at 48.
Building a business is super hard work. It requires a clear plan and even clearer expectations. I think two things are actually happening here. One is that folks flat-out ignore how to do things the right way (business plan, marketing plan, identity development, advertising, etc..). They think their product or service is so spectacular they don’t need to follow standard business protocol.
Two is that they assume their entire target market (all 50 million of them) thinks exactly like their friends and family do. Remember, friends and family often say they like things to be supportive… even when they don’t necessarily think it’s fabulous.
All this isn’t to discourage the would-be business owner. It’s simple to keep things in perspective. You can dream all you want about your product getting on Oprah’s Favorite Things list, but don’t plan on it. Do the hard work necessary to get there and when it happens, you can bask in the glory of a job well done. No magic needed.