Many entrepreneurs end up pursuing business ownership because of passion, circumstance or perhaps an exciting idea, forgetting about the end game.
However, goal setting- making tangible, definable goals- is critical to get you to where you want to go.
To illustrate this, I wanted to tell you a bit about my mother, Sheri, and her adventures in entrepreneurship. I can only describe my mom as a cross between Martha Stewart and Cher, meaning that she can create an elegant evening broach out of a brown paper grocery bag and free-hand pancakes in the shape of elephants (the Martha part) and would often do just that wearing four-inch stiletto heels and purple contact lenses (the Cher part). Being talented and creative, once upon a time, that creativity led her towards entrepreneurship.
In the early 1980s, my mom was putting together some really unique holiday gifts that looked like this:
One of our neighbors came over and asked my mom if she would make a few gift baskets for her to also give as gifts for the holidays.
My mom agreed (and as an aside, of course she didn’t charge the neighbor anything incremental to put the gifts together!).
Proof of Concept
News of the unique gift baskets my mom was making spread like wildfire throughout the neighborhood and kept my mom busy throughout the holiday season. She enlisted a friend to help her- who thankfully informed my mom that they should charge something to make the baskets- and a “jobbie” (a hobby disguised as a business) was born.
When the orders continued after the holiday season for baby gifts, get well gifts, birthday gifts and more, it occurred to them that maybe this jobbie could be turned into a business.
The “Job Business”
While today there are hundreds of gift basket companies, nearly 30 years ago, this concept didn’t exist and my mom and her partner really were pioneers in the niche.
They started in the business in our basement, which usually looked like a tornado had hit Party City. Inventory, cellophane, ribbons and balloons were everywhere. The business quickly took off- they were working full time, taking orders, assembling and wrapping the gifts, packing, finding new business, purchasing inventory, invoicing, chasing down payments and creating marketing materials.
Eventually, the operation outgrew the basement and they bought a warehouse and they continued to work hard.
And by 1991, nearly a decade after they had started the business, their circumstances changed. My mom was getting a divorce and her partner’s family was in financial trouble and so they had to look at the business and how much they were making.
They realized, for the first time, that they were making $10,000 a piece.
Working 50 hours a week and 50 weeks each year, they were pulling in a whopping …drum roll, please…$4 per hour.
This was a job, not a business, and one that wasn’t even pulling in the minimum wage.
This was not enough money to sustain either my mom or her partner when their circumstances changed.
Needing a Purpose
My mom went into her business because she had a creative idea. Even though she got some proof of concept, there was no goal, no purpose and no real strategy. She got orders, she filled orders, she had increasing interest in her product, but ultimately, she never made enough for it to be worth her time or effort- a fact ironically lost on her for a decade until her circumstances shifted.
If you are led by your creativity or passion, make sure to ask yourself what you want out of your business. If you don’t set goals, how will you know what direction to go in? Do you want to build something? Do you want to help even more people? Do you want to create jobs and growth in the economy? Do you want recognition as a savvy businessperson? Are you looking for a hobby? It is totally up to you and there is no right answer, but make a conscious decision. You can’t keep score if you don’t know what game you are playing.
Why it Matters
After my mom’s circumstances changed, she had to abandon her business to support herself (as did her partner). She swore she would revisit running a business and do it differently the next time.
However, there wasn’t time for a “next time” for her. Just a few years after leaving the business behind, my mom was diagnosed with Leukemia. She passed away just after her 51st birthday. She was creative, she was bright and she had an entrepreneurial spirit, but she never had someone tell her how important having a goal was to get where she wanted to go. She never had an opportunity to hear that message and she also never had an opportunity to be everything that she could be.
In her honor, I have vowed to help change that and I hope that her story can be an extra motivator for you to be and achieve everything that you can.
There are no right or wrong goals, only the ones that matter to you. Set them so that you can make progress and achieve success, whatever that may mean to you.