My 8-year-old eyes could hardly believe what they were seeing. Craning my neck, I peered up to catch a glimpse of the top of the Giant Sequoia tree towering above me. It reminded me of Jack and the Beanstalk, the English fairy tale about a gigantic beanstalk bursting to life overnight.
The long train trip through the Rocky Mountains from Winnipeg to Vancouver had felt at times like I was climbing to heaven, but it was nothing compared to this. This Oregon redwood tree pierced the sky. I could almost see Jack climbing its massive trunk all the way to the giant’s castle in the clouds.
Much like the beanstalk in Jack’s story, this massive tree exploded out of a seed no larger than a grain of wheat. In reality, the explosion was much slower—a miracle unfolding over hundreds of years. But it is no less impressive.
That Giant Sequoia tree is a bit like our entrepreneurial ambitions. Our ideas should come to life quickly, shouldn’t they? Yes, growth is spectacular, but it is usually slow.
Do not despise these small beginnings.—Zechariah 4:10 NLT
Who knows what might come from that seemingly insignificant project or business idea?
Plant the Seed of Service
Perhaps the smallest of all seeds we can plant is service to others.
A job forces us, for at least eight hours in a day, to submit our priorities to the will of our manager and employer. This is true service—making another’s priorities our own. If adopt an attitude of willing service, your job becomes the perfect training ground for success in business.
Zig Ziglar wisely advised, “You can get everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want.”
Service without reciprocation shows love. God is love. What pleases him most (love for others) is the path to our greatest blessing. Putting the needs of others before your own creates opportunity.
Do you feel trapped in a job? Through effective service, you can grow a business that will set you free.
Plant the Seed of Attention
Distinguish yourself as an employee. Instead of doing exactly what others ask, try to understand the context of their request. Attend to the rhythms and patterns of your work. When you are able, go beyond what others ask.
Outside of your job, take on projects that make you more valuable to your employer. Read books, take night classes, and act on the new truths you discover.
Keep your ears and eyes open for new opportunities to improve. Your next small opportunity may form the foundation of a successful business.
Plant the Seed of Vision
“Where there is no vision, the people perish.”—Proverbs 29:18
Without a clear vision of the future, it is impossible to measure progress. Wandering is never productive. Constant changing of direction wastes energy and dissipates resolve.
In his landmark book, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, Greg McKeown says, “Essentialism is not about how to get more things done; it’s about how to get the right things done.”
Plant the Seed of Initiative
You will never build a business based solely on dreams and hope. At some point, you must take action.
Action feels risky, but as Aaron Walker is fond of saying, “Fear missing an opportunity more than you fear failure.” Constant initiative will spare you a life of regret.
Notice patterns and trends. When you see an opportunity, take a deep breath and make things happen. Do the work.
Don’t burn bridges with your job, create your new product or service on the side.
I despise debt, but in business sometimes debt is a good thing. Bankroll your business yourself if possible. But our economic system is called capitalism for a reason. Complex businesses often need an investor to bring the vision to reality.
The best investors offer wisdom as well as cash to help you get started and grow your business. Don’t just look for money. With wise investors, you don’t need to let lack of funds or inexperience stop you from taking initiative.
Plant the Seed of Perseverance
Fear is not bad. It’s actually quite helpful. If bad judgment ever tempts you to step off a cliff, I certainly hope fear will kick in.
Fear keeps our feet planted on solid ground.
Building something new based on a dream will always cause some fear. Fear will make you do enough research to bolster your confidence with knowledge. Fear can help you do your best work instead of settling for a comfortable mediocrity.
Fear will sometimes prove itself right. You will try things that fail. You might even lose some money. You will waste time.
Failures always show new truths. As Eric Reis says, “Failure is a prerequisite to learning.” Yes, failure is often good, but it’s even better to learn from the failures of others.
Always get up when you fall down.
Plant the Seed of Time Management
As we discussed a moment ago, your business needs clear vision to make it real. Each day you must focus on essential tasks. Keep a list of tasks that flow from your vision. Tell your day what it needs to do for you. Follow through.
Daily disciplined focus on the basics will lead to success, but don’t expect it to come quickly. Most overnight successes actually follow years of unsung toil.
Watch Your Business Grow!
If you diligently plant these small but powerful seeds, your business will sprout and begin to grow.
Along the way, you will be tempted to get off-track. Service, attention, vision, initiative, perseverance and time management can get lost in the pursuit of profit. Beware the love of money. Money is not an end in itself. Making it one will impoverish you and destroy your business.
Create more value than you capture.—Tim O’Reilly
Business should be generous. The love of money will undermine your generosity and tempt you to charge more than you should.
Don’t plant the “magic beans” of deceit and the love of money. You might just grow an overnight beanstalk. Remember, there are giants up there.
Grab your favorite journal or your laptop. I’ll wait for you.
Now, spend 5 minutes thinking and jotting down some notes about your future.
- What is your vision for your career and business? Jot down some notes about the life you want to create.
- Ask yourself the most powerful question, “Why?” Why do you want to build a business?
- What will your business mean to its customers, employees and suppliers?
Congratulations! You are on your way to a clear vision you can build upon for years to come.
What is your vision? Tell us all about it!