Stop me if you've heard this one, "My dream business is to do the same job I did in the corporate world but get paid less, have no benefits, and work harder than ever before."
I know, I know, nobody ever said that, but if that's the case, why do so many small business owners do just that?
Simple - they never spent the time to effectively plan out the business they wanted to open.
Somewhere along the line, the Dreamer was silenced and replaced with a Manager who was far too pragmatic and insisted there was no time for that esoteric silliness.
Now, there's no need to judge in this case - human beings ALL do the same thing in many other circumstances - a revolution in a country usually creates exactly the same government it deposed. People trade in an economy car and buy another fuel-efficient design. You leave a job and take another one that is virtually the same in terms of schedule, benefits, and tasks to handle.
After forty years of helping entrepreneurs understand how to create businesses that are enterprises and not just low-paying jobs, I long ago came to the realization that the initial Dream for an entrepreneur is the single most critical step in building and growing a small business into a true enterprise.
Now, it would be logical to say that when one design's one's dream job, that a component of the dream would be "things" - the perks of the job: the corner office, a C-level title, or even a posh schedule - but that's not the Dream in this case.
No, in this case, the Dream is about the company itself - is it an aspirin or a vitamin? Who buys it every day and - more importantly - who buys that company when you've plotted it all out, planned its every move, and documented the entire process?
In short, the Dream - the most critical component to catalyze every company that ever existed and every company that will ever exist - isn't about THE customer, it's about the CUSTOMERS - the daily one that buys the products or services of the business and the customer that, ultimately, buys the entire business.
In my experience, if entrepreneurs thought about the sale of their company at all, they simply tossed out an arbitrary date in the future with no real idea of what that sale looked like.
Because they weren't creating a company, they were building a job for themselves and when they want to sell it, they'll have to look for somebody else foolish enough to want to buy a job.
With all that in mind, when you opened the doors to your company, did you know who you were going to sell it to? Sure, if you're a tech developer, you might be cranking out app after app and trying to create "the one" that hits and Google, or Facebook, or Apple all line up to buy it, but if you are opening a bakery, who is going to buy it?
What about your accounting firm?
Your auto repair shop?
My life's work has been about fixing broken businesses and after forty years, the conclusions my experience (with over 100,000 clients!) has drawn is that not paying attention to the Dream in the formative stages of designing a company means that the Dream descends into a job. Only when you sit down in a quiet place and clear your mind and not think of branding, advertising, and software systems and instead, behold a blank piece of paper with a beginner's mind can you begin to build a company that is worth building, worth growing, and ultimately, worth buying.