Recently my husband and I have been discussing starting an alternative energy company with two other couples. We’ve had a few meetings, and quite a few starry-eyed dreamy diversions into “what if’s” and “if only’s.”

For anyone who owns a business or who is in the process of starting one, you know what I mean. And while it is great to dream about being fully funded and having enough in the bank to fund everyone comfortably for a year so we have time to roll out a business successfully, it’s a bit like waiting for that winning lottery ticket. It sure would be nice, but let’s face it, the odds are stacked against that happening anytime soon.

While in most cases I am an optimist, when it comes to business I have a strong realistic streak mixed with a small helping of pessimism. I believe in writing the business plan and in it, detailing to the nth degree where you are going, what you will be offering, and how you are going to accomplish it. You can have a bold and beautiful vision of what the perfect company, the perfect business offering would be, but if you aren’t able to focus on each component and polish it to perfection before expanding into different realms…you will fail.

Resent my words all you like, but that is the truth of it.

On our third meeting with these two other couples, I went around the room. “Who can commit to spending time on xyz?” I asked. One by one, people were too busy, they had full-time jobs, were busy running down the money or simply didn’t know where to begin. The idea of what we wanted to start was overwhelming and complicated to them.

I get that. I truly do. But someone has to do something or nothing will ever get off the ground. And if you are talking partnership, then it better be more than one someone doing something, if you get my drift. And it was at that moment that I realized they were all looking at me.

Hmmm…

I realized that my anxiety and frustration level had risen exponentially and we dismissed for the day. I needed time. Time for them to think about just what they would be contributing and time for me to decide whether this adventure was worth continuing. More than a week went by before I got an email and later a phone call from one of the couples. “We could tell you were frustrated, Christine, by the end of the last meeting,” she said, “And I feel bad, because it’s like we need A, B, C and D and the only thing I know anything about is D!”

We talked for a long time, over an hour. And I gave her an assignment. Mainly because she had spent a good part of an hour begging me for some kind of direction but also because I know when she does the research and learns what I already suspect to be true, she will stop suggesting we “get a grant for $150,000” and return to earth for what could be a half-decent reality-based planning session.

I say that, and I know it sounds snarky, and for that I am sorry. She’s a great lady and has lots of heart, she’s just hung up on the idea that ‘we have to have this, this and that’ and can’t think past it. The reality of the matter is, with little or no funding and a decent of education we need to accomplish before being able to do this, we aren’t ready to open for business. Dreams of showrooms with glassed-in views near the highway for little or no rent are simply not realistic. Neither is buying equipment that can cost up to $250,000.

But as I said, I gave her a bit of ‘homework’ and said, “You believe there are grants out there for small businesses. I don’t, but I am more than happy to be proven wrong. Go find one. But don’t just come back with a name of a place. I want details…how much would the grant be for? What restrictions or requirements? Find that grant…and I will write the most drop-dead slam it home business plan you have ever seen.”

I’ve heard it said that the devil is in the details. I’ve also heard that God is in the details. I’ll settle for simply saying, with no parallels implied, that I am in(to) the details. Bring me details and you will get results.

In business or in life, things often hang in the balance on details. My husband once said to me, “That first week I stayed at your place, I knew we would be compatible. Not only were you my intellectual equal, but more importantly, you hung the toilet paper the right way and squeezed the toothpaste from the bottom.”

It’s all about the details. Don’t get lost in them. Identify them, recognize them, and use them to move forward in whatever you seek to do.

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