Entrepreneurs see things differently than others, perceiving solutions where society has left voids. The most successful entrepreneurs see the most. They have the greatest vision and imagine the biggest solutions.
According to serial entrepreneur Michael Sonnenfeldt, this — thinking bigger — is the number one obstacle that entrepreneurs need to overcome. It’s so important that he named his most recent book Think Bigger.
Perhaps Sonnenfeldt is simply drawing on his past experience of undertaking the world’s largest commercial renovation, a 2.4 million square feet renovation that eventually sold for $120 million, at age 26. Even if he is simply drawing on past experiences, though, those experiences show that entrepreneurs should listen to Sonnenfeldt. He also founded TIGER21, a 500-member network of individuals with over $50 billion total in personal assets.
With all of this in mind, one question remains. How can entrepreneurs think bigger? Here’s a five-step guide that will lead to greater vision, bigger ideas and more success.
Step 1: Get A Fresh Start.
First, thinking bigger often requires getting a fresh start. If thinking bigger is something new — and it’s something Sonnenfeldt says most entrepreneurs don’t do right now — then it by definition isn’t the past. It’s a new, fresh beginning.
How you recognize this fresh start can vary. Some people are prompted by New Year’s, a major life event or the loss of a job. Others just make a personal resolution on an unremarkable Thursday afternoon. All that’s important is that you create that fresh start, so you give yourself permission to start thinking differently, thinking bigger.
Step 2: Maximize Your Imagining.
Once you have an idea, maximize it to the fullest. Think about growing it 10-, 100- and 1,000-fold over what you currently are imagining. Why isn’t that possible?
Admittedly, some businesses’ growth is limited by market demand and other factors. Most often, however, entrepreneurs don’t accurately imagine just how large and successful their business could become. Many limit their business’ success at this stage by simply thinking too small. Listen to accountants and forecasters later if it’s prudent to do so, but in the dreaming phase go as big as you can imagine.
There are many ways to think big, and your imagining doesn’t have to be tied to numbers. If you’re struggling to maximize your imagining, though, numbers can be helpful. Forecast sales, locations, events or any other metric, and then increase it by 20 percent — a realistic increase. Once you see that, increase another 20 percent. And another, and another. Soon, you’ll see how realistic growth could take your business to where you’ve never dreamed of.
As an added benefit, thinking of your business in the largest possible terms will help identify weaknesses in the business strategy. You’ll reach a point where you can’t do everything and need to hire employees. Maybe your pricing structure won’t support the additional overhead that comes with this growth. Whatever the issue is, identifying these shortcomings will pay off no matter how large or small your business ultimately gets to be.
Step 3: Focus On One Idea.
In order to succeed at any big undertaking, you’re going to need focus. Sonnenfeldt touches on this in his book, but perhaps no one understood this better than Apple icon Steve Jobs.
Apple’s success is largely due to Jobs’ willingness to say “no.” When he returned to Apple in 1997, Jobs had this to say on focus: “Focusing is about saying no.” In order to achieve the great products they have now, Apple had to say no to a lot of really good things.
For entrepreneurs who are struggling to determine when saying no is the right answer, Jobs had some advice. He asked: “What are the fundamental directions we’re going in?” Identify the fundamental direction, and then focus on it to the expense of all tangential ideas — even the good ones.
Step 4: Show Determination Throughout.
Entrepreneurs know starting a business isn’t easy. Staring one that thinks big is even more difficult. With greater success comes greater challenges.
Because of the challenges that will arise, determination is an essential trait that any entrepreneur who’s thinking big needs. Having the willingness and work ethic to meet the challenges that arise is absolutely vital.
Step 5: Be Confident.
The final step in thinking big is being confident. In order to bring about great success, entrepreneurs need great belief in themselves and their ideas. Those who have this and the other four requirements stand to achieve results they’ve never imagined before.