If You Can Dream It – Proceed With Caution

A thousand pundits will tell you that the journey to small business success is powered by passion and vision.

That’s true. In part.

However, passion and vision can also drive your business into oblivion in very short order, unless you have a few other elements in place.

One of those elements is this: Make sure that what you’re trying to sell is something that people actually want.

Sounds obvious, but it’s not.

At this point in an article, I’d usually invent a pretend online business to illustrate the point. But this week, I’m going to use a real business example.

The business was mine and the day it closed its doors marked what was probably one of my greatest personal achievements and most absolute business failures.

Here, in a nutshell, is what I did.

Quite a few years ago, with the help of my wife and children, I created Canada’s first public farm devoted to the conservation of endangered breeds of farm animals. (Somewhere in the world, once every five days, another breed of domestic livestock becomes extinct. No biggie for us. A big problem in the making for our grand kids.)

We worked with breeding groups of seventeen different breeds of rare farm animals. We had dozens of school trips coming through for tours. We had tens of thousands of visitors. We held fairs and concerts. We were on TV and radio, in national newspapers and magazines.

Fuelled by an intense inner passion and vision, I marketed the farm incredibly well.

I had no doubt of my eventual success. None. I had ‘right’ on my side. I was doing a good thing. I had the business and marketing skills.

And the place bled red ink at an astonishing rate from the very first day we opened.

Within two years, I had lost many hundreds of thousands of dollars and we had to close the place down.

I never even noticed the red ink. I was blind.


Because I believed that if you can dream it, you can do it.

Not so.

Passion and vision are wonderful things. It’s hard to imagine great things happening without them.

But if you want to build a business, not just a hobby, you also have to ask yourself one simple question…

“Am I creating something that will interest others?”

In my case, the answer was no. I thought it should interest others. But that’s not the same thing at all.

Bye bye farm.

In my case, it was hard to anticipate the level of public interest because I was trying something that hadn’t been done before.

But if you’re planning a business online, get a sheet of paper and do these two things…

  1. Write down why a very large number of people really, really want the product or service you’re about to provide. And why they want it right now.

  2. List ten other web sites, surveys or events that, in one way or another, support your assumption.

It’s a whole lot easier to succeed when you’re selling something that people actually want.

Add passion and vision on top of that – and you’re on your way to building something huge.

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