From the December 2002 issue of Startups

Beginnings have a unique way of infusing us with inspiration. New babies, an engagement ring and, of course, a brand new year! During these times, we leave our past struggles behind and look positively toward our future. We may make new promises to achieve our dreams or create something that will change the world in which we live.

These events all have one thing in common: They directly access the most powerful aspect of ourselves-our human spirit. It empowers us to put our heart and mind toward our goal to make it a reality.

Starting a new business happily taps into our spirit as well, because the process enlivens our heart and fuels our imagination-the linchpins of our existence. As an entrepreneur, your work is an expression of yourself. Without your ideas, beliefs, fortitude, skills and sense of adventure, your business cannot succeed.

In 2003, to create a business you will truly love, be human and get back to the basics. First, promise yourself that you will make 2003 your year to take action. In addition, you should:

  1. Believe in yourself. The only barrier to achieving your goal is your attitude. Beginnings are not the time to judge or doubt yourself, because it's self-confidence that wins people over. Stop worrying about the "what-ifs" and know that you will make the right decisions. It's OK if you don't have all the answers right now. Write the questions down and investigate. Belief influences reality, and the real energy you create will attract others who will provide the information you need to succeed.
  2. Buy yourself time. If you're just getting started, be sure to pick a specific time each week in which the only thing you do is work on your idea. Nothing will distract you-this is your time to do what needs to be done. Even if it is only a few hours per week, your own progress will inspire you to continually move forward.
  3. Uncover what inspires you most about your business. Write down your passion. Don't worry about being an accomplished writer or even about grammar or punctuation. What you're after is your intent-what starting your business will accomplish for your life, for your customers, for the economy and for your community. Your intent connects you to what truly makes your vision unique. Define your dream, connect with others and open a world of wonderful possibilities.

How to Make an Impact

People connect with benefit. An "instant impact" is a message that specifies how your business benefits others. Not just what the business is (a flower shop or a consulting firm), but the positive impact you will have. It helps you become known in the industry, so people can refer business contacts to you or become your customers. To create your own unique instant impact:

  • Write down your external intent. List how your business will benefit others. Write down any words or phrases that come to mind. Do not edit or delete any words yet. You can start by finishing the following statement: "My business will help people to."
  • Circle key descriptive words. These are words that resonate with your heart. Circle the words that appeal to you.
  • Create your message. Write one or two sentences using the circled key words. Then say each sentence aloud as though you were telling someone about your business at a cocktail party. Rewrite the sentences until you feel that others will easily understand your business and its benefits.
  • Test your instant impact on friends, family and colleagues. Tell people your message and ask if they understand your intent. Consider their input and revise your instant impact accordingly.
  • Use it all the time. When someone asks how your business is doing, start with your instant impact. Let people know about the unique benefit your business offers by putting your message on everything: your business cards, brochures, Web site and even voice-mail greeting. The more that people hear about your business, the more they can help grow it.

9 Goals to Help You Get Started

  • Commit to establishing relationships. Core to our humanity is our ability to make relationships. Don't create your business in a vacuum. Relationships provide information, leads, knowledge, hints, connections, funding and validation--elements that quickly close the gap between your goals and success.

Speak with people you casually pass every day. Friends, storeowners, the financial consultant at the gym and co-workers are all potential connections and sources of information. The trick is turning a casual conversation into business knowledge that can help you.

The most unique and human part of us wants to connect. We all like to be around people who have positive attitudes and love what they do. Always speak with great enthusiasm about your business idea, no matter how bad your day is. Inspire and inform others and they will give something back.

  • Create a plan through taking action. You continually have the opportunity to make powerful choices. A guru ahead of his time, Yogi Berra once said, "When you come to a fork in the road, take it." In other words, if you don't know which path to follow, action is your best choice. Stop filling out paperwork that you feel may help you grow your business and go explore. Experiment, talk to potential customers and discover information and ideas that connect your dream to the real world.
  • Always ask for help and listen. Amazing things happen when you simply just ask and listen to people. Pay special attention to front-line people who are in contact with your customers every day-they are your opportunity to discover what works in the real world. You will be able to discover new market trends, strategies that will save you time and money, suppliers, distributors and even what your competitors are up to. Analyze the information they provide, decide how it affects your business and then take action.
  • If you get stuck, hold a brainstorming party. People are there to help. They are just uncertain how. If you ever wonder if something is right (such as pricing or features), or if you need any other qualitative information, hold a brainstorming party. Invite a group of friends, colleagues or other business owners over to your house. Specify your challenge and ask them for solutions. You will be amazed at the contacts, resources and ideas you can garner just by asking. When first starting out, many of my clients invite people over for a "name-storming" party.
  • Keep your stress low by staying organized. Each night, prepare a to-do list that states everything you hope to accomplish the next day. Each morning, take a deep breath and attack the list. As you finish the tasks, cross them off. Make crossing out your accomplishments a celebration--use a star or a special pen. Keep your lists in a notebook so you can review your accomplishments whenever you need to.
  • Take time to exercise your mind, body and soul. Without you, there is no business. You are human and have to take care of your body, mind and spirit. Include personal objectives in your nightly to-do list. If you love playing tennis, keep doing it. If you enjoy going to religious services, go for it. There is a reason you enjoy these things. Do not neglect yourself-you are the foundation of your business.
  • Spend time with others who are achieving their goals. Some find entrepreneurship a lonely path. But you are part of a large organization called "the world." Make sure you find other professionals with whom to associate. Join a networking group, the Chamber of Commerce or an organization that serves entrepreneurs in a field similar to yours. Meeting other people, especially those with similar goals, reminds us that we're not alone, that there are others out there experiencing the same things we are. You can learn a lot from their mistakes and successes.
  • Keep your word. Keep your word to others and yourself, because your reputation can take you places or bar you from them. If you say you will do something, do it! And if you can't do something, don't promise it.
  • Don't delay. Start today. There is nothing you "need" to start your business except your imagination, your heart and the ability to take action. As you move your business forward, you will discover the people, resources and information you truly require to succeed.

National speaker and consultant Romanus Wolter is known as "The Kick Start Guy." His book, Kick Start Your Dream Business, provides proven action steps that close the gap between goals and success.