From the February 2003 issue of Startups

You have a dream. It came to you unexpectedly while you were washing the dog, feeding the kids or waiting in line. Inspiration propels you as if you were on a roller coaster. You know you must turn the dream into a business!

But reality pokes a finger at your chest and says "OK, now what?" Do you begin with a business plan? Everyone tells you that is the only way to succeed. How do you create your balance sheets, financing options and inventory control systems?

Fear, uncertainty and procrastination take over. To many, a business plan is a hurdle they can't overcome. Your challenge is not coming up with ideas. Your challenge is having the courage and the resources to move forward.

Have no fear. There is another way to start. The distance between dreaming and doing is quite short-if you throw out the business plan and get educated in the real world.

Do not prematurely sabotage a brilliant idea. Anyone reviewing a business plan is taught to look for holes, not to support your passion. If they could predict the future, they'd already be happily retired. To grow, we must discover our own ways to succeed.

Learn from experience, and stop being paralyzed by analysis. Imagine the first immigrants to this country saying "I can't open a shop because the forms indicate my inventory control will be too complicated." They set their hearts to it and achieved. You can do the same.

To kick-start your dream business, take action to discover what works and what doesn't:

  • Shout out loud "My business has launched!" Commit yourself to making your business a reality. If you're spending time thinking about it, you have already started. It began when you first imagined your dream. Be proud. Your conviction will energize others to support your success.
  • Write down your passion. We've all known people who believe so much in an idea that their method of getting there matters less. Focus on what starting your business will accomplish for your life. That is the foundation you will build on and always come back to. Share your passion with the people in your life. Once they understand why it's so important to you, they will become your support team.
  • Conduct real-life research by taking field trips. Fine-tune your idea by letting the market tell you what it needs. Your "research lab" is all around you. Save time, money and frustration by discovering what works now. Visit local stores, entrepreneurs and people in businesses similar to the one you want to start, and ask them questions: "What are the biggest signs of success in this field? What is your product's most important feature?" From the trenches, you will solidify your idea by learning the truth.
  • Stay mentally strong. Let positive energy guide you. Stop worrying about what you should do-take action. Focus on activities that help you gain the knowledge you need. For every bit of progress, give yourself a reward. Thank yourself for the accomplishment, and take the next step. Intent, passion and action get the job done.
  • Throw out the business plan and start now. Step out of your home and venture into the world to discover how others can help you achieve success. Open yourself to exploration, excitement and the ultimate reward-your own business.

National speaker and consultant Romanus Wolter is known as "The Kick Start Guy" and is author of Kick Start Your Dream Business.