From the June 2003 issue of Startups

Your dream business is now a reality. You've poured your heart and soul into creating the life you've always wanted. It seemed impossible, but you've arrived--you're now your own boss!

The hallway commute from your bedroom to the office gives you extraordinary freedom, and the lax dress code and low overhead are irresistible. You have the best of both worlds.

So why do so many homebased entrepreneurs feel, well, small? This feeling of inadequacy can be uncomfortable and even downright unnerving. Doubt surfaces whenever we encounter the opinions of others.

The good news is that you can expand your business by eliminating these perceptions. Start by connecting with what makes your business unique and "larger than life"--your intent and your spirit. Then fuel your growth with these simple steps:

  • Define your own success. Create a plan for growth based on your terms, both financial and personal. Whether it's doubling revenue or maintaining a work/life balance--you define the outcome. Track your achievements by creating goals, putting milestones in place and communicating them to others. These simple actions create positive energy and attract people who will want to do business with you.
  • Revel in your size. Your business is powerful because you've combined your personal world with business success. Remember your definition of success, and communicate your goals-they're more powerful than office square footage.
  • Let growth follow success. Success is a step-by-step process through the fulfillment of intermediate goals. If your goal is to have a larger enterprise, you could be tempted to leverage everything to get there too fast and too soon. That's not success--that's stress. Start by breaking tasks into chunks and doing what's possible. You'll achieve your goals and remain in business to grow even further.
  • Create a lasting image. You are your business, and your unique image is what people buy. How do other people see you? "She's competent and listens to my needs" gets more business than "What a great gift basket!" Customers have choices, and your winning larger projects is a result of earning their trust. It starts by following through on the benefits you offer. In our electronic world, it's easy to look large and stay lean. So reflect that strength on your Web site, in your e-mails and, of course, in your product or service.
  • Expand by partnering. Your business is part of an ecosystem of businesses. Exploring opportunities within that circle can help you grow more efficiently. How many times have your clients asked for referrals? "Hey, you're in the interior design business. Do you know a good electrician?" Find businesses that fill a certain need and refer customers to them, and you can generate income through referral fees.

In addition, expand your referral network. Listen to the needs of your suppliers, your customers and other businesses in your area. These partners will also refer customers to you. If you have a business need, bartering with these partners can save money.

Renting an office outside your home isn't necessarily the definition of success. Dream like a child; decide as an adult and keep your imagination open to the possibilities that surround you. Define your goals, and take action using both intuition and experience to grow your business.


Speaker and consultant Romanus Wolter is the author of Kick Start Your Dream Business.