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Bigger Fish

January 1, 2005
URL: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/74932

In what seems like a flash, another year has gone by. For some entrepreneurs, it's been a great year, and others are looking forward to the promise of 2005. Wherever you and your business fall on that scale, there's no time like the present to assess what you did right in 2004 and figure out how you're going to keep a good thing going, or determine what went wrong and come up with a plan to fix it.

All entrepreneurs know they're supposed to have a plan. You really can't start a business without one (well, you can, but you shouldn't). And if you're going to grow, you need a plan that you constantly refer to and update. I'm not talking about a business plan here (though I do firmly believe that if you're just starting your business, you need one of those). In this case, by plan I mean goals. Did you set goals last year? These can be gauged by revenue, profit, growth, number of new clients, customers, product introductions or whatever measure makes sense for your company.

Some entrepreneurs insist they don't need to set goals-they prefer the more "fly by the seat of their pants" method of growth. If this is you-and if you're very lucky-you might grow in spite of yourself. Most entrepreneurs know better. They set goals on at least an annual basis and frequently go back to those goals to measure their progress and success.

Over the years I've met some truly dedicated entrepreneurs-some who are quite well-known, and others who labor relatively anonymously. No matter what kind of entrepreneurs they are, I have learned plenty from them. Waly, my former next-door neighbor, started his business at age 21 armed with an idea and little else. He persevered, fueled by his dream of entrepreneurship and his unerring belief in his faith and in himself. Today, his sunglasses business employs 24 and grosses almost $2 million.

And then there's my brother-in-law Stu. Stu's a born-to-be entrepreneur, still working hard at his full-time job. In his spare time, he's come up with a great business idea-one that seems destined to boost him into full-time entrepreneurship soon enough. Stu tends to worry a bit too much (what entrepreneur doesn't?) but his passion to own a business is so strong that I have no doubt he will one day succeed.

My friend Betty left a high-paying job to set out on her own. She owns a PR firm, but has bigger fish to fry. Betty wants to change the world and has started several nonprofits to help kids. She funds the nonprofits with the money she makes from her PR firm. The money's not rolling in the way it used to, but Betty's vision, creativity and natural ability to network will take her to the top.

And then there's Fred DeLuca. He's not one of the anonymous entrepreneurs. Fred founded Subway 39 years ago. When I first met him almost 20 years ago, Subway wasn't the powerhouse it is today. But back then, I remember Fred had a plan: to grow his company by 1,000 units a year (if memory serves me correctly). He started meeting that goal-and beating it most years. Today, Subway has more franchises in the U.S. than any other company. But Fred's not one to rest on his laurels. As he tells staff writer Nichole L. Torres in "View From the Top", his new goals are to grow to 30,000 locations worldwide (partly by firing up international growth); focus on individual store profitability; and add more stores in nontraditional locations, such as airports and schools, all by 2010. Ambitious? Absolutely. But I have no doubt that Fred DeLuca will attain those goals because he sets them and articulates them to his people. And then they all devise plans to carry them out.

Obviously, no two entrepreneurs are alike. But there are traits many of you share: Passion, faith, creativity, optimism, perseverance and flexibility are just a few. If you take what fuels you and add goals with a plan of how to achieve them, success is sure to follow.

Here's to a happy and prosperous new year for all of us.