Converting Business Dreams Into Reality: Three Case Studies

Creating an enterprise takes more than dreaming, it requires a marriage of vision with opportunity.

Starting a self-employed enterprise is an exciting prospect for many people. For those who have longed to leave the 9-to-5 world, or for someone who wants out from an intolerable job, it’s a dream come true. For some, it embodies the American Dream mythology.  This is where you need to be careful. The roots of the American dream are embedded in the opportunities that America offered to immigrants and the indigenous poor, for a chance at a better life. In other words, American dreaming is about opportunity and capitalizing on this opportunity to improve one’s station in life.

“Build it and they will come.”                                                                 Well, sometimes.

Must of us are familiar with this oft-stated line from the movie FIELD OF DREAMS. Very often, people follow their dreams or passions into business and sadly, these enterprises sometimes fail–– despite the presence of a good idea and a willingness to work hard. Why? In my experience, it’s often a case of failing to shape the vision of a business enterprise by assessing how and where the opportunity exists. The successful establishment of a business enterprise–– whether it be a solo free lancing gig or a startup product manufacturing business–– begins well before the launch date. Success starts not necessarily with a dream, but with a vision that incorporates market opportunity.

Find a Need and Fill It. 

It’s okay to want an enterprise of your own creation: something you love.  But, to truly succeed, an opportunity (or multiple opportunities) must exist in your field of business. In fact, the most successful enterprises start with an existing need. It’s natural to want to take your passion and find a way to sell it. However, you increase the chances of success when you observe a need and then find a way to marry that need to your skills, interests and expertise/experience.

Here are a few case examples:

Amber’s Story: For some American Dreamers, the dream lies in just being self-employed. Being the boss is reward in itself. They are seeking opportunity first and figuring out what they can do to fill it.  

Take the case of Amber. She was working as a field auditor for a major accounting firms and hated the travel. With a toddler, and a new baby on the way, Amber recognized that she wanted to be home with her kids. She began looking for opportunities and matching these to any skills or products she could offer. In the end, she chose the obvious: working as a CPA with small businesses in her community, building a strong network of clients. Working solo— and, working from home–– Amber kept her expenses down and her rates lower which attracted small business clients.

Convert Your Passion Into a Paying Enterprise.

As stated earlier, it’s okay to want to spend your working life doing something you love. The problem with this is that there may not be a market for what you love. Still, for some, opportunity and passion merge to form a happy marriage. 

Charlie’s Story:  A passionate golfer, Charles loved to say that when he wasn’t at work, he wanted to play golf, and when he wasn’t playing golf, he wanted to talk golf. Charles was more fortunate than most in that he was a salesperson for a large manufacturer that produced control panels for utilities. Often, he would go on golf outings with prospects or clients but there was all the other time he spent in meetings, or in the home office, where he dreamed of the greens. One day, opportunity literally showed up at his door when the regional VP of his company asked him to organize a day-long golf outing for a large party of clients. “I don’t want the club to do it, Charlie, they always screw things up. This is a job that I know you can do better than anyone.” And Charlie did do it better, because he knew and loved the entire golf experience. When it was over, one of the company’s clients said to Charlie, “This was one of the best golf outings I’ve ever attended, Charlie,” and then jokingly added, “You should do this for a living!”  Those words resonated with Charlie and in less than a year, he was doing just that—selling event management services for large corporate and non-profit golf outings.

Necessity is the Mother of Opportunity. 

Donny’s Story: Donny was an executive vice president at one of the nation’s largest banking conglomerates. He was living a life that he loved, and had worked hard to achieve, when the Great Recession hit in 2009. Within six months, he was laid off. He received a decent severance payment and some layoff benefits, but it was hardly a golden parachute. Donny began job hunting furiously, but his age – over 55 – and a slow economic recovery were working against him. Three years later, his savings were drying up and he was getting fewer job interviews. He decided to go into business for himself, although he hated the very idea. He began looking for opportunities. He did have a law degree but hadn’t practiced since his mid-twenties. He thought of his experience in banking when he was young, handling mortgages and title transfers. This was something he knew that he could do, so he began looking for a place to set up shop. He decided that since the nearest town was a county seat, it was a good place to start. Donny is now in his fifth year and growing, despite his reservations about self-employment.

You Need a Flexible Business Development Plan. 

The examples above offer a very clear message:  let opportunity define your enterprise. LISTENING is one of the most important qualities any enterpriser can have. This is not limited to hearing what people say, but also includes being sensitive to trends in your marketplace, reactions to your business, and feedback from customers/clients. You must also be ready to change your offering(s) based on the reactions of the marketplace. If you start out with a rigid plan for your enterprise, then you are likely to be less open to listening to the marketplace.



NEVER WORK A DAY IN YOUR LIFE is an essential handbook for anyone contemplating self employment or business start up. Includes step-by-step guides in the important process of business development.

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