If you can dream it, you can do it: Dan Sullivan shares four steps for creating a business goal that boosts your clarity, creativity, and competitive advantages.
What's the very best thing about your business? Imagine being able to take that and multiply it by a factor of ten—and in the process make your business simpler, easier to manage, and more enjoyable.
For the past two years, that's the challenge I've been putting to the successful, future-focused entrepreneurs I meet. I'm convinced - after nearly 40 years of coaching business owners - that this is the best way to secure a profitable niche for yourself in the marketplace, while making work sustainable and enjoyable for the rest of your entrepreneurial career.
To most people, an exponential goal like 10x sounds like it would be hard work compared to a smaller, more incremental goal, like doubling. In fact, it's easier. That might seem like a paradox, but I'll show you why it isn't by sharing four steps you can use to work on your own 10x goal and by illustrating how two of my clients have applied these principles in their own lives.
Leap out of your current limitations.
When you choose a goal that's unreasonably big, you shift your mind into an entirely different mode of thinking. Incremental thinking only allows you to imagine doing the same things you're doing now except doing more of them; I'm sure you're aware of the limitations of that strategy.
When you imagine yourself standing in a 10x bigger future, however, you can immediately recognise what belongs in that future and what doesn't. In that imagined future, you're not just doing things a little bit better, you've completely transformed what you do. In this frame of mind, you can also begin to identify the changes and improvements you could make to start moving toward that future. It's a quantum leap in your mindset.
Real Business readers can download a free digital book on developing the “Multiplier Mindset” that makes it possible to go ten times: “How to get to the top and stay there.”
If you're still not sure what to multiply 10x, just begin where you are:
1. Ask, "What do I already do exceptionally well?"
Your greatest successes will be in the areas where you have the most talent, drive, and enjoyment. So, there's no element of “should” in a 10x goal, and you don't have to pick one out of the sky. Just look at what you already do exceptionally well; where your focus gravitates on its own. What could you do for the rest of your life, and always feel fascinated and motivated by it?
In his final year of high school, one of my clients, Danny O'Neill, spent a year as an exchange student in Costa Rica, where he picked coffee beans and fell in love with coffee. In 1993, he started The Roasterie, a speciality roasting company, from his basement. In 2001, he was awarded "Super Taster" status on the Specialty Coffee Institute Sensory Aptitude Test. Today, he's the company's "Bean Baron," and they service espresso bars, fine restaurants, offices, and high-end grocers.
2. Ask, "How can I make my clients' lives so much easier, it blows them away?"
The experience, skill, and passion you have in your specialty, plus the relationships you've developed, give you an invaluable insight. Mine this, and you'll discover ways to assist your clients beyond anything they've experienced before, or give them a capability they've always wanted. Once they've had a taste of this "dream solution", they'll consider it indispensable - which will completely differentiate you from the competition and inspire your clientele to do your marketing for you.
Another one of my clients, Frank LaMar, is a dentist who specialises in prosthetics. For years, he saw patients whose conditions required them to come back repeatedly for expensive, painful procedures. Convinced there had to be a better way to serve his patients, he developed a "full-mouth implant rehabilitation" system called Hybridge. "With this efficiency we've developed," he says, "we've shortened our treatment times on these full-mouth cases to as little as three weeks and brought the cost to our patients down to half."
3. Refine your ability to communicate this big vision and its benefits.
The one thing that's harder in working with a 10x goal is having to explain it to others. Most people simply aren't accustomed to thinking on such a grand scale. As you get more skilled at communicating your vision, however, you'll find it much easier to attract all the right partners for your journey.
Few entrepreneurs enjoy hiring, training, managing, and motivating team members, and a 10x future makes all this easier—without requiring extra effort on your part. You'll draw high quality, engaged team members who are excited about your project rather than employees who just want a paycheque. These individuals will have a personal stake in using their abilities to make your big goal happen.
As you think more and more from this advanced mindset, you'll also find yourself developing new intellectual property. Of course, intellectual property on its own isn't worth much—it’s like inventing the telephone but keeping it hidden away in a box. The real breakthrough occurs when you package and sell your solution as "intellectual capital" to a network of people who can benefit from it.
For instance, the biggest limitation for dentists is that they have only two hands to work with and only so many hours in the day. Frank LaMar has stepped completely outside those limits: he built a laboratory that can produce the Hybridge to his exact standards and trains other dentists in the procedure of installing these prosthetics (teaching has also turned out to be his favourite activity.) Now, Frank's competitors have become his clients, and he's expanded into 22 other regions without having to leave his practice.
4. Keep looking for ways to make everything faster, easier, cheaper, and bigger.
With 10x progress in mind, you begin to see factors everywhere that can contribute to your growth: Add a capability here, extract yourself from an obligation there, and soon you've streamlined yourself in a hundred different ways that enable you to operate at a higher level.
Danny O'Neill says he'd like to take his team on a tour of all The Roasterie's previous headquarters so they can see how the company has pared down, automated, and generally learned to work smarter. Recalling a time he hurt his back carrying a sack of coffee beans up a flight of stairs, he says, "The people who are most nostalgic about the past are the ones who didn't have to live there."
In the early days of his business, Danny’s turnover peaked at $7,000 (around £4,400) a month, and he was absolutely spent, both physically and mentally. Knowing something had to change, he took a risk and hired Norman Killmon to be his right-hand man. From that point, the business really started to take off. Today, $1m months are not unusual. Now, Danny's looking to hire a Chief Operating Officer, and when the thought of adding a six-figure salary to his payroll gives him pause, he just reminds himself of his goal and thinks about how necessary and valuable that extra capability is going to be.
You can do the maths of 10x growth in lots of different of ways. You might focus on becoming more efficient, like Danny, or on multiplying your reach, like Frank. Instead of multiplying everything in your business, you might zero in on amplifying your most lucrative returns (some of my coaching participants in high-end financial services actually brag about how few clients they have). Your 10x may be measured in profits or sales, but it could equally mean doubling your results while working one fifth of the time.
10x is your best alternative.
"The economy" is often given as the reason a 10x goal is impossible. Actually, in this economy, the only sure way to succeed is to be at the forefront of change rather than trying to respond to it. You can happen to the world, or the world can happen to you.
And why not play a 10x game? It makes everything a lot more fun—for you, for your team, and for your clientele. As Danny O'Neill says, "Fear is the only reason not to try."
Ultimately, your 10x goal isn't really the goal. It's simply the best way to learn the skill of multiplying - which will give you the ability to increase what's most important to you in any aspect of your life.