Staying the Course: Baby Steps

Many years ago there was a movie, What About Bob? In the film Bill Murray played a character who was getting professional help and was taught to take “Baby Steps” to reach his goal.

I was reminded of the film when I was talking with a friend recently who started a home based business last year.   He’s had some success and loves what he’s doing; however, he’s finding it tough to buckle down and get to work every day.

Most entrepreneurs who have home based businesses face this. It takes a lot of energy to get a business launched and get the product or service defined.   The first sales come and you realize just how many you’ll need to support yourself and it seems like such a huge mountain to climb that it doesn’t seem as if one day will make a difference.

You start to believe you might as well go have coffee with your friends, work on that home project, or go shopping … after all you set your own hours and you have at least x months or years before this has to pay off.

The problem is that the end game is so far off that your mind can’t wrap around reaching the goal. My friend’s goal is 1,000 photographs uploaded to a site that pays him every time someone uses one. He has the perfect business model. Do it once, pay nothing unless he’s paid, and the more he has, the more he’ll earn. He knows what’s selling and continues to learn what will sell, yet reaching that number seems so insurmountable.

If you can identify with this situation, figure out your “Baby Steps”:

  1. Set the hours you’re “Open for Business”. Write down what hours you’re going to work and what days you’re going to work. During those hours go to your work area and focus.
  2. Set daily goals. During my hours at work I’m going to produce X   Using my friend as an example, his goal might be to upload one photograph per day or five per week. Don’t forget to consider there are multiple steps involved in most processes, (He has to shoot the photos, process them, upload them, etc.) Use whatever makes sense to you and what will cause you to make measurable progress toward your goal.  It can be setting one new appointment per week or writing one page per day or whatever will make your business grow. Figure out a cycle that’s not more than a week long and set a production goal.   It’s got to be something you KNOW, or almost know that if you stick with it, you can do.
  3. Keep score. Develop a weekly metric and plot it visually every week.
  4. Set up a reward system for yourself.

When I was working on $1,000 Start-Ups, I’d done the research for several years and in the early days of writing would spend twelve hours every day in front of the computer, producing very little. I finally decided that if it was ever going to be finished and published I had to set small, achievable goals. I was lucky enough to have a little beach house and what I wanted to do every day before it got too hot was jog on the beach.

I set the goal that I would write the draft of one chapter every day before I went for my jog. It got too hot by 10 AM to jog at that time of year. I’m a morning person and I really wanted to be free to do what I wanted to do in the afternoon, so my writing hours every day were 5:00 – 10:00 AM, enjoy my jog, then edit the previous day’s work from 11-2.

It was magic. Twelve weeks after setting that goal I had my first draft.

Read more about successfully starting a business in $1,000 Start-Ups.


Published by Leah Ward-Lee

Leah Ward-Lee, the author of "$1,000 Start-Ups", is a serial micro-entrepreneur. She opened her first business at ten after lobbying for and receiving a shoe shine kit for Christmas. She pulled her wagon through the neighborhood, going door-to-door, offering to shine her neighbor’s shoes for twenty-five cents a pair. Once her wagon was full, she took the shoes home and polished them. Unfortunately that business was short-lived. She hadn’t tagged the shoes and couldn’t remember whose shoes were whose, so her dad went with her to retrace the route until every pair was returned. Since then she’s had businesses developing and teaching college courses, instructing aerobic classes, owning half a plane that was rented to a flight and maintenance school, and renting homes. She’s also owned a consignment store, a gift shop, a gift basket business, a consulting firm, hosted The Executive Toolbox (a weekly radio show), and a publishing company. She also spent twenty years in the US Army, served as the Chief Information and Technical Officer for two major insurance companies, and has a second career as a management consultant. Leah resides in Dallas, TX and on Amelia Island with Sammy and Goliath, her two rescue dogs.


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