Conquering Misbeliefs: If I Build it They Will Come

moving past our misbeliefs--photo credit iosphere of fdp.netYou don’t have to be familiar with the 1989 movie, Field of Dreams, to have heard the popular, yet misleading phrase, “if you build it, they will come.” This ethereal phrase is what initiated Ray Kinsella, portrayed by Kevin Costner, to build a baseball field in his corn field. It’s also the motivation for many starry-eyed entrepreneurs to pursue their own vision of dreams. For many, however, our misbeliefs slither their way into our personal failure files.

Are you one of the hopeful business people lured by the “if you build it” mantra? I was. Like many entrepreneurs, I had an idea and a lofty goal. I fell for the overnight success stories and believed all I had to do was build it. Unfortunately, the trouble with the “if you build it” theory is twofold:

  • It conveys the message that all one has to do is to present a life-changing idea to the world and then sit back and wait for everyone to fall at my feet.
  • Most hopeful entrepreneurs (including me) lack a true understanding of what is necessary to build and grow a business.

The Genesis of Misbeliefs

Mine started in 1996. I was almost 5 years into an unsuccessful job search. Rather than continue the useless pursuit and destroy the fragments of my confidence, I decided to build a business that incorporated my experience and education.

My first steps involved creating a business and marketing plan based on advice from traditional business resources. As I happily wrote the documents that outlined my beautiful business, I was elevated by the “if you build it” mantra. I fully believed all I had to do was make my business look good on paper, toss an ad in the local classified section of the newspaper, and make a few appearances at the local Chamber of Commerce.

My early efforts gained the attention of a postage meter company and sympathetic business community members who suggested I sponsor events or dedicate my expertise to a thinly associated activity related to their business. For free. I was promised that exposure would be my reward. I swallowed their hooks.

The Results of Misbeliefs

Naiveté. Clouded by “if you build it” and the promise of exposure intensified my lack of knowledge. I filled many an organizations’ need for speakers but never earned the money, the opportunities, or the testimonials that was promised. I stubbornly maintained the belief that this was the way.

Taken advantage of. People come out of the shadows seeking naïve entrepreneurs and I was their biggest catch. I was eager to build awareness and a following; they were eager to suck me dry.

Time lost. Clinging too long to this belief resulted in lost opportunity in the form of legitimate clients and revenue.

Lessons Learned

It’s a slow, cringe-worthy process, but over time, those moments led to lessons learned and growth.

  • My naivete eventually revealed how these beliefs misguided me. This discovery led to asking for help.
  • Learn from others. Network. Connect. Share expertise. Talking and listening to others helped me move past shame and embarrassment.
  • Abandon the comfort zone. Once I recognized that building a business is a lot harder than it appears, my comfort zone was no longer comfy. That became my moment to pursue or pivot, then take the proper action.
  • Be stringent with your time and money. Volunteerism is admirable, but when it creeps into a full-time job, then it’s no longer advantageous.
  • Put in the work. Learn about business, not just your industry and niche. You don’t need an MBA, but attend workshops, read, and learn from others.

There is magic in business ownership, and the best magic occurs when you identify your misbeliefs and reframe your knowledge base. As we’re taught to embrace our failures, I felt it most helpful to do so by sharing mine. Read my failure files on good girl, self-sacrifice, and negative mindset then reach out if you need more guidance!