Article

A Voice in the Corn Field

You’ve all seen the movie Field of Dreams, right? Kevin Costner, James Earl Jones?  Baseball in the middle of an Iowa corn field? I won’t pretend to have fully grasped all of the movie’s multiple themes; I was maybe thirteen when I saw it. But that iconic line, “If you build it, they will come,”  hit me like a flyball to left field (I know almost nothing about baseball.  Is it obvious?) as I contemplated transitioning my part-time business to a full-time career.

I’m really good at finding the holes in a plan. Because of that, I’m the person you love to hate on a committee. I’m pragmatic and practical to a fault. But occasionally, I let myself dream.  And one day I realized that my dream was to quit my job, and work from home full-time.  Immediately, I found all the possible flaws in that plan. Why would anyone hire me? I’m not an expert, I don’t have much experience, and there are people who are way better at this than I could ever hope to be. I won’t make any money, my business will fail, and the earth will surely stop spinning on its axis.  

If you build it…

But when I closed my eyes, and let myself dream, I was Ray Kinsella, standing in the corn field and hearing the voice: “If you build it, they will come.”  Maybe the best way to start a business is to just  start a business, and see what happens next.

This was a pretty solid business plan for me at the time.  I wouldn’t recommend it for everyone.  I had very little overhead, since all I needed was my computer and the software that I was already using.  I had a small home office established.  I had one solid client to get the ball rolling.  Worst case scenario, I wouldn’t make enough money and would pick up some part-time work again.  I wasn’t in a position to lose capital.

So I decided to build a baseball diamond and see if anyone showed up to play ball.

Focus on the first 12km

The distance between point A and point B can often seem overwhelming, when A is a part-time hobby type business, and B is a financially sustainable full-time career. While it’s always important to have a sense of the big picture, it’s equally important to wake up every day and put one foot in front of the other. A friend of mine recently completed a gruelling 250km marathon through the Moroccan dessert. He fully admitted that if, at the start of the race, he thought about all 250kms, he would have turned around and come home. Instead he stood at the start line and focussed on the fact that the first rest station was only 12km away. And he knew he could run 12km.

My suggestion for transitioning your business from part-time to full-time, or for starting a business from square one, for that matter, is to focus on the first 12km.  Do what you can today, and then do what you can tomorrow.  If one phone call or one email is all you can manage, then do it.  Do one thing each day or each week that brings you a step closer to your ultimate goal of being a full-time small business owner.  

Making room in the field

While I was still working part-time elsewhere and transitioning my business to full-time, a co-worker gave me something to consider. He said “As long as you’re working part-time, your business will only ever be part-time.” Think about it. There are only so many hours in the day, only so much energy that you can commit to any given project. Sometimes you have to plow under your corn crop to make room for a baseball diamond.

I decided to commit 100% of my energy to my business. With the big picture in the back of my mind, I completed one small task at a time. I quit the job that provided a steady pay cheque, had a few tough financial months, and then one day I found myself standing in the proverbial baseball diamond in an Iowa cornfield pitching to Shoeless Joe Jackson and watching my dream become a reality. I built it. And they came.  

What’s the voice in the corn field telling you?