The gift of dreams and realistic entrepreneurial expectations

In my work with aspiring entrepreneurs and existing businesses throughout Grand County I’ve learned that dreams and expectations are extremely important.

Entrepreneurial dreams are like those Christmas presents wrapped so neatly and idealistically under the tree. Looking at them inspires hope, wishful thinking and wonderment for a future yet to be realized.

But as we all know, sometimes those Christmas presents aren’t exactly what we had hoped they would be. Once unwrapped they may be something completely different than what we had expected. They could be more than what we wanted, exactly what we wanted or something else completely.

That’s what entrepreneurial dreams are like. These dreams, in fact, are frequently what drive people to be entrepreneurs. But it’s important to balance these dreams with realistic expectations that take into honest consideration lifestyle and financial circumstances.

Basically, the driving expectation of an entrepreneur is the hope that a person will be able to do something that they love to make a living. What a better place to be than to love skiing and then to make a good living while skiing, for example. This sort of expectation, or hope, if you will, is the motivating factor behind many people’s decisions to start new businesses.

This expectation and hope can be well understood when considering Maslow’s hierarchy of needs simplified to the desires of most entrepreneurs. I’ll keep it at three levels. The lowest level of happiness for most of us would be existing in a state of slavery where we are held against our will doing work we detest for no personal gain. (Although slavery has been outlawed in most of the world, some people even in the United States may feel they are in this boat.)

In the middle of my simplified hierarchy would be state of most people: They work at a job doing tasks they don’t enjoy for barely enough — or perhaps not enough — to make a living. This could describe the lives of many Americans who endure the drudgery of work just to get a paycheck without seeing any true meaning in their work.

At the top of my hierarchy is the successful entrepreneur: She or he works at doing something he or she loves while making an adequate or very good living. And to move that state of happiness up a notch, they do so while owning or controlling the enterprise that allows this state of being.

Most entrepreneurs expect to be at that third and highest state of happiness. That’s the dream they pursue. Why else would they endure the trials and tribulations of trying to own and operate a business?

While many people — some of them right here in Grand County — reach that third level of happiness, the truth is that there are usually compromises and tempered expectations that must be accepted. For example, if I truly enjoyed making dinner plates out of beetle-kill wood, and that was my life’s dream and aspiration, I could indeed pursue that as a business. But in reality, I’d have to realize that at first I probably couldn’t make enough money at that to support a family, pay a mortgage and buy health insurance. I’d probably have to keep my day job, at least initially.

This is the sort of realistic tempering of expectations that entrepreneurs must go through as they pursue their dreams. The idea itself — the dream, in fact — isn’t the problem here. I don’t judge dreams or ideas. The market can do that.
The realities of the market and how a business will grow — those are the tempering factors for the expectations of this dream.

A true gift for entrepreneurs in Grand County is the wisdom of realistic expectations inspired by the dream to reach that third level of happiness to which many of us aspire.

Merry Entrepreneurial Christmas!

Patrick Brower can be reached by calling 970-531-0632 or at

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