“If you can dream it, you can do it. Always remember that this whole thing was started with a dream and a mouse.” – Walt Disney
Several books and articles have been written and seminars organized on how people can start or build a successful business, make huge profit, get clients and keep them, etc. Suggestions often made include, inter alia, ‘start small’, ‘be consistent’, ‘have a business plan’, ‘have a budget’, ‘look for investors’, ‘know your market’, ‘create a niche’, ‘say thank you to customers’, ‘get customers feedback’, ‘have a competitive price’, and ‘don’t compromise quality’. Frankly, these are very important. They are, without gainsaying, must-have ingredients in the recipe of fledgling business enterprise. Put simply, they are and they should be the first, or part of the first tools that a start-up should avail himself with before venturing into business. This singular act will save such a person a lot of blunders, which may crumble his business at the very embryonic stage. By and large, the writings and seminars are educative and serve as a sort of guide and a real eye-opener to budding entrepreneurs. Therefore, It is necessary that any good resources and opportunities of similar nature are taken with utmost seriousness.
However, there is an aspect that is even more important. Good as those writings and seminars are, there is one very fundamental ingredient or element, which most of the writers or facilitators have consistently either completely ignored, treated quiescently or relegated to the background. I do not know if it is a deliberate act or a mere oversight. Interestingly, this element forms the foundation of any big and successful business, and is called ‘dream’. Yes! It is worth repeating, dream! In my opinion, the success or otherwise of any business is premised on it.
By dream, I do not mean some kind of abstraction, or a series of thoughts, feelings or activities that occur at night time while you are asleep. Neither do I mean a result of performance, voice, or pictures that play and replay in your subconscious mind while in your full or semi unconscious state. Dream as used here denotes a clear purpose, a clear goal and a strong desire. It is vision-product and it is often a consequence of constant imagination. It is not a mere fantasy because it is action-driven. It is seeing what an average mind calls ‘impossible’ as ‘possible’ by believing and acting it. It is having that big picture of a bright future right in your mind. It is what you see in your mind’s eye everyday, what makes you wake from slumber, energizes you and rises your hope. It is what you live for and that which will live on even after your demise. Dream is not an idea, as wrongly believed, but what precedes an idea. In fact, a dream births ideas. And as it is often and correctly said, ideas rule the world.
From the foregoing definition, a dreamer can be said to be a man or woman who births ideas and dares to put his or her idea into action. He or she is a ruler extraordinaire, a true visionary, a devoted planner, an astute organizer, a deep thinker, a die-hard go-getter, and an inventor per excellence. I refer to such a person as Dreamer-Businessman (DB) while business founded by him or her as Dreamed Established Business (DEB). Nowadays, it is not unusual to see dreams sometimes reflecting and being encapsulated with corporate vision, mission and core values of some businesses. This is aimed at not only making such businesses to always connect but to project the dreams of their founders.
Conversely, I have heard of stories of entrepreneurs who stumbled into business by accident and eventually made it big. Some have attributed their success to ‘sheer luck’ or ‘good fortune’ with no further explanation as to how an aspiring entrepreneur can obtain and use such luck or good fortune to kick start and succeed in his enterprise. Such tales actually leave more questions than answers. I, for one, doubt completely if luck is all a person needs to succeed in business. The truth is that most of the big businesses making great impact in the world today are those that are product of a dream. Those businesses are not only a profit-making venture but have built structure, reputation, goodwill and patronage, which largely enhance their growth, sustainability and longevity. Such businesses outlast or have potential to outlast their founders.
For instance, the history of aviation business is not complete without mention of Wright Company or Wright Aeronautical now called Curtiss-Wright Corporation after merger with Curtis’s Aeroplane and Motor Company in 1929. The company was founded by Wright Brothers on 22 November 1909. It started when two brothers, Orville and Wilbur Wright, dreamed of making ‘mankind to fly like a bird’. Their dream did not only birth ideas that gave rise to the invention of the first successful airplane, but also pioneered the world’s airline business.
More so, how many folks actually know or still remember that Apple Inc. started in a garage by some young college dropouts? With Proceeds from the sale of Volkswagen microbus and Hewlett-Packard calculator belonging to Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, respectively, capital was raised to start Apple in Jobs’ parents’ garage. Their beginning, no doubt, was little but definitely not their dream of ‘getting a computer in the hands of everyday people’. Together with Ronald Wayne, on April, 1976, Jobs and Wozniak founded the World’s largest technology company and the world’s second-largest mobile phone manufacturer, according to Wikipedia.
Microsoft Corporation established April 4, 1975 is yet another good example. Bill Gates and his childhood friend, Paul Allen , set out to run a thriving business applying their shared skills in software. But then, it was their dream to ‘impact the world with it’, and ‘to have computer on every desk and in every home’ that transformed Microsoft into multinational behemoth technology company. Its founder, Bill Gates, has for several years been named the world’s richest man even though he has since relinquished control of the company, to focus on his philanthropic work through Gates and Melinda Foundation.
From the foregoing, you may begin to wonder if it is only successful engineering and technology related businesses, or those whose founders are adept in engineering and computer programming are a product of a dream. On the contrary, examples abound of successful enterprises whose founders have no engineering or computer programming skills or any conspicuously outstanding inherent abilities. They only understand themselves, learn what is necessary and essential, pursue with vigour what they believe, apply their acquired experience, and being intelligent enough to ally or partner with or recruit persons who are strong in such areas where they are weak. They make irresistible offers to their customers who in turn pledge directly or by implication lifelong patronage. Standard Oil Company, Virgin Group, and Dangote Group are a few examples.
Standard Oil Company, which was the largest world’s oil refiner and dominated for several decades the world’s oil industry was not an entity of chance. It was a brainchild of obsession, but more importantly of a dream, to do business and to succeed in it by doing whatever it takes. You may condemn John D. Rockefeller’s harsh approach but you cannot take away the fact that he had something deep on his inside which his then competitors did not have. Whilst his competitors capitalized on the increasing importance of crude oil and other by-products like kerosene to hike prices, Rockefeller dreamed of refining the best oil and selling at the lowest price. He constantly reminded himself and his colleagues that they were refining oil for the poor man. This turned the business magnet into the richest man in the world and reportedly the first American to worth over a billion of dollars. Even after Standard Oil Company’s dissolution following the Supreme Court ruling in 1911, the Company split into several successful successor companies that exist till date such as Chevron, ExxonMobil, BP, Pennzoil which is now part of Shell etc.
Virgin Group, on the other hand, is a multinational conglomerate with over four hundred companies worldwide. Interestingly, it was founded in 1970 by Richard Branson who confessed to have suffered dyslexia. How then did such a man build one of the most envious brands and consistently finds his name in Forbes’ Billionaires list? It was through his can-do spirit and trailblazing viewpoint fueled ultimately by his dream to start up a business and create something with some degree of uniqueness – thinking out of the box to provide solutions to customers’ needs. Young Branson, like many youths these days especially in developing countries, could have given up on life or frustratedly joined the underworld, or more decently, become a casual worker in a certain shopping mall somewhere in London but nay. He had a dream. He saw his condition not as an obstacle but a rung on the ladder of success. He literally transformed his apparently disadvantage into advantage. Today it is on record that Virgin Group has pioneered a lot of innovations in the business world while Richard Branson has mentored and impacted through his books several millions entrepreneurs across the globe.
Now let us narrow down our illustration to Dreamed Established Business founded in developing countries especially in Africa. Like developing economies in Asia and Latin America, Africa is characterized with low Gross National Income (GNI). According to World Bank’s report in 2013, countries with a GNI of US$ 11,905 or less are defined as developing countries. Africa was identified as the world’s poorest inhabited continent. Anyway, that is not the gist of this article. All I am saying in a nutshell is that one most important thing about Dreamer-businessmen is that to them, in the words of Walt Disney, ‘it’s kind of fun to do the impossible’. They have unwavering courage to pursue their dreams despite mountains of challenges in front of them. The economy of their countries, color of their skin, level of education, gender, childhood background and sociopolitical stratification are not in anyway as important as their resolution to succeed. They dream dreams by resenting the limitation of their imagination and breaking the bounds the world has placed on them, to build a thriving world class business. Alico Dangote is one of the few African dreamer-businessmen who not only redefines the art of doing business in turbulent economy through his Dangote Group but epitomizes an overcomer of complacency and mediocrity.
Like many African countries, Nigeria has its own fair share of colonial economic and political stripping, subjugation, exploitation and dominance. Post- independent Nigeria was no better. Political instability and officialization of corruption, not to mention its adverse effects on the economy, characterized the system. When the political class with their cronies and allies from the economic class were siphoning public funds to stash in swiss accounts or invest in far away overseas, Dangote saw a fertile land for investment in the country. Even as a student when his mates were dreaming of someday joining the military or graduating to get a good paid government job or even meandering into politics, he was already dreaming of not just doing business but using it to ‘touch lives by providing their basic needs’. With a loan from his uncle in 1977, he started trading in the basic commodities in the country like sugar, rice, salt, pasta, vegetable oil etc. Today his company, Dangote Group established 1981, has metamorphosed from trading company into manufacturing with interests in cement, sugar, textile, foods etc. It is one of Africa’s largest conglomerates with more than 22,000 employees. Its cement factory is the largest in Africa while its sugar refinery is the third largest in the world. This dreamer-businessman is listed by Forbes Magazine as the riches black man in the world in 2013.
Finally, just as the universe is verse so is business as well as dream. You do not have to ‘steal’ another person’s dream or simply delve into business simply because another person is doing well at it. A business may look similar with another at a mere glance, but a closer look will reveal some sort of uniqueness. That is what distinguishes a business that is a product of a dream from others. Starting or owning your business is the best thing you can do for yourself, country and the world at large. But before you take any step towards this, what is your dream?
JERRY “OBANS” OBANYERO writes about law, politics, business, youth and leadership, and other inspirational genre. For comments send email to firstname.lastname@example.org or click here to follow him on twitter.