Do you dream of leaving your company to a family member or a trusted employee? Possibly you're interested in selling your company outright, or perhaps you want to establish a company that can run without your everyday attention. If one of these is your goal, then the question is: What risks are you willing to take to get there?

Many remodelers have successfully reached these milestones. One thing that may differentiate them from you is that they had the audacity to first choose their goal and make a commitment to reaching it — before actually formulating a plan for how to get there.

Goal-Oriented This process is similar to how mountaineers approach their sport. In his book, Beyond the Summit: Setting and Surpassing Extraordinary Business Goals, Todd Skinner describes his strategies for climbing the world's most difficult mountains and relates them to the strategies of successful businessmen. Skinner says: “If Point A is where you begin, and Point B is the summit, you solve for B by determining the missing factors between B and A. Faced with a choice of options, the question isn't, ‘Will this move me away from A?' but, ‘Will this move me toward B?'”

Understanding this distinction can make the difference between achieving your goal and continuing to make unsuccessful attempts at reaching it. When you set a goal based not on where you are starting but on where you want to go, the distance between the two points can seem immeasurable, even impossible to bridge. Here's where it can really pay to think like a mountaineer. Skinner suggests three steps to crossing this void:

  • First, don't be afraid to seek solutions wherever they are to be found, and become confident in your ability to find the answers. For small-business owners, much as for mountaineers, this means venturing into new terrain and being open to experiences that do more than just provide specific answers for how to get from one point to the next. It also means building confidence not just in yourself, but in your team's ability to find these answers.
  • Second, you must be able to recognize rewards wherever they are to be found. If you are willing to enter new terrain, there is no doubt that you will have many experiences from which you can learn; however, some of them may not be what you wanted or expected. Accept them anyway, for these are answers to the questions you never even thought to ask.
  • Third, with risk inevitably come new challenges. Imagine all the things that could go wrong. Imagine how you might respond. Identify what exactly you are risking. Then, perhaps most importantly, consider what you risk if you do not go.

For lofty goals, it may be necessary to create several “way-points” or smaller summits on the way to your ultimate goal.
For example, perhaps the only way that your team will really learn to operate without you is without you. So consider taking a six-month sabbatical. This might be the closest “way-point” to your goal of having the company run itself without entirely taking yourself out of the picture. If this “waypoint” is too close to your goal, try a three-month sabbatical or a month-long vacation.

—Richard A. “Rick” Pratt, CR, is founder of Classic Homeworks in Denver. After years of taking long vacations and building tight systems, he sold his company in late 2005. Now, at 46, he is semi-retired and available for consulting and systems implementation. 303.887.3717;