Give yourself and your team the freedom to dream

Hamdi Ulukaya exemplifies what can happen when you allow yourself to dream. In 2005, he took a loan from the U.S. Small Business Administration, purchased an old yogurt plant and brought together a small group of motivated individuals to create the kind of yogurt he enjoyed as a child.

Two years later, Chobani Greek Yogurt hit the shelves and quickly became a top seller. Ulukaya was named EY World Entrepreneur Of The Year® in 2013 and his company is closing in on $2 billion in annual revenue.

Chobani dominates the Greek yogurt category with 36 percent of all sales, according to market reports.
Howard Schultz is another entrepreneur who loves to dream. He saw something in a little Seattle business called Starbucks. Today, that company is nearing $23 billion in annual revenue, selling what has become the most well-known coffee brand in the world.

“If you dream small dreams, you may succeed in building something small. For many people, that is enough,” Schultz said in his book, “Onward: How Starbucks Fought for Its Life Without Losing Its Soul.”

“But if you want to achieve widespread impact and lasting value, be bold.”

Both of these iconic brands started with a dream. As business leaders, we must never lose sight of the power of dreams and the gift we have been given to lead companies that can change the world. If you don’t think you have that power and you’re willing to settle for less, you’re cheating everyone that could have benefited from your ideas.

The problem for many of us is that we spend too much time working in the business and not enough time working on the strategic direction of the company. Too often, you can get into survival mode where the goal is simply to get through the current quarter so you can more easily confront the next quarter’s challenges.

This short-term leadership mentality stunts innovation and new ideas that can enable a business to stay ahead of the competition.

The question we should be asking isn’t whether we can afford to take the time to think about our respective futures. It should be how can we afford NOT to develop a plan to strategize the next evolution of our businesses?

Take time when you meet with your leadership team to brainstorm about growth opportunities. Don’t put any limits on the conversation. Empower your team to think about what’s next. Obviously, not every idea will be a good one. Offer feedback and share your own ideas on what you’ve been thinking about. It’s the process that matters and it can lead to great opportunities.

“If your dreams don’t scare you, they’re not big enough,” says Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the first elected female head of state in Africa.

The time to start dreaming is now.

Fred Koury is president and CEO at Smart Business Network