Tom Nies: Dream the Impossible Dream

Thomas M. Nies, Founder and CEO, Cincom Systems Inc.

We recently celebrated what we call “Quixote Day” at Cincom. It’s the day where we recognize our top performers of the previous year and inaugurate them into our “Quixote Club.”

Ever since I saw the Broadway musical “Man of La Mancha,” I’ve admired the story of Don Quixote. The musical is so inspiring, and I brought its ideals back to Cincom where we’ve adopted the Miguel de Cervantes character as a sort of corporate mascot.

Anyone familiar with the 17th century novel or the 1960s musical may be scratching their head in confusion. Isn’t Don Quixote the story of the crazy man who jousted with windmills?

Yes, it is, but the story of Quixote can teach us so much more if we look a little closer.

The impossible dream

Quixote may appear crazy to the casual observer, but the man of La Mancha stands for everything an entrepreneur should. He dreamt the impossible dream. He ran where the brave dared not go. He continued to try even when his arms were too weary and fought to reach the unreachable star.

These words, these modified lyrics from the theme song “The Impossible Dream” from the musical, are an overly formal way of saying Don Quixote possessed the characteristics of perseverance, creativity, vision and endurance.

Creativity and vision

Entrepreneurs need to be able to see things no one else can. For Quixote, that meant seeing windmills as giants, monks as enchanters and inns as castles. For me, it meant seeing the rise of the importance of software when everyone else in the technology industry was focused on hardware.

While Quixote’s creativity and vision might not have led to the birth of industries or new products and services, his imagination follows that of a true entrepreneur. He could look at an object and see it in a new, unique way.


Quixote’s creativity often got him in trouble. The “giants” break his lance and throw him to the ground, and he receives multiple injuries during a great “battle” in which he slew sheep. But even so, Quixote does not sway from his vision.

His ideal of not dismissing what he saw even though others pleaded with him and tried to show him “the truth” is a key component of an entrepreneur’s personality. How many goods and services wouldn’t exist if their creators had listened to those who couldn’t see their vision and design?


Throughout the epic tale, Quixote is broken, beaten and scoffed at. When he isn’t being physically harmed, it appears as though he is mentally harming himself by forgoing sleep to reminisce about his lady Dulcinea del Toboso as he believes any good knight-errant should, among other activities. None of this stops him from trying to reach his goal to honor Dulcinea with his knight-errantry.

The same is true of many entrepreneurs. There are very few, if any, stories of anyone creating something new in which they weren’t opposed in some way. Entrepreneurs can meet road blocks at every turn, be they a lack of understanding of the product, a lack of funding, a competitor moving at a faster rate, and even their own potential to be burnt out.

Products and services don’t come to market in an instant. It takes time, effort, buy-in from friends and family, money and what some might consider a bit of craziness to be an entrepreneur.

I urge you to take a lesson from Miguel de Cervantes’ epic knight-errant. Persevere, endure, and see things that others don’t see. Allow your mind to run wild and always dream the impossible dream and reach for the unreachable star.

Thomas M. Nies is the founder and CEO of Cincom Systems, Inc. Since its founding in 1968, Cincom has matured into one of the largest international, independent software companies in the world. Cincom’s client base spans communications, financial services, education, government, manufacturing, retail, healthcare and insurance.