Wishful Thinking

May 2016

Stuck in the Fantasy Cycle

Who isn’t guilty of wishful thinking sometimes? Who hasn’t daydreamt of that perfect vacation on a far­flung Caribbean island, sipping fruity drinks while digging one’s toes into the warm, sunbaked sand? What does it matter that you don’t have the money for the airfare and that the doctor warned you about drinking alcohol­­anything is possible in the fantasy. Fantasies are healthy, they keep things interesting, that is, until they don’t.

This brings us to the Fantasy Cycle. No, this cycle doesn’t involve wizards or dragons, heroes and heroines. But it does involve a fair share of danger and peril. The Fantasy Cycle is a very common way of thinking that can have devastating effects on your business. To help shine a light on the dangers of the Fantasy Cycle, I recently met with Frank K. at his business’s headquarters. Frank is the first to admit that he was caught up in the fantasy cycle, but luckily broke free before his company sunk.

Five years ago, Frank was a computer science major at a major university. “I have to admit that I spent more time bicycling than I did in class,” Frank says with a chuckle. It was his passion for all things two­wheeled led to Frank to build a website dedicated to selling hard­to­find parts to bicycle enthusiasts. “There was need for a business like this,” Frank tells me. “So I set up the online store from my dorm room and two months later, there was more demand that I could keep up with.”

At this point, Frank rented warehouse space and hired two employees. He soon found himself wrapped up fully in the Fantasy Cycle; it’s first stage being the Dream Stage. Frank says with a sigh, “I had no business experience, no experience with finance or supply chains, but I kept telling myself that these things would work themselves out and I’d soon be rich and successful.”

However, things soon moved from the Dream Stage to what we call the Frustration Stage. “Orders were delayed or lost, invoices went missing, bills went unpaid,” Frank continues, “all of the sudden, my business was starting to fall in all around me.” Frank continued down the Fantasy Cycle, finally hitting rock bottom in the Nightmare Stage. “My employees were frustrated, some had quit. I was running the real risk of losing the lease on the warehouse. It was a very depressing time.”

This is the moment when many businesses fail. Faced with seemingly insurmountable odds, spiraling within the Nightmare Stage, it’s only natural for even seasoned entrepreneurs to walk away from a sinking business. But Frank wasn’t ready to the throw in the towel just yet. He says: “I was sitting in my office one night, feeling very overwhelmed. I started thinking: why don’t I start over? Why don’t I just start a new business, a new website? And then I started daydreaming about how it would be great. How it would be different this time. Then all of the sudden I realized that I was doing it again. I was lost in wishful thinking, without giving one thought about the practicalities of running a successful business.”

At this point, Frank broke free from the Fantasy Cycle. That same night, he stayed at his desk until the early hours of the morning and made a list of all of the problems his company faced. Then he started working through them, line­by­line, creating practical solutions to solving them. Almost immediately, things started to improve. He hired a warehouse manager to handle his shipping logistics. He outsourced some of this web work. He made management changes and employee morale improved. Frank started living in reality and his business thrived as a result.

So now that Frank is free from the clutches of the Fantasy Cycle, what does he plan to do next? “I could use a vacation to the Caribbean” Frank says with a laugh.


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