Last Christmas, I was given a lovely mug which quoted the inimitable Dolly Parton. It said “Pour yourself a cup of ambition“. Now, I love it. But I don’t love it because it reminds me to be ambitious, but because it reinforces the fact that I already am.

Earlier this week, it happened that I had a very lovely hot chocolate in that mug when I was running a workshop on business planning with some of our members. Conversation during the session had turned to the idea of longer term ‘big goals’ when you run a small business, and we were having an interesting chat about ambition and making things happen.

So this got me thinking – what does ambition when you run a small business actually mean? And just as importantly, why do you need it?

Defining ambition

First things first – The Cambridge English Dictionary defines ambition as a “strong wish to achieve something” and as such, I don’t think there’s a one-size-fits-all answer. In the context of small business and otherwise, it means different things to different people. For example, one person may have aspirations to building a £1m+ business, but another may be content with generating enough income to make a meaningful contribution to his or her household. Whatever your ambitions are – whether big or small – they are perfectly justified and very much a personal choice.

But for me, ambition comes down to having big dreams and big goals. I may not achieve all of them, but I do, very consciously, make the decision to chase after them.

A cup of ambition? Or a bucket?

So how much ambition is a good amount? On a personal level, I’d say I definitely am more bucket than cup, or even several buckets. As I’ve said before on this blog, I’m lucky that ambition (and determination) have never been something I struggled with. I remember once I was told that I wouldn’t achieve more than a D at History GCSE, so there was no point me doing it. That was like a red rag to a bull, and I received an A. In addition, I don’t believe in impossibilities. As I am always saying to my daughter –

Nothing is impossible. Impossible just means that you haven’t found the way yet.

In my head, the same applies to ambition when you run a small business. At Tabono HQ we set ourselves big goals and have big plans – some of which are a number of years into the future. So again, we’re far more bucket than cup.

But we’ve also made sure that those plans are carefully constructed and well thought out. And we work hard to do whatever we can to make them happen. We absolutely acknowledge that everything might not turn out exactly to plan. And indeed some of those plans might not happen at all. But we give our plans, and our ambitions, everything we have and we take steps forward, every day.

Ambition vs. real life

We all have aspirations for our businesses and hopefully we all have plans to achieve them at some level, but what happens when real life takes over? As women, we often find ourselves juggling a huge amount of (sometimes conflicting) pressures. Home. Childcare. Looking after parents or other caring responsibilities. All on top of our day to day lives. And it can become all to easy to depress our own ambitions when real life takes over.

So what do we do about it? Well, the school run might mean that you have fewer hours available in the day, which might mean it could take you longer to achieve something. But it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try. Good planning habits are essential here. Take your big goals and work backwards, breaking them up into smaller, more manageable tasks, then put those tasks in your diary or planner. Because if we plan, and schedule tasks, we are far more likely to get them done and there is suddenly no more room for the dreaded procrastination!

Confidently ambitious

But what role does confidence play in all that? We talk a lot about confidence at Tabono HQ, and confidence and ambition go hand in hand when you run a small business. Ambition is what drives the creation of your goals. But without confidence, you will never achieve your big dreams. I’m not talking arrogance, and telling anyone who will listen that you and your business are the next big thing. But I am talking self-belief. About working hard. About trying your best. (All of which are key components of the word ‘Tabono’ by the way!).

But as women, we find it inherently more difficult to actually ‘be’ confident and this is reflected in some of the many statistics that surround the word ‘entrepreneurship’. Indeed, the 2019 Rose Review found that 60% of women who actually wanted to start a business were put off for reasons relating to Imposter Syndrome? But on the flipside, did you know that businesses run by men are 5x more likely to achieve a £1m+ turnover?

Definitely gives you something to think about, doesn’t it? In my view, acknowledging your ambitions, and having confidence that you can achieve those dreams, is so important when you run a small business. Then the plans that you put together as a result, become the vehicle to actually make things happen.

So here’s my call to action for you…

Be confidently ambtious.

Capture and acknowledge your Big Business Dreams.

Plan to achieve them.

You CAN do it. And if you want to make sure that you have people in your corner, ready to champion, cheerlead, support and hold you accountable, we’ve got your back.

Because as Audrey said:

Nothing is impossible. The word itself says I’m possible.

Audrey Hepburn