What you need and what you can afford: two vastly different circumstances.

Some of my favorite meetings have been with entrepreneurs and startups. And some of my least favorite meetings have been spent staring at spreadsheet columns and data until my eyes bleed.

My most productive meetings? They follow a simple recipe: a forward-thinking “what can be” attitude grounded by a “what is realistic today” rationale.

When I first engage with a client, I admittedly buy into the vision, whatever that may be. Product, campaign, culture—I’m on board. Earned trust starts with shared excitement.

Once that initial trust has been established, we can move forward and start to set the table. How can our marketing agency and business consulting firm help you reach your goals, or fulfill that excitement?

And so it begins—market research, brand identity, captivating content, beautiful web designs, public relations, digital ads, organic reach—and so it never ends!

In the marketing and advertising world, “what do you need” is a dangerous open-ended question. After all, businesses inevitably need a whole lot of things to effectively enter a market, attract customers, and sustain growth.

Anyone can get behind a whiteboard and dream of a place where they want to be. Few, however, can illustrate the path on how to get there. And even fewer can visualize what it will take in time and resources.

Would I have liked an open floor concept when I bought my first home? Of course. Could I benefit from a real library and office instead of a makeshift spare bedroom bunker? You betcha. Does my fiancé casually drop reminders that four bedrooms, his and her sinks, walk-in closets, and a wraparound porch are all must-haves? I think you see where I’m headed.

My dream home is much like an entrepreneur’s dream business. It’s something to strive for, but to build or obtain it overnight is simply out of the question. That doesn’t mean that we can’t get there.

All you need is a refined plan built around real resources. Keep your refined plan to around 90 days. This will give ample time to get things done, without putting things so far into the future that they seem unattainable.

When you sign up for a gym membership, you don’t expect to leave after 30-minutes looking like Arnold Schwarzenegger. You know that you need to have set workouts, consistent dieting, and dedicated time to build good habits and results over time. Whether you want to lose 15 pounds of fat, or put on 15 pounds of muscle, having a reachable goal will give you something to strive for. And at the same time, it will narrow your focus so that you avoid overextending yourself.

After 90 days, re-evaluate your resources. Have they depleted? Or have they expanded? Depending on your strategy and execution, you’ll have three major outcomes: stay the course, do-it-yourself, or move out.

In all likelihood, staying the course means you were smart about what you had in terms of time, money, and manpower. You should have sufficient tools to keep the ship steady.

Do-it-yourself, in my experience, means that you didn’t budget appropriately. I’ve seen this countless times with startups that build a $5000 website, but at launch wonder why they aren’t getting any traffic or sales. Hello, have you heard of marketing?

Moving out could be positive or negative. Upgrade or downgrade. Depending on a wide array of circumstances you may need to go back to Mom with your tail between your legs. Or you could put the house up on the market, hire a realtor, and begin your quest for the wraparound porch. Do those even exist outside of movies based in the South?

Nothing in life comes easy. And money doesn’t solve all problems. But having some money, control mechanisms, and the awareness of what your needs will demand in terms of costs, will make obtaining all of those little necessities a lot easier.

That’s business, that’s life, that’s reality—deal with it accordingly.