Have you ever looked at another business that does the same thing as yours but has clients all around the world and felt just a tiny bit jealous?

Why are some companies international rockstars while others are plodding along, just getting by with clients in one city or one state?

Do the rockstars have more money? Better ideas? Bigger investors? Well maybe, but here’s what I think the real issue is.

It’s all about mindset.

The plodders are playing a small game. They’re so bogged down in the detail, so focussed on “getting it right” at home that they never look up from what they’re doing and see what opportunities are out there for them to play a bigger game in the international space.

Even if they happen to stumble on an opportunity, the plodders are doubtful, hesitant and nervous. They’re listening to that small, internal voice that says “you can’t do this … it’s way too risky. And anyway, you have no idea where to start”.

And so the plodders stay home and plod along. They do ok, there are no disasters, but they never do anything phenomenal. And if they have big dreams, they stay firmly in their box on the shelf, which is where dreams belong, right?

The rockstars, on the other hand, are all over the bigger game. They’re seeing the international opportunities and they’re just going out there and seizing them.

This doesn’t mean that the rockstars always succeed, or that they get it right first time when they launch an international adventure or start some other groundbreaking project. But it does mean that they are open to new ideas, to taking risks and to the possibility that their idea might blow up in their face. They go ahead anywhere.

One of my favourite examples of this is the story of how Richard Branson started Virgin Airlines (as told to Tim Ferriss recently).

“I was in my twenties, I’d been away from my girlfriend for three weeks, I was coming back to see her that night, I was in Puerto Rico about six in the evening, I was heading to the Virgin Islands and American Airlines announced that they were going to move the flight to the next morning, because they didn’t have enough passengers. And I was damned if I was going to wait to the next morning. My girlfriend hadn’t seen me for three weeks and I hadn’t seen her for three weeks, so I was determined to get there that night.

So I went to the back of the airport, hoping that my credit card wouldn’t bounce, and I rented a plane, I borrowed a blackboard, and as a joke I wrote ‘Virgin Airlines – One Way $29 to the British Virgin Islands’ and I went out amongst all the people who’d been bumped and I filled up my first plane.

And as we arrived in the BVI about eight or nine o’clock that night, one of the passengers tapped me on the shoulder and said ‘sharpen up the service a bit, Richard and you could be in the airline business'”.

This episode prompted Branson to call a contact at Boeing the following day and convince the company to sell him a second-hand aircraft. And so Virgin Airlines was born. A little later in the interview, which you can listen to here, Richard Branson and Tim Ferriss go on to talk about how Branson mitigated the risk of making the audacious decision to go into airlines – an industry he knew nothing about.

Branson’s story is an extreme example, but the principle applies to all entrepreneurs – new international ventures and ground-breaking developments don’t happen by staying home and playing it safe. Rockstars are risk-takers.

So, if you’ve got a dream to do something big with your company “one day”, don’t leave it for “some day”, because that day might never come. Get out there, look around, educate yourself on the opportunities, work out how to mitigate the risks and then, jump in.

Cynthia Dearin

Cynthia Dearin is an international business strategist, advisor, keynote speaker and author of Amazon best-seller Camels, Sheikhs and Billionaires: Your Guide to Business Culture in the Middle East and North Africa. With 18 years of international experience, as an Australian diplomat and management consultant, she is the Founder and Managing Director of Dearin Associates and the International Business Accelerator that helps clients to access opportunities in fast-growing international markets around the world.