Do you ever get frustrated because you spend so much time working IN your business, you feel like you never have enough time to work on your business? If you answer “yes”, you are not alone.
As a business advisor to smaller manufacturers, wineries and services companies I hear this frustration frequently. You have so much work to accomplish, but not enough people to do everything you need. Consequently, what little time you have to focus on your business strategy is relegated to the dark hours of the night, after everything else gets done.
So, what can you do?
This month, a great way to finally get ahead of the game would be to take a fresh look at your business vision. In this article I will address the following questions, with the goal of equipping you to review and renew the vision you have for your own business. I will answer:
- What is a Business Vision?
- What are some tips or hacks that will improve my business vision, so that others (especially my team) can feel motivated to get on the same page?
The great American philosopher, Oprah Winfrey, said,
“Create the highest grandest vision possible for your life, because you become what you believe.”
At its core, a business vision is the articulation of what you believe about your business. Where do you want the business to go? Why? How will you move your business along the path you are setting forward? As Oprah encourages, your vision should be big and bold because your business will become what you believe. If your vision is modest, your results are likely to be modest. But if your vision is bold, clear, and powerful, your business and your team will have a chance to achieve great things.
What are the key elements of a business vision? In my career, I have had the honor of working with companies of wildly different sizes from Fortune 100 to small startups, across a wide variety of industries, including product, tech, and service providers. Here are 8 key elements of strong business visions that I have seen.
- Simple and clear
- Focused on the future
- Motivating and inspirational
- Ambitious and challenging
- Consistent with your values
- Driven by customer insights
- Action oriented
- Distinct, unique, differentiated from your competition
I often hear service providers say, “I’m industry agnostic”. Or manufacturers will say, “Our product is perfect for anyone who wants to achieve [some very generic goal.]” In doing this, we are experiencing FOMO (fear of missing out), so we try to operate our business as a really big tent in the hopes of leaving open the possibility that everyone will want to buy our products or services. But when we try to be everything to everybody, we often end up really offering nothing of meaning to anyone.
With business visions, the companies who are most successful and the ones that can articulate a clear and simple message to prospective clients. I often cite Protea Financial as a great example of clarity and focus – Zane has built a successful business focused primarily on industry and one type of service.
As you develop your vision, be simple and clear. Where do you want the business to go? What do you want it to achieve? The clearer you are, the easier your vision will be to rally around.
Strong visions are very much focused on the future and designed to inspire people. Be exciting! Be bold! Talk about the boundless potential for your business. People (and your teams) want to be inspired. They want to believe there is a purpose in their work. Give them something that inspires them.
Make your vision ambitious. Great leaders in history have set out very ambitious visions that at first seemed very challenging. In 1961, JFK shared a vision to land a man on the moon within the same decade (…and return him safely to earth.) Because President Kennedy shared such a bold and difficult vision, he inspired people to think in brand new ways to accept the challenge and fulfill his vision. Only 8 years later, Neil Armstrong landed on the moon and returned safely. In his vision, the President didn’t lay out every (or ANY) detail of how to achieve that vision, but he was ambitious and challenging, driving others to find a way to make that dream come true. If your own business vision is ambitious and challenging, you may inspire your own team to seek new and innovative ways to drive success.
If you have developed clear values for your business, then your vision needs to reflect your values. If you haven’t developed compelling values around which your team is aligned, then you should spend time working on your values. Give great care to make sure that your team understands and embraces the values of your company. And then make sure your vision aligns with those values.
Business visions must be focused on the customer. In my experience, one of the greatest mistakes many small companies make is failing to develop their vision and build their strategies based on core customer insights. Many times, we say, “I don’t need to ask my customers, I have lots of experience. I already know what they like or what they need.” Inevitably, these people are almost always wrong. They develop a vision based on what they can produce or the services they want to deliver. But they fail to reach out to customers and build their business first on what customers want. Ty Pforsich, a visionary leader of Moss Adams once told me, “You need to give the customer what they want, before you earn the right to give them what they need.” In other ways, listen to your customer. Understand your customer. Develop key insights about your customer. And make sure that your vision is aligned to what they communicate about what they want. Otherwise, you are creating products and services for YOU, not for the person actually buying them. Then, take your knowledge and expertise to create powerful products or services that meet the desires of your ideal customers.
An old Japanese proverb says, “Vision with action is a daydream. Action without vision is a nightmare.”
Your business vision needs to include a clear and achievable action plan. For years, I have had a saying on my desk that reads: “Great ideas executed poorly, always fail. Very good ideas executed with excellence usually win.” Make sure that your vision includes enough of a plan that you can feel confident you can execute the vision. Incorporating a small number of key activities metrics will enable you to measure the activities that will drive the results. That way, you can make changes along the way and ensure that your plan stays on the right course.
Finally, your vision should be distinct and unique in your field. How is your vision distinct? How do you differ from your competition? If you are just the same as everyone else, why would someone want to buy from you? And why would your team be inspired to do their best? Find ways to differentiate your company, in ways that are relevant, meaningful and compelling to your competition.
As a bonus, here are a few more ideas for you as you develop a strong vision for your business.
Four of the biggest mistakes I have found in business vision development are:
- Lack of clarity,
- Failure to communicate and generate buy in from your team,
- Inability to inspire and be bold, and
- Absence of a clear action plan with effective metrics to measure your performance.
What happens if you don’t have a business vision? Here are the common problems I find if people choose not to develop a vision:
- Unmotivated teams,
- Difficulty in building a cohesive team,
- Inability to make decisions because there is not a compass direction against which you can measure to see if you are going in the right direction. If you don’t have a clear vision, then it becomes very difficult to develop focused strategies that your team can believe will succeed.
With limited time, how can you develop a business vision? One of the biggest barriers to developing a strong business is time, resources, and experience in developing your vision. Here are a few suggestions that have worked for me:
- Block out uninterrupted time. Create specific appointments for yourself when you are least likely to be distracted. Often, getting offsite can spur new thinking and give you the freedom to explore your vision.
- Study your competitors (and other categories). You can learn a lot by seeing what is already working, and then you can put your own “twist” on it. Understand ideas that others implement effectively. See how you might modify them and make them your own.
- Analyze your strengths, desires and capabilities (for you and for your team). Often, we spend way too much time focused on identifying and trying to overcome our weaknesses, rather than what we do well.
- Start where you are, not where you think you should be. Too often, we lament the fact that we aren’t where we want to be. So, we put way too much pressure on ourselves to make up lost ground. Instead, start where you are. Don’t worry where you are NOT, but instead move forward now. From wherever you may be. You will feel more relaxed, motivated and empowered.
If you find these ideas helpful, feel free to reach out to me, at Carter@CarterWelch.com or call me 707-339-2842.