Should every business have a clear vision, no matter what the size?
In my opinion, yes.
There’s a danger of thinking that mission statements and vision statements belong to the work of senior managers in big businesses and only big businesses.
While it’s true that big businesses have a much harder job of communicating a clear focus and purpose to the many employees in a way that builds a consistent company culture that pulls in the same, right direction, small business owners need to think about vision too.
Why Having A Vision For Your Business Is Important
There’s a saying that goes along the lines of…
“If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will do.”
That’s frightening when you stop and think about it because it means that you’re vulnerable to each and every nice looking opportunity and you could find yourself chasing here, there and everywhere.
It seems that the saying is based on a thought in the children’s book Alice In Wonderland.
“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
“I don’t much care where–” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.
“–so long as I get SOMEWHERE,” Alice added as an explanation.
“Oh, you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat, “if you only walk long enough.”
(Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Chapter 6)
Let’s summarise those last two lines.
You’re bound to get somewhere if you walk long enough.
Putting that into a business content, your business is bound to become something if you work hard enough.
The problem is that the “something” is often a business where long hours, hard work and low pay are the rewards for not having a clear vision.
They are common small business problems that you want to avoid.
The Benefits Of Having A Vision For Your Business
What is the purpose of your business? What did you set out to achieve at the beginning?
For me, purpose comes down to finding the right balance between two forces:
- What you want to do for your customers and clients
- What you want to do for yourself
Your mission and vision help to bring those two forces into alignment.
Sometimes they pull in opposite directions – you want to give your customers great value for money but you also want to charge a high enough price to give you a big profit.
But they don’t have to be opposites.
A business that does great things for its customers deserves do do great things for its owners.
A business that doesn’t serve its customers well doesn’t deserve to reward its owners well.
How To Create A Vision For Your Business
First you need to agree on your purpose in terms of customers and the owners.
Then you need to decide whether that’s sufficient.
It is for many business owners but others want to include other stakeholders like employees or the environment.
Create a short, snappy sentence or two that captures your purpose.
Make sure that it is meaningful and specific.
Our purpose is to have many happy customers and for the owners to become rich.
That is meaningless and gives little or no direction.
Then when you’ve got your purpose, write your vision.
This is a visual expression of your purpose in so many years time. It may be one, five, ten … whatever you choose.
An Example Of A Vision
Let’s move away from business because I know that some people find it difficult to switch from examples of one trade to their own.
We’ll think about holidays.
A bad purpose is
I want to have a great holiday.
There’s no direction there. It doesn’t close down options.
A much better purpose because it’s more specific is…
I want to have a great holiday in South Africa with my wife and children in September 2013 including at least three nights on safari.
The vision would be…
The sun rises slowly and the air is still chilled but we’re excited. The tracker caught sight of the big cat’s tracks about ten minutes ago and we’ve been edging along in the safari vehicle ever so quietly. Then I hear a deep roar and the bass thuds into my chest. I can’t breathe. I can’t talk as the long grass parts in front of me and a gorgeous male lion appears, blood smeared around his mouth.
The kids have seen their first ever wild lion and their eyes are shining brightly as they stare at the magnificent beast in awe.
The holiday example has given me the chance to turn up the emotions but your vision should be inspiring and emotional.
It puts you where you want to be and gives you the motivation to get there.
Really great visions aren’t often seen in business but that doesn’t mean that you can’t have one.
If you want more inspiration for a vision, two great examples from the political arena are:
- Winston Churchill’s “We shall never surrender” speech from the second world war
- Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech in the 1960s civil rights movement in the USA.