If you’re feeling stuck in your business, then one thing must be true: Your business isn’t living up to the picture you have of what it could be. And that means you have a dream business in mind, which is good. But have you ever written it down?
The only way to build the business of your dreams is to know exactly what that business looks like—and to put that vision down on paper. How will it look, act, feel and perform when it functions just as you want it to? You need a specific and personal vision of how you want your business to be at an exact point in the future. This is what we at EMyth call your Strategic Objective, and it’s essential to creating a business that works.
Your Strategic Objective gives you clear direction—it defines targets for your business to achieve and guides your decision-making, planning and strategic activities. Without it, you’ll find yourself and your company drifting or stuck (as you may right now), falling short on goals, and unsure of what exactly you’d like to accomplish and how to make it happen.
Writing your vision isn’t just an exercise in documentation. Anyone can do that. You have to dig deep and consider your past experiences: What have you learned? How does that reflect what’s true now? When you dream about the future and the business you really want, are you brave enough to commit it to paper and ask, “What if I could really do that?” Ideally, you’ll work on this process with a coach or mentor—someone who can reflect what they hear back to you and challenge your assumptions.
1. Create your picture of the business you want
To begin, you need to carve out some time to dream. Whether this means scheduling a few blocks of time when you close yourself in your office or away from the distraction of daily operations, you must create a system that allows you to eliminate and ignore interruptions. And don’t expect this to be a “one-and-done” strategy session. To allow your thoughts to resonate and come together, you’ll need to do this work in phases.
Once you sit down to focus, start by looking at your foundation. To build the business you want, you need to understand the business you have: What values do you want your company to live every day? What experience do you want your customers to have? How should your business serve your life and the lives of your employees—and how does that ideal compare to what’s true today? Being clear on how you want your company to serve everyone it impacts will help you integrate this purpose into your Strategic Objective. Then you can begin to identify the most important elements of your plan to achieve them.
2. Identify the key elements of your plan
Only you know your business, your markets, your employees and your opportunities. Only you can envision how your business can best support your life. But too often, business owners don’t take the time to sit down and really think about this information, to put it through a discovery process to see how your current business compares to the business you want to have. Doing this work will help you see your business in a new way so that you can start building a path forward.
A thorough Strategic Objective will address your company’s:
- Line of business.
- Product or service offering.
- Company size and growth objectives.
- Geographic scope.
- Target markets.
- Basis of competition.
- Marketing strategy.
Think about each of these categories and respond to the following questions with your thoughts and ideas:
- Is your business a manufacturer, retailer, distributor, service company or something else?
- What kinds of products and services do you offer?
- What are your goals for annual sales, profitability, return on equity, number of employees, number of outlets, growth rates and so on?
- What market areas does your business serve?
- What is your ideal geographic coverage area (local, statewide, nationwide, global)?
- What does your ideal customer look like (age, income, family status, occupation, education, net worth, attitudes, key behaviors, etc.)?
- What is your competitive advantage (price, quality, convenience, customer service, advertising, product features, responsiveness, fast delivery, appearance, market coverage, simplicity, reliability, durability, etc.)?
- What kinds of distinctive marketing methods will you use to define your brand?
Don’t stop with the single questions offered here. Let your mind wander until you have a clear portrait. Take a day or two away from what you’ve written, then come back for a second pass. Did you include every element that defines your dream business? Are there areas where you’re lost or unclear? Hone in on those and do some research. This discovery process can be challenging—our clients rely on the support of their coach—but don’t let it frustrate you into skipping over anything important.
3. Write your vision plan
With both your foundation and key elements in hand, you’re ready to write your Strategic Objective. Writing a draft can feel challenging, but this is meant to be a free and creative process. Let your inner Entrepreneur take over and, for this first draft, don’t get consumed by the details—those will come later when you’re building the structure to support your vision.
The one rule I offer is this: Write your Strategic Objective in the present tense. It helps you start to really own your vision. Here’s a sample to get you started:
Manateens Marine School is an industry-leading, well-organized company that provides diving services, training programs and marine science education for children ages 9–16 in the Pacific Northwest. We set a precedent in the market for safety rating, environmental sustainability, and academic excellence, which is measured by …
Your draft can be as long or short as you want, as long as it clearly and completely communicates your vision. It should serve as a specific picture to share with your employees.
4. Review and refine your plan
Your first draft may be rough. That’s okay. Read it over. See how it sounds. Add to it where it needs more information or descriptive language. Think deeply about the goals you’ve set. Have you really stretched yourself to create an ambitious vision that will serve your life? If not, where and why are you holding back? If you need support, share your draft with someone you trust—a personal mentor, your spouse or a friend—and make sure to give them context for their feedback. You’re looking for, “Wow, whose business is this? It sounds great,” not, “Okay, that’s a nice document.” Rewrite and edit the draft until you’re satisfied.
5. Get your team onboard with your vision
Your Strategic Objective is for you—the business owner. Remember, your business is a reflection of you, so this vision should clearly show how it demonstrates your values and goals. But you won’t be able to realize this vision on your own—your people will have the most important role in helping you do that.
When you’ve completed your vision statement, share it with your team. If you want them to join in your commitment to making it happen, you’ll want them to understand, believe in and enthusiastically work toward the objective. And don’t simply email it out. Work with your managers first to develop a strategy for when and how to roll out your Strategic Objective to the team at a company meeting. They should hear it from you. And you should make sure you feel their excitement about and commitment to it.
Once your vision is out there, your ongoing task is to interpret it, communicate it, keep it alive in the minds of everyone in the company—keep everyone moving toward it.
So if you’re feeling stuck today on goals you’ve set, pause and give yourself the space to develop your company vision. Then take another look at those goals and see how they fit into it. Maybe they aren’t the best goals to be working toward at this moment. Or maybe they are, but the foundation to accomplish them isn’t quite in place. Whatever the case, having a written vision will give you more clarity and something specific to aim for.