As a business owner, you’re the leader. You need to decide what your business will do, how it must do it, and where it will go next. But what happens when you lose sight of your goal?
Creating a vision for your business reminds you of the destination.When you try to move forward without it, you’re left jumping blindly from one item to the next—unsure of where your focus should be or where the business is heading. But creating a vision can feel daunting. It’s hard work, and there are so many pieces to consider. You may have a picture in your mind, but not know how to get it down on paper. Or you may not have a picture at all.
In our work with owners over the years, we’ve identified four key areas of focus that make that vision grounded and tangible. They make your vision actionable, a document you can use in day to day to remember where you’re going and help guide your decisions as you go. If you’re struggling to create a compelling vision, start by asking yourself these questions.
1. How will my business look?
Can you imagine what your business will look like in the future? Consider each detail of your facility and office space. What do they look like? Where is your office? What hangs on the walls? What unique or memorable reference points exist to remind you where you’re headed?
Consider your employees’ perspectives as well: How do they see the operation, and which parts do they view as most important?
Lisa realized that her office space was quite plain and drab and didn’t align with her goal of being a "light in the life" of her clients. She brought in flowers for her desk and a huge poster print to hang on the wall, brightening her workspace and serving as a reminder of why she was doing her work.
Painting a detailed picture of how the business will look can serve as an inspiration for where you want the business to go.
2. How will my business act?
Next, consider how your business will behave and how work will get done. Envision the role that you want to play as the owner—are you involved daily, or is someone else in charge of operations? How do decisions get made? What type of work are you doing? You might choose to step away from the business and let it run itself; in that case, ask yourself what needs to happen inside the business to make that possible.
Be sure to think about how your staff interacts with your customers and with each other. What message do you want them to convey with their actions?
Jacob found himself jumping up to answer the phone anytime it rang. Not because he wanted to take every call but because he didn’t like the unfriendly, unwelcoming way some of his staff answered customer calls. To solve this, he wrote a short script and posted it above the phone for every employee to follow when answering a call. Now the message was consistent and warm, just the way he wanted.
Get specific about how the business will act when it’s working the way you want it to work. Think about the kind of work you want to do and how the other pieces of your business will be handled. Creating that framework helps you build toward it and make decisions that move you closer to where you want to go.
3. How will my business feel?
The third key relates to the feelings you want your business to engender in the people who interact with it—your employees, your customers and even your vendors.
Imagine how you want people to feel after they deal with your company; then, look for ways to imbue that feeling throughout the work that you’re doing. Why are your employees excited to come to work each day? How can you help foster that excitement and bring it to your customers as well? Why do your customers choose to do business with you? What kind of service should people expect from your company? How do they feel when they walk in the door? The answers to these questions will help color the picture of what you’re working to create.
Ryan wanted his staff and his customers to feel that they were part of a family. He implemented company values that encouraged staff to treat everyone they interacted with accordingly—with honest, straightforward communication and by always acting in good faith. His customers felt this love and trust and referred their loved ones to Ryan’s company.
People make choices based on feeling and emotion, and then our brains find reasons to rationalize those choices. That means that addressing feelings first can put you at an advantage. Be deliberate with the choices you make about the emotions you want to generate, and your entire business will benefit—both now and in the future.
4. How will my business perform?
Many people find it challenging to set firm goals for the performance of their business. Putting specific numbers on things like revenues, profits or expansion opportunities might seem daunting, but it's key to achieving your long-term business goals. If it helps, break it down into smaller details and questions:
Ask yourself how your personal goals align with the business goals. How much will you earn as the owner of the business? What will your profit margins be? What will you do with the profits? What other performance measures are important for your company? Do you foresee expanding to new locations? Your answers to these questions will set the benchmarks for the future of the company, so it’s important to set goals that are both realistic and challenging—they should require you to grow beyond where you’re at right now in order to achieve them.
David always knew he wanted to open another office, but he didn’t know how he was going to afford it. He sat down and examined all of his current expenses and the costs associated with expansion. By breaking those numbers down, he could set monthly and yearly targets for his “expansion fund,” and he managed to hit them consistently over time. The new office will open by the end of the year.
Setting performance goals and putting them in writing makes it much more likely that you’ll achieve them. You’ll be able to measure your progress toward these goals throughout your business, and they’ll give you plenty of vital feedback along the way. They are truly invaluable.
When you put all these elements together—look, act, feel and perform—you’ll paint a vivid and detailed picture of how your business will be when it really works for you. It'll help you identify the places that need to improve and show you the path to get there. As you work toward the business that you want to own, think of your vision statement as your north star: the constant presence that you use to set your course. Focusing on these four keys will give you a richer picture of where you’re going and make it much more likely that you’ll get there. Take the time to get them right, and you’ll have clear daily guidance to withstand the inevitable storms—and the confidence that comes from knowing your destination.