The following is an excerpt from my book, Liber8 your Business…
‘Good business leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision, and relentlessly drive it to completion.’ Jack Welch.
I’m sure I’m not the first business mentor or advisor to tell you that every great business needs an inspiring vision. I’m pretty sure this has been in business text books since year dot. But what is this vision thing really all about? And why should you bother having one?
A vision is a common purpose, a reason for being.
For the most practical minded, a company vision may seem a woolly, ‘pie in sky’ kind of ideal that has no bearing on today’s sales. And in some ways this is true. A company vision is something that exists well into the future and will most likely never be realised. However, it plays a critical role in your business success.
First, a vision will inspire people. Your vision is not what you do; it’s the reason your business exists and how it makes a difference. Perhaps you’ll remember earlier in the book I wrote of the two reasons for being in business. The first was to make money (and hopefully you are on board with this idea by now!).
The second was to make a difference. A business that sets out to change something is a business with a purpose. And a business with a purpose is one that propels forward, gathers speed and brings people along for the ride … people who care about the same purpose and want to make that change too. The people who work for you, the clients you attract and, ultimately, the buyer who pays your asking price can all be inspired by your vision.
Your desire to change something significant can be a powerful motivator. This change can be within your own industry, if you can see better ways of doing things that will transform the way your industry operates. It could be a difference made to your community, your city, your country or on a global scale.
Your vision allows you to aim for a clear point of difference
A well-considered company vision can also stamp your mark on your industry in a way your competitors may not have thought of. My vision for Red Rocks was to ‘transform the way advertising agencies treated their clients’. I had spent my entire working life in an agency, most of this as a creative person. My experience told me advertising agencies treated their clients with almost a level of distain. The client was a pain to be tolerated on the road to a creative award and was quite literally a meal ticket, needed to cover the costs of excessive long lunches. The agency would take the client’s brief and disappear for several weeks while they worked on the big idea. As a copywriter I was mostly kept away from the client and had to rely on the brief from the client service person (or ‘suit’ as the industry nicknamed such roles).
There was, in my view, a big disconnect between the clients, who had all the industry knowledge, and the creative people who came up with the clever ideas. Surely we should all work together to get the best solution? I hated the arrogance that seemed to go with my own industry and the way clients were kept in the cold. When I started my own agency, it was with a vision to change this … and make a difference to the industry that would live beyond my own tenure as the agency owner. The vision had our clients’ best interests at heart and we made sure we used this to our advantage when pitching against our larger competitors. Did we point out the arrogance that bothered me? Of course we did, and positioned ourselves as the opposite. On many occasions it worked extremely well for us.
‘You’ll find what you love by observing what you hate.’
Robert Kiyosaki said the above words to me as we had dinner one night during his Business School for Entrepreneurs workshops in Hawaii. I’ve never forgotten them, nor stopped admiring the work Robert and Kim do to this day to make their difference in the world. If you take a look at Robert’s website www.richdad.com you’ll see his vision on the home page:‘Elevating the financial well-being of humanity.’ It’s a vision that flows directly from his hatred of poverty and the terrible impact it has on people.
If you can find something that frustrates you and others, you can steer your vision towards fixing it. Our vision for our pet care company was ‘to make the world a happier place for pets.’ This was clearly a global vision and one inspired not only by our love of pets but also by our hatred for any kind of animal cruelty.
Though our core business was walking dogs and feeding cats, we saw our role in the world to be much bigger than this. We envisioned ‘an army of Pet Angels across the globe,’ all committed to making a difference. Our vision enabled us to think and act on a much bigger scale than our core services. We became involved with raising funds for our local animal shelter, petitioning for more dog lighting in dog exercise areas, creating pet first aid and emergency training guides, teaching pet handling safety in schools.
Everything we did was measured against our vision and enabled us to keep asking ‘will this help make the world a happier place for pets?’ As a result of these activities, we often found ourselves in the newspapers, or being asked to comment on important pet related issues. We had a voice bigger than our services, and we championed a cause that many people could get behind.
Think beyond your own lifetime as owner
From a CEO point of view, your role is to keep focus on the vision to drive the business. Your company vision is ultimately what unites your people around a common purpose that goes beyond the money. It’s about doing something you love and wanting to change the world. Its most important role is to inspire.
My vision for my work with Liber8 Your Business and other Liber8me tools and programmes is ‘to set all small business owners financially free.’ Of course this vision will never be achieved in my lifetime, but by making this my ideal I am clear that everything produced under the Liber8 brand must increase the chance of this vision happening. There are millions of small business owners in the world, so whatever Liber8me does must be accessible to as many as possible. This vision inspires me and those I work with to keep thinking of more ways to bring the Liber8me message to business owners everywhere.
The Pet Angels vision ‘to make the world a happier place for pets’ was an ideal my business partner and I loved and felt inspired by. We never intended that it be measurable or even achievable. How could we ever know if we really did make the world a happier place for pets?
This is the key difference between a company vision and your business goals. Your target and goals are there to be achieved within clearly defined timeframes. Your company vision, however, is there to inspire, not be measured. Most company visions are created to have a life beyond that of the original owner.
Another of my business super heroes, the late Anita Roddick, created a global empire around her anger about the way human beings treat the planet and other animals. I love this quote from her about her vision for her business”
‘I just want The Body Shop to be the best, most breathlessly exciting company – and one that changes the way business is carried out. That is my vision.’
Anita wanted to change the way ‘business is carried out’ by demonstrating that business can have high ethics, values and a greater cause behind everything her company did. In her lifetime she may not have changed the ethics of every business on the planet, but she certainly demonstrated how a business can combine financial returns whilst championing a cause for good.
Guess the vision
Here’s a quick quiz to demonstrate how some of the global greats approach their visions. See if you can match these vision statements with their companies:
|1. To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world||A. Walt Disney Corp.|
|2. To refresh the world||B. IKEA|
|3. To make people happy||C. Walmart|
|4. To create a better everyday life for the many||D. Coca cola|
|5. To give ordinary folk the chance to buy the same things as rich people||E. Nike|
As you can see, none of these visions mentions what the company does or what its targets are. They are all inspirational and totally immeasurable. Did you guess which belonged with which? Here are the answers:
1.E: 2. D; 3. A; 4. B; 5.C
Your vision drives your brand
Later,we’ll look at the importance of having a strong brand to help drive the value of your business. When we further explore the concept of branding you’ll see how important it is to have an empowering vision to guide the values and philosophy of your business. Nike’s vision (‘to bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete’) is an excellent example of how a vision can drive the brand. Whether you are a world class athlete or a humble gym enthusiast, you feel good wearing the latest Nike gear. Its ‘just do it’ attitude stems directly from the vision. You can be inspired to achieve your best, whoever you are.
The following exercise is designed to help you think more about the type of vision you really want for your company. Is it global or local? Is it transformational or inspirational, or both? Give yourself plenty of time to think about this and please don’t be tempted to skip past it. It is such a critical success factor in successful business growth.
If you’d like a free e book copy of the Liber8 your Business book, email me now at Laura@liber8u.com … I’m giving away free copies for a limited time 😁
Yours in freedom