Entrepreneurs and business owners get into the game for many reasons.
Money, power, to change the world, help people, leave a legacy or just as an alternate to working for someone else. The vision of how we want to change – the world, others or ourselves, is what drives us when the going gets tough.
It is easy for our vision to get lost in the routine of dealing with everyday decisions and challenges. Cash flow management, meetings, budgeting, clients and employee take precedence over the bigger picture.
As Richard Branson said, “Starting up a business is always an adventure, and not everything comes together for every entrepreneur in the same way. As you face the challenges of keeping your business going, you may find that your vision for the company needs to be adjusted as you go.”
Here are a few simple suggestions on how you can stay true to what you set out to achieve, adjust the vision as you grow and prosper.
Share with your team
Building and fostering a team is the single most important task for any startup or small business. The most successful businesses that win awards and grow are those who have a shared team vision and work together to deliver change.
Business owners need to make three fundamental changes in thinking to harness team vision:
Don’t hold the reins too close to you – involve the team in the journey and watch the business fly. Let team members tell you the vision of the company in their words and see if it matches yours. If it doesn’t don’t try to convince them, instead reach a middle ground. As Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon said, “Good entrepreneurs must be stubborn on vision and flexible on details”. Branson backs this thinking by saying that leaders imposing control from the top will stifle management teams.
Treat team building as a more than an activity to diminish risk if founders leave. Having employees who understand and share your vision will make or break the business. As Jack Dorsey, a low-level Odeo engineer obsessed with creating a real-time platform to follow news created Twitter, your team member can be your next big thing.
Bring on board people who understand and share your vision. Listen and give them a voice within the business and outside. Kevin Systrom was an intern at Facebook for some time before he founded Instagram and then sold it back to Facebook.
Minimising quick-fix solutions
We have all been caught in moments when we settle for solutions that do not address core issues or bring the brand to life. There have been many cases of going live with a website that does not best represent the brand, choosing a lower priced supplier and compromising on quality, not adopting new technology that requires training time, cutting corners on strategy development and other similar decisions.
Key decisions need to be evaluated against the impact they have on realising the vision. Ignoring this will not only result in quick-fix solutions that don’t deliver best results, but also increased costs and decreased efficiencies in the longer run.
To quote Bezos again, “Avoiding doing something early on because it’s bad for short term is bad strategy. Some things won’t pay off right away. Focus on the long term and you’ll have better results. Short term is a poor predictor for long term. If we think long term, we can accomplish things that we couldn’t otherwise accomplish.”
Don’t build a business, build a foundation for success
Any architect will tell you that the most important aspect of design is the foundation, not the structure. To design a business that stands the test of time, endures change and prospers, it has to be built on a solid foundation. One that will help realise your vision of an ideal structure. Foundations aren’t as glamorous as designing the structure, but will withstand change when it happens and help deliver on core values that shape your vision.
A lot will change in the next 10 year, but many things won’t either. Customers shopping on Amazon will continue to want low prices, fast delivery and choice. Google users will continue to expect accurate search results and instant answers. Netflix customers will always want more content, better selection and increased speed.
As Branson noted while talking about how Virgin stayed true to its vision across multiple brands, “Our goals changed and expanded over time, but there was a key element that was common to all of those enterprises: They were created to enhance people’s lives. Our strategy varied in most instances – by offering better prices, improved products, great service or by raising awareness of key issues — but ultimately our businesses were bound together by this common purpose.”
As with any good foundation, you want your business to be able to adapt to change through innovation and be ready for what matters 10 years from now. You can’t control change, but you can control the strength and relevance of your business. Big ideas require deep foundations to take off.