As a business leader, do you have a company vision and if so how would you describe it?
If it is anything beyond being successful, making money, creating a future for all your employees, looking after your clients, creating a legacy; then it would be more than most!
This article explores what a company vision really is, its effect, or lack thereof, on business direction; the impact on resources, including employees, other stakeholders, as well as its value and cost.
A company vision always lights the path ahead of you.
Many owners who start a business are inspired by a vision of what they want to achieve and it acts as an early motivator, spurring them on through the many challenges that lay ahead. Excitement turns to commitment and a few years on, products and services have been honed, new staff are up and running, client relationships are establishing and new larger contracts are being won. The vision serves its purpose, those involved become motivated and the rewards follow; new company cars, increased salaries, and dividends too, and there is still some money left in the pot!
But what is the direction of the business now, moving forward, what is the new motivator(?) At this important time in the business cycle, to support the company to transition, there usually isn't one! A lack of a Company Vision, or one that existed at the outset but is not reviewed and improved, is often the root cause of poor performance and, or, unsustainable financial growth.
A defined company vision aligns the team with a common purpose.
For a company vision to add value and positively influence the business's long-term growth, it must be far more than merely an expectation of what future performance 'is hoped for' or 'might deliver'. It must be detailed, to have depth and breadth; after all, it is 'intangible' and 'yet-to-be-realised' and the team cannot step up and rise to the challenge of realising it if it is not clear. Company visioning does take time to develop. However, there are many benefits; better strategic direction, better design and deployment of resources or relevant skills when developing or hiring new staff, and better decision making as the business is working to a common cause.
This in turn, positively impacts team relationships as conversations generally start in a different, more harmonious and productive place, and the culture becomes more constructive, rather than competing for limited and stretched resources. Morale builds to the point where it overspills and resonates out to external sub-contractors, long-term customers, shareholders and even family members.
Owning a company vision provides resilience through testing business cycles
Those companies that do not have a coherent and compelling company vision will feel it most when there is a downturn in the market and they begin to panic and make snap poorly thought through decisions and end up scrabbling about attempting to survive in the short term. In this event they needlessly squander already scarce resources and are ill-positioned to notice, let alone take advantage of, the opportunities that exist; opportunities can only exist if a vision exists that makes it so. There is not much room to celebrate for any survivors of the downturn either, for as the upturn in the economy beckons they will be competing from a weakened impoverished position with less investment made in the development of markets, services and resources and so survival continues whatever the economic climate.
Creating a company vision, from a building construction perspective
Developing a company vision need not be difficult. An appetite for it, along with time, attention and focus to support its creation and management are what is required in the first instance. A good starting place is to think about the future company that you want to build, rather like a developer would think about utilising, and building on, a piece of land. The future vision begins with a few sketch ideas and considerable discussion and it is some time before the technical drawings are approved. A successful property investor would not hire a construction firm to start building on a piece of land without significant thought and a robust plan, so why should a company leader wanting to build a business be any different? And if they do not apply such rigour to their design specification, can they really expect to build anything that is fit for purpose, sustainable and offers any value?
A compelling and passionate purpose
Above all, a company’s vision must be compelling for those who create it, and for those who are asked to buy into it; staff, management and shareholders alike. Unless it fuels the ambition for everyone involved to engage their passion, to create the thing that the vision represents, it is not yet fit for purpose. And, this too, the authors of the vision must adopt the behaviours of the company they have envisioned immediately, not wait until they get close to it. Only then will the behaviours and actions of those who are co-creating the business align to fully realise its purpose.
A poor Company Vision will waste resources and will damage profitability. Having no active Company Vision will almost certainly lead to difficulties especially when there is a downturn in the economy. In either case, it will make for sub-optimal resource allocation, poor morale and weak financial performance. Developing your company’s vision is often one of the first places to look when building a company as it concentrates the mind, improves the planning and makes sure that both time and money are more wisely used. So, with the equivalent of some 'rough sketches', think about and build on your company’s vision, think broadly and consider the needs of your stakeholders and, make a start.