If you are following this set of articles, Building a Sellable Business series, you have built your business plan and hired the team to drive your long-term goals. Now’s the time you need to get everyone on the same page by presenting your overarching mission through a business vision statement.
I grew up in the South Georgia swamp where darkness was familiar. Now, I’m not talking about the nighttime darkness people experience in regular city life. I’m talking about pitch dark, where you can’t see your hand an inch in front of your face. The kind of darkness you experience in the depths of a cave.
Well, one particular day when my brother and I were in our mid-teens, we were out deer hunting, and we found ourselves in the middle of a South Georgia swamp. Needless, to say, we didn’t come prepared. Here we were in the middle of murky water, twisting trees, and brambles so thick we could barely move. Then, pitch darkness and fog settled in. We had an idea which way we needed to go, but we couldn’t see where we were going. We were absolutely lost. Thankfully, we had an idea to try setting off our car alarm with our key fob, and we were close enough to the car that we were able to follow the lights and the sound to find our way out.
So why do I tell you this story? Well, many times in our business, we may feel lost. Fog and darkness make our company goals cloudy, and we get stuck in the brambles of frustration. How do we business owners manage to find a way out? How do we know where we’re going?
Here’s where a business vision statement for your company becomes necessary. Let’s go back to the road trip analogy we’ve used throughout this series. Figuratively, we want to drive from Knoxville, Tennessee (the opening of our business) to Portland, Oregon (the sale of our business). We create a business plan to map out directions, and we prepare our company for difficulties we’ll encounter along the journey. But why do we want to go to “Oregon” in the first place? What do we imagine will happen once we get there? What does our life in Portland look like? Well, that’s our business vision.
I think Bill Gates had one of the clearest vision statements or business goals, I’ve ever seen. In an email to employees on Microsoft’s 40th anniversary, he wrote, “Early on, Paul Allen and I set the goal of a computer on every desk and in every home. It was a bold idea and a lot of people thought we were out of our minds to imagine it was possible.” Gates had a big picture in mind, and guess what? It happened. In 2018, it seems like we do have a computer in every home and every office. Whether it’s a laptop, a desktop, a smartphone, a computerized appliance, or the like, computers are everywhere.
The business vision is the inspiration, or the big picture, that keeps us going toward the business sale.Click to tweet
Arguably, the best definition of a vision statement I’ve found comes from the Internet. Wikipedia says “A vision statement is a company’s roadmap, indicating both what the company wants to become and guiding transformational initiatives by setting a defined direction for the company’s growth.” Since I’ve already said that our business plan is the roadmap we need to get to our destination, I propose that the business’s vision is the original reason we got in our car and started driving. The vision is the inspiration, or the big picture, that keeps us going toward “Portland” when we get distracted on a side-trip to Mount Rushmore or get stuck in traffic in Texas.
That leads us business owners to the question, “Why in the world do I need a vision statement?” If you’ve already created a business plan to get to the eventual sale of your company, why do you need to stop and put your vision into words? Ultimately, keeping the “big picture” in mind inspires you and motivates your team members. Here’s what a vision statement does:
One of the hardest things we entrepreneurs have to do after creating a vision statement is to share it with our team to motivate them and inspire them. I recommend using the funnel approach to keep your vision constantly in front of your team. With this meeting schedule, you can systematically look backward at what you’ve accomplished or missed. Then, you can look forward to see where you are going and what you need to do to get there.
Now, don’t go into these meetings without direction. As you share your vision throughout the year, you might want to follow these rules:
So what’s your vision? Do you have a big picture in mind? What do you want the sale of your business to look like? If you want to sell your business for “lots of money,” how much money is that? How old do you want to be when you sell? What kind of lifestyle do you want to live? Go ahead and paint that picture. Add in the details. Make it clear.
Your vision is integral to your business plan. Without a big picture in mind, you can’t keep your business focused on reaching its goals. You’ll spend a lot of time in the trees, so make sure you know the layout of the forest. Folks, as I always say, life is hard. Business can be complicated. Money doesn’t have to be. Let’s continue to make our lives, at least, financially simple.