The Role of Vision in Entrepreneurship
Your vision influences your decision making!
Business plans have changed over the years. The basics are all still there, but it is very rare to see someone articulate a true vision statement. If you are thinking of starting a company, or perhaps you have one, you need to take time and think about what your vision is for your company. I'm not talking about the vision of challenging WalMart for the top retailer spot, or developing the next Microsoft.
One of the roles of effective leaders is that of visionary.
- What will your company look like?
- What kind of people will work there?
- What will your culture be like?
- How will your vision influence the very character of your firm?
At your core, you must want something from being your own boss. Perhaps it is the freedom to make decisions, or to treat people differently, or to enjoy going to work every day. Perhaps you want to build something for your family or your community. Creating a vision for your company is your responsibility!
Many of the exceptional leaders (Richard Branson and Steve Jobs come to mind) have developed companies that are built upon the founder's vision of what the company will be. The become exceptional leaders because they have to ability to envision what the company will be, and then use that vision to build to company from the ground up. Your vision drives the culture you create and the personality of your firm.
Jobs' vision was driven by technology and he hired people for their skills in helping design better products. He didn't take the same route as Microsoft in terms of distribution through licensing and flooding the market. He sought to control the technology and focused on the customer experience rather than how many computers ran Apple's software. The company's focus on technology and the customer experience have take them from a small computer company with less than 10% market share to now being one of the most valuable companies. Jobs' vision was the key. Although he was ousted from the company at one point, he was brought back because of his leadership and he brought the company to where it sits today. Could he have done this without his vision of what the company should be and his focus? Possibly, but there is a good chance it wouldn't have happened.
Richard Branson is another leader that has used his vision to lead multiple Virgin branded companies. His track record in developing brand image for businesses from magazines to records and airlines to mobile phone service. While His companies are diverse in terms of the type of industry and business model, his vision has been a key factor. One of my favorite quotes is Branson's
"The way you treat your employees is the way they will treat your customers!"
Think about that quote for a minute, and then think about how you treat your employees. If you are an employee stop and think about how your managers treat you and how that translates to the company. Vision is a powerful thing, both good and bad.
Unfortunately, some business managers and owners have adopted the idea that employees are an expense, just like a new computer. Their vision is one where employees are interchangeable and an expense rather than a center of competitive advantage. If your business model is a small local shop with great service, or a big box store, the way you treat your employees will have influence over how they perceive you, the company, and the customers. That quote should be posted in every executive suite!