Business vision seems to be one of those things you either embrace or you don’t. Some leaders can talk all day about it, others think it’s a waste of time. I used to be one of those who thought it was a waste of time, but not anymore. What changed?
It happened while I was doing some work for a company which had no vision. The only clear purpose was to make as much money as possible, as soon as possible. I saw a business torn apart at the seams. I saw company value destroyed because no one was leading with vision.
Yes, people were in charge. But no one took the time to develop and nurture a vision to inspire the whole company. Everyone was running in a different direction. People didn’t follow through on initiatives. Nothing was done as part of a cohesive game plan.
How to create a company vision
I’m not claiming to have a new, better definition of business vision because I think some great people have already written about it. I’m partial to this three-part definition:
- Significant purpose: what business are you in? why does a business exist in the world? (i.e. Disney is in the happiness business)
- Clear values: what do you stand for? what principles guide daily decisions of leaders and employees?
- Picture of future: a clear image of where you are going; not abstract, but not limiting
This definition comes straight from Leading at a Higher Level by Ken Blanchard (affiliate link). It’s one of the best leadership books out there and includes an entire chapter on writing and implementing a compelling vision. If you want other examples I also like these three posts by Michael Hyatt.
Please realize you don’t need to be running an entire business to lead with vision. You can create a vision for whatever corner of the world you’re leading, regardless of title. The important thing is to use it to get results and create more value.
The vision-value connection
It doesn’t take an advanced degree to see all successful businesses have a compelling vision. If you need some more evidence, just look at the subject companies in Good to Great (affiliate link).
If you need more, look at Zappos, Southwest Airlines or Hyland Software. Yes, they all have great products, innovation, and excellence, but they’ve also instilled compelling visions to lead their teams beyond products, profits and short-term thinking.
Yes, all three companies are cliches at this point. But they have become cliches precisely because companies which achieve this status are few are far between. They are rare and far more valuable than their competitors.
Companies who have compelling visions (and who stick to them) are more valuable. It’s that plain and simple. Here are four reasons why.
1. People think bigger
When our vision is huge and inspiring, people are naturally inclined to think bigger. They bring all the creativity and energy they have to generate innovation. When big thinking is encouraged, big things happen. Bigger ideas lead to growth. Every idea won’t work, but many will and they will lead to a more valuable organization.
2. People remain focused during tough times
When projects fail or when the economy gets tough, it’s easy to lose focus. It’s tempting to chase the next best thing or the project which will make money today. This doesn’t create long term value. The purpose of a vision is to bring consistency to projects and work day after day. Value is created over time, when people run toward a vision with persistence.
3. Attracts the right people
A thoughtful vision is inspiring and big. Only a certain type of person will understand and be excited by this. It will push away the selfish opportunists and will attract people with character, ambition, courage and creativity. These people are the real value-creators.
4. Attracts the right customers
Customers hire us to solve their problems. To do this we need creativity where no one else has it. We need bigger, better ideas. Our ideas need to fill a real void. A compelling vision creates the environment to do this. And yes, customers notice which providers have this environment and which don’t.
Having a company vision is a must, there’s no doubt about it. It’s time more leaders started considering a well thought-out vision as something more than just a fluffy statement to post on the wall. It is one of the ways to increase company value, and I think everyone cares about that.
What are some other ways a company vision leads to company value? Please share your ideas in the comments section below.
Check out the rest of the Leadership 101 series.