Without A Vision, Your Firm Will Perish

May 1, 2004

For many small business owners, their businesses don’t support their lives; they consume their lives. From my point of view, a business should be more than just a glorified job; it should be a way to get more of what you really want out of your life. There are 2 ways to do that. One is to create a company that can operate without you and that frees up your time to do the things that you want. The other is to create a business within which you can achieve the satisfaction and sense of fulfillment that you want. In order to do either, you must first pre-meditate the steps you need to take to create a rewarding and profitable business.

Your 3 Year Vision as a motivator

According to research on employee satisfaction, the number one thing that employees desire from a company is a clear vision for the future. If the extent of your vision is just to “close more deals” you will probably find that, over time, this is not a compelling target for either you or your employees. A clear vision helps you and your staff to stay motivated and focused when key people quit, clients are disloyal or revenue is not consistent.

A clear vision is also your strongest management tool. If your people understand and are inspired by your company’s vision, they will be self-motivated. Apple’s employees are out to change the world through innovation. Fed ex employees are inspired to deliver fast, reliable service. With this kind of drive, they are not difficult to manage or motivate.

Your well-defined vision provides a sense of direction for you and your staff, a target for the future. Having a dream to strive for is what motivates professional athletes to achieve greatness and this clarity of purpose will work the same way in your firm. It is also a basis for decision making, planning and business development activities.

Define your 3-year vision

I believe it was Brian Tracy who once said that, “people tend to overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in 5 years”. Why have I chosen 3 years as a target for defining your vision? Because it takes about that amount of time to see real, sustained transformation and to “arrive” at your target. This assumes that you are building the business of your dreams. Whether you are looking to build a large firm or a high billing solo operation, a three-year target works well.

Your three year vision is a clearly defined set of goals that describe what your business will look like, act like and smell like when it’s “complete.” It is a very clear outline of what your business has to do in order to give you the rewards and satisfaction that you most desire as the owner. Your business is a means to an end and the three-year vision is a tool for measuring your progress along the road. A business without a vision is like a ship without a rudder.

In the owner’s mastery program that I lead, I ask the program members to start this process by answering the following question; “If we were speaking 3 years from today, and you were looking back over the previous 36 months, what would have to have happened in your business in order for you to be totally satisfied with your progress”?

Additionally, your vision ought to answer the following questions:

1. What does our “finished product” look like?

2. How will we know when we get there?

3. When will we get there?

Other factors to consider

Below are some characteristics that you may want to ponder when you are starting to define your vision for the future:

Basic characteristics:

Services offered: Retained, contingent, contract, hourly, reference checking, hourly research, candidate career coaching.

Company size: (sales, profits, employees)

Company growth (sales, profits)

Geographic scope

Markets served

Basis of competition (price, quality, service)

Unique characteristics:

Unique services

Unique marketing

Unique presence (look, sound, feel)

Unique operations (4 – day work week etc.)

Other unique characteristics

Most owners start their own business because they want more control over their lives, to have a high income potential and to chart their own course. Unfortunately, many end up creating a business that controls them rather than a business that they control. As the owner of a recruiting business, you are in a unique position to be able to decide what kind of income you want to produce and what kind of business environment you want to create. By taking some time to define your target, you will make the process much more successful and rewarding.

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