Over the years I’ve talked with dozens of entrepreneurs about why they took on the challenges of starting their own small businesses.
Many of these entrepreneurs wanted to create niche markets for new products or services. Some saw small business ownership as a way to replace income lost due to unemployment or retirement. No matter what the reason, it’s critical to create a clearly defined vision for where you want your business to be one year, two years and three years into the future.
Prosperous entrepreneurs know the process of “visioning” is vital to achieving success through effectively managing day to day operations and guiding their strategic decisions. Without a well thought out vision, a business can be left struggling without short-term or long-term goals. Here are some simple steps to help clarify your vision for your business:
Visioning is not the same as creating a strategic business plan. A vision articulates where you’re going. The business plan lays out a concise series of steps for getting there. A business plan should only be developed after you formulate your vision. Take a moment to envision what your ideal business might look like one to three years down the road. Envision what your staffing levels might look like, what vendors you’ll use, your location, your products or services, your branding, targeted customers and how those variables affect your family life. Your vision is about possibilities, what could be. Summarize your vision and make it known to your staff as a reminder of where the business is headed.
Consider what your business looks like now. Try to view your business from the perspective of an outsider. What do you see? Who are your current customers? What are your products or services? Are your staffing levels appropriate? Who are your vendors? Does your brand resonate with your customers? To begin moving your company forward from where you are today, you must have a clear understanding of the gaps that exist. Identify those gaps and list the changes that must occur to help you realize your vision.
Set concrete goals and action steps for achieving your three-year vision. Remember your goals should be SMART — specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-based. Write down your goals and refer back to them regularly to make sure you’re staying on track.
Although we spend most of our work lives responding to problems and opportunities as they arise, visioning comes from the inside out. It’s about what you believe, what gets you excited and what you truly want to accomplish.
For assistance with creating your business vision, visit the U.S. Small Business Administration website located at www.sba.gov.