Make Mission and Vision a Part of Your Business

March 11, 2007

“Where do you want to be in five years?”

You likely heard this question long before launching your quest to be a small business owner. And though it may sound like a cliché, it’s one you should try to answer. After all, business success is all about making progress towards a goal. But first, you must know where you’re going and, perhaps more importantly, why.

Every entrepreneur should include mission and vision as part of their planning process. They help jump-start your thinking and provide guidance in making critical decisions, and supply motivation to plow through the details and minutiae that accompany every new enterprise.

Note that mission and vision are not merely things you codify into statements and post on the wall. They are, in fact, processes that help you make an objective assessment of proverbial “big picture” of your business and the environment in which it exists. With that understanding, you are better able to make decisions, shape policies, and implement other practices that will help you capitalize on opportunity and cope with challenge.

Find your Focus Building mission and vision into your business planning is not always easy. Brian Ward, C.H.R.P., a principal with Affinity Consulting and a specialist in the development of quality management systems, notes that, “achieving a balance between ‘dreaming’ about a desired future state and living in the current state is difficult . . . There is a constant tug-of-war going on between dealing with ‘current reality’ and developing a lofty vision of who we want to be, what we want to do and what we want to have.”

Here are some tips for stretching your vision to include the day-to-day and the big picture . . . plus everything in between:

Give Your Business a Periodic Check-up
Take time out from the daily routine and force yourself to examine more long-term metrics, such as what’s happened in your business over the past couple of years. A SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) will provide a clearer picture of what brought you to this point, and how conditions might evolve in the future.

Look Beyond the Boundaries of Your Business
Competitors and other forces beyond your control will influence much of what you decide and accomplish. As you examine the trends that influence all aspects of your business, learn how they came about and why.

Don’t Fear the Downside
Even the most optimistic vision faces challenges, risks, and even threats. These are issues that should be acknowledged and understood, not ignored. Author, columnist, and motivational speaker Jim Stovall notes that, “we should never fear the facts. We should, instead, fear being ignorant or uninformed. If you know where you are, who you are dealing with, and fully understand all the terms and conditions, coming up with a mutually-satisfactory outcome in either your personal or professional life is usually fairly simple.”

Consult Advisors
Few resources are more valuable than an informed, objective perspective capable of identifying trends in your business sector, new developments, and who’s succeeding and why. The best advisors are those who will tell you what you need to hear, and help you make decisions for taking appropriate action.

Don’t “Set and Forget It”
Change is inevitable, so your mission and vision should be equally as flexible to reflect current realities, and keep you looking forward.

Give It All You Got
Just as achieving small business success requires a total commitment on your part, so too should be process of developing your mission and vision. Author and enterprise leadership consultant Jamie Walters sums it up this way:

“While there may be many reasons that something isn’t happening the way we’d hope or envisioned it, one common cause is that we really haven’t envisioned it at all—we’ve simply thought about it in an abstract or intellectual way . . . A half-hearted, partial-focus effort yields a like-quality result.

In contrast, if we want to bring something about—an organizational vision, attracting a certain quality of client or project, a writing or art project, a collaborative effort, or any number of other endeavors or outcomes—we might remember that a whole-hearted effort will bring about a fuller, richer, truer result.”

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