Posted by: Bill von Achen | January 28, 2011

The Power of Visioning

“Some men see things as they are and say why – I dream things that never were and say why not.”
George Bernard Shaw

Most entrepreneurs start their companies because they have a compelling vision and an unrelenting drive. But why is having a vision so important to entrepreneurial success? And how can you craft a vision for your business that can stand up to the day-to-day challenges of running your company?

In the February 2011 issue of Inc. Magazine, Ari Weinzweig, one of the founders of the famous Zingerman’s Deli in Ann Arbor, Michigan, talks about the power of visioning, and how the inspiration of a compelling vision has driven the growth of his 30-year old enterprise, now consisting of eight different businesses and employing more than 500 people.

“When we do effective visioning,” Weinzweig writes, “we’re moving toward the future we want, not just reacting to a present-day reality we don’t like…A vision also makes it much easier to handle the strategic opportunities that present themselves every day…The only opportunities even worth considering are those that are going to help us attain our vision.”

For Weinzweig, a vision “is a picture of what success will be at a particular time in the future.” And it’s different from a strategic plan. “The vision articulates where we are going,” Weinzweig says. “The plan tells us how we’re actually going to get there.”

According to Weinzweig, one of the best and most concrete ways to start the process of crafting a vision for the future of your company is to imagine that it’s three, five or 10 years from now. Then, with that distant perspective in mind, answer the following questions:

1. How big is your business?
2. What are the factors by which you measure your success?
3. What are your most important product lines and/or services?
4. What products and/or services do you refuse to offer?
5. What makes the customer experience of dealing with your company unique?
6. Who are your customers? How do you find them?
7. What three noteworthy things would your customers say about your business?
8. How would you describe your management style?
9. What kind of people do you hire as managers?
10. What is your relationship with your employees? What do they say about their jobs?
11. How does your community view your business?
12. What do your suppliers say about you?
13. What do industry experts say about you?

Answering these and similar questions can bring the future of your company into sharper focus, helping you and the members of your management team better understand what you want to achieve in your business (and, equally important, what you don’t want to achieve!), and laying the groundwork for your company’s success in the future.

You can read excerpts of Weinzweig’s article, “Step Into the Future” (posted on Inc. website as “8 Steps to a Great Vision”), at www.inc.com.

If you have a vision for the future of your business, how did you formulate it? What steps did you take to get your employees involved in the process? And how do you keep your vision fresh and alive in the midst of day-to-day distractions? Post your comments here.  Thanks!


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