Most entrepreneurs are driven by an overriding purpose when starting their business. Successful entrepreneurs take it one step further and develop a vision for future growth.
This vision helps guide the day-to-day operations and strategic decision-making necessary to achieve success, and also ensures that you maintain focus on an ultimate destination.
Before deciding what steps are necessary to move toward your business goals, you must be clear about your desires for yourself and your business. Identifying a three-year vision can provide this clarity.
CREATE YOUR THREE-YEAR VISION
What do you dream your business could be? Your vision can help you imagine your business beyond the details of its current day-to-day activities.
Don’t mistake the three-year vision for those formal vision statements with lofty aspirations that are framed and prominently displayed for all to read. A common problem with that kind of vision is that it often expresses nebulous and unattainable ideals.
Instead, the three-year vision is intended to be one that will help you visualize specific goals you want to attain within a three-year time frame.
To identify your three-year vision, focus on the future. Don’t forget to consider changes in the global marketplace, the internet and technology. And remember, a vision doesn’t have to be grounded in today’s reality. It is a goal to strive for, not a reflection of a business’s current position.
That said, it’s important to understand the current landscape of your business (and the larger market) as you craft your vision. You want to think big, but not set yourself up for failure with unrealistic expectations.
While your mission statement summarizes the business’s purpose, a vision paints a picture of what the future could look like — in other words, where you want your company to go. Answer these questions to help define your three-year vision:
- How big is your company?
- What is your company known for?
- What is your company’s competitive advantage?
- What does your company look like (locations, number of employees, etc.)?
- What do you want your company to accomplish?
- What do you, as the founder, want to achieve?
Examining the future is something you should enjoy. Creating a three-year vision is a chance to dream big and lay the groundwork so that you can chart a course to success. Embrace the brainstorming!
PRESENT VS. FUTURE: CLOSING THE GAP
Moving a business from the present to its vision requires a gap analysis. This process will help you identify the difference between the two and determine what changes in your business will close the gap and help you achieve your vision.
For example, if a business has recently seen its sales stagnate and its vision is to increase its profits, the entrepreneur could use a gap analysis to examine why the sales are flat, determine the best way to improve sales and pay attention to ways to increase profitability, even if sales do not grow.
Another entrepreneur’s vision may include increased production for her manufacturing business. Since her current space and equipment are already at full capacity, she could bridge the gap by identifying the steps needed to increase production, including new space, additional equipment, employees and the funds to accomplish these goals.
And that leads us to the next step: establishing goals.
SETTING SMART GOALS
With an eye toward their vision, entrepreneurs set goals for the organization, themselves and their employees. Then they measure the results and hold people accountable, including themselves.
It’s not enough to simply set goals. Instead, you must diligently work toward them and follow up by measuring your results and making improvements. One of the most important things you can do is to define your business’s most critical goals, then develop measurable targets, determine the gaps between desired and actual performance and implement a strategy to close the gaps.
Goals for your business should be SMART:
- Specific: Clearly defined by those who have the knowledge about their impact
- Measurable: Quantifiably defined in such a way as to
- Achievable: Challenging and rewarding, but still within reach
- Relevant: Tied to current critical tasks and abilities of the team
- Time-based: Linked to an agreed-upon timeline
You’ll increase your odds of accomplishing your goals if you write them down and repeatedly re-visit them to help benchmark your progress, not only against the goals you created, but also against your larger three-year vision.
Consider the following example of an original three-year vision statement that evolved to include SMART goals:
Become a leader in the computer headphone/microphone industry, excelling in meeting customer requirements and providing the highest quality products.
Within two years, achieve 40 percent market share in the computer headphone/microphone industry, receive the J.D. Power highest quality rating in the industry and receive 95 percent or above good or excellent ratings on our customer-service surveys.