Even the biggest and most famous companies can experience the turmoil of a loss of Vision. When the “soul” of a company is neglected or lost, it’s a clear sign that the Core Values and Core Purpose of a company are being neglected. Either those values and purpose are missing completely, or they’ve been put away in some dusty drawer and forgotten by the folks doing the day-to-day work. The ultimate result is a loss in customers, frustrated employees, and reflects directly on the bottom line.
Let that sink in for a second. Neglecting your Core Values and Core Purpose can lead to every business leader’s nightmare:
- You lose customers.
- You lose employees.
- Your profits dive.
We want to make something incredibly clear: Vision isn’t just a “soft” part of business. It is a crucial piece of successful businesses.
In fact, research conducted by the Harvard Business Review found that companies that historically have maintained a Core Purpose and Core Values, while flexing their strategies in changing business environments, “have outperformed the general stock market by a factor of 12, since 1925.” In other words, the companies that thrive and beat out other competitors hang on tightly to their Vision, even while adjusting their strategies to achieve their goals.
Your Vision for your business should be at the center of all you do: it’s the center of the wheel, the fuel, the GPS. It’s the first thing a leader needs to define.
But so many of us don’t. Why not?
Business leaders often fail to articulate a Vision early on for two reasons. First, the majority of business leaders are impatient; they want to throw themselves in and just start getting things done, solving the problems right in front of them—but without a clear idea of where they’re going. This doesn’t work well in the long run. Business leaders in this category may end up solving problems that simply take them in a circle, ending up back where they started, rather than problem-solving in a way that takes them straight ahead.
The minority who don’t plunge in commit the opposite problem: they don’t want to do anything but sit and plan. They never get started because the plan never feels done. But that’s counterproductive also. The Vision, by itself, is not your business; it’s just a picture of where you want your business to go. You still ultimately need to get your vehicle started and get driving.
Our recommendation is probably obvious, but even so, it’s not often put into practice: get a Vision articulated, including your Core Identity and your Envisioned Future. Then, get to work.
Why is this so important? We recently sat down with our friend Ryan to record a podcast; Ryan shared a story when an employee of his came to him and asked, “Why are we doing what we’re doing?”
The only answer he had at the time to give her was, “Well…we’re making payroll.” As soon as he said the words, he realized that his answer was inadequate. That wasn’t going to inspire his employees. He needed a bigger purpose—he needed a high horizon.
When you’re trying to figure out how to sustain your business over the long haul, you need a source of inspiration for yourself and others. There’s no question that you need to inspire your customers, but equally important to the thriving of your business is the need to maintain your own inspiration and inspire your employees. Without that fire in your bellies, employees will rotate through your door, costing you thousands of dollars that could have been saved by their retention; likewise, you will struggle to maintain the energy you need to effectively lead your company.
On the other hand, inspiring people saves you money and makes you money. The Vision is where you articulate the inspiring principles that are going to sustain you through the hard times, and help you motivate your employees. It will help you flex your strategies from a long distance off, as though you’re looking at the high horizon while driving over one hundred miles an hour; you’ll be able to make the adjustments confidently, safely, and with nuance. The Vision also will help you maintain the values that will define your company, your career, and your legacy.
Next time, Vision Part Three: The Elements of a Clear and Compelling Vision