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Whatever stage you’re at with your business; whether you’re about to take your first step down Entrepreneur Avenue or have battled your way through the business world for many years, you will all share one important aspect. Vision. It’s a quality that is often overlooked and sometimes all too easily forgotten completely, but it’s crucial to both new and established businesses alike. Why? What makes having a vision crucial to success? Let’s take a look.

Vision might sound like a grand term, but it’s a perfect word for a new business. Think back to when you first considered starting your business. Did you sit and think about what it would be like to work for yourself? Contemplate what your company would look like? Wonder what product you’d make or service you’d provide? Did you dream about which sports car you’d buy once you’d made it? If the answer to any of those questions is ‘Yes’, then that’s called ‘Vision’ or, at least part of it.

A vision is simply an image of what you want your business to become, at some time in the future. It doesn’t have to be a new business; vision will work no matter what stage you’re at, but if you are starting up it’s a great place to start. It is based on the goals, requirements and aspirations you have and is designed to give your business the focus and direction it needs to grow. As it does grow over time, it will develop, gradually, into your vision. Having a clear vision at the core of your business will keep you heading in the right direction, without wavering or being led astray.

You might think coming up with a vision is easy. Whilst it is, it does take some time to get it right. If it’s going to the foundation on which you build your business, it has to be strong enough to support your dreams. The best way to start is to go back to basics. Grab a piece of paper and a pen and find a quiet spot where you won’t get interrupted. Once you’re there, think about where you are now. It’s important that you are honest about your circumstances. Be brutally honest if necessary. Don’t fool yourself by pretending things are perfect if they’re not. Get a crystal clear vision of where you want your business to be in 3, 5 or 10 years. Don’t worry about the ‘how’, it can stifle your vision before it starts, concentrate all your efforts on the ‘what’. Think about what values you hold dear, the standards that you would expect from another business and how you want to be perceived. It should reflect you and your sense of integrity. Write down, in detail and in clear language, what you want to happen (remember, not ‘how’ you want it to happen). Be bold. Give yourself the permission to make the future everything you want it to be. Write it in present tense, as if it’s already happened, this way you will start to believe it. When you believe it, others will too. Once complete, it should be so compelling that not only will you take it to heart, but so will everyone else.

The best way keep your vision at the heart of everything you do in business is turn your notes into a Vision Statement. Most people are familiar with, and can easily buy into, a Mission Statement, but a Vision Statement is less familiar, but equally important. The difference between the two should be clear, although they share some DNA. A Vision Statement should always come first and it details how your business will look in the future; basically asking the question ‘where are we (the business) going?’ However, a Mission Statement defines the strategy your company will undertake going forward; in other words ‘how will we get there?’ It should not only communicate your long-term business goals, but also clearly place the ideals you hold dear within your company. The order is important; vision comes before strategy. If you have a clear vision, the correct strategy can always be developed. However, without a clear vision, strategic plans cannot be properly developed since there is no guiding principle to plan around.

When you’re ready to share it, share it with everyone who has a vested interest in your new business. Don’t be shy about telling everyone about it even if, at this point, it’s just a handful of people. Be enthusiastic, be passionate and be clear. Use it to motivate and empower any employees you may have. Ultimately, parts of your vision can be used within personal development plans for employees, allowing it to filter into all areas of the business. Your enthusiasm should strike a chord in other people. It can help them determine what to do, or what not to do, in the course of their work. Over time, as your new business starts to grow and new people join, ensure they become part of the plan.

Once you have shared your vision, it’s important to revisit it regularly. It shouldn’t be written in stone. If it’s a 3 or 5 year plan, it also shouldn’t exist in isolation. Keep looking at it to ensure it remains at the heart of everything you do. Consider displaying it on your website, in employee handbooks, around the office. After all, a vision has to be seen to be believed.

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