Why Embedding Your Vision is Vital for Growth
60% of new businesses fail within the first 3 years. It’s an unavoidable stat that can’t be ignored. However, as McKinsey point out in numerous reports, what’s interesting is what the 40% that do survive have in common; a set of core principles that attract and nurture talent. It’s so often these ‘softer’ factors that get ignored when a company first gets going. But to survive and thrive, businesses have to think beyond their products and technologies, to what their vision is and how they want to achieve it. This is one of the most important focuses for growing businesses. You’ve figured out what you do, who your customers are, got yourself some funding. But now it’s time to grow.
Scaling at pace takes focus. It takes a talented team all working to the same purpose. Poor hires and a lack of focus drains crucial resources, slows decision-making and can create a chaotic way of working at a time when all effort needs to be on pushing the business forward.
And you need the best talent to help you get to that next level. Many start-ups begin with a single core team, so it’s easy to overlook what brings them together. But this needs to be defined and, more importantly, communicated to attract, nurture and retain a winning team as you scale. So where do you start?
You need a defined vision
A vision of the future for the company, beyond the immediate problem or solution. Ask yourself; what does the world look like in 5- or 10-years’ time thanks to your product or service? Your vision needs to inspire, needs to give people a reason to work hard, needs to be ambitious and exciting. It needs to feel purposeful, i.e. a vision is not about profit or revenue. There needs to be a reason why your team will work hard with you to achieve it, and a compelling hook for customers to turn to you over competitors.
This doesn’t mean your vision is a dream. It needs to be grounded and realistic. You need to be able to break it down into clear chapters to build an exciting and ambitious story. A vision needs to be driven by a clear foundation: an unfulfilled need, a solution, a new opportunity, or a challenge to be resolved. This foundation anchors the vision and forms the basis for your business strategy.
Actions over words
Your vision needs to be more than words. Employee expectations have changed – they expect more from employers. They want to feel part of something bigger than just a job role. They won’t feel this from a vision document alone, they need to see action.
Your vision can form the starting point for developing your culture, your values and your behaviours. This translation of the vision into more tangible, realistic and actionable elements is key to embedding it throughout your business as you scale. Values should help you realise your vision, they should help make decisions on product expansion, hiring or new opportunities easier and more structured. They can help you spot great talent and help great talent spot you. They are what define your processes, the way to approach problems or challenges. They should never be written down and forgotten about in a PDF. Instead, they should be embedded into day-to-day job roles, and you should be able to identify key behaviours you expect to see from your team that link to these values.
It’s true, embedding a vision remotely is harder without a physical space. But it’s definitely not impossible. The days of plastering your vision and values on the walls may have passed, but people have always needed more active engagement than that anyway.
Regular communication from the top needs to be a given. Your team need to know where you are on the road to your vision so they feel part of it. Remind them why they’re working hard for you and what you’re all trying to achieve together. Embed it into job descriptions, performance management and objectives – how can every single person work towards the common company vision?
Part of the progress report, for you and for your team, needs to focus on measurement. How are you going to measure that vision? What markers will show you when you’ve achieved it or need to adapt it? Things change, it’s ok to adapt it.
Vision = power
If you’re still not convinced by the ‘fluffier’ side of setting a vision, just think of the power of getting all the brilliant talent within your organisation motivated to achieve the same vision. You are so much more likely to get there if your whole team backs and pushes for it.
If you choose to ignore this side of your leadership responsibilities and fail to maintain a clear focus on core values and principles during the scaling process, unacceptable behaviours can creep in, decision-making becomes chaotic, or perhaps worse, overly bureaucratic!
Having a solid vision, underscored by tangible values, will help you to navigate through the challenges of scaling. That doesn’t mean losing what you have now – it could mean always keeping an entrepreneurial spirit and continuing to empower your team to make mistakes and learn from them. What’s central to your core now that you can take forward to enable your team rather than create blockers and barriers?
The more you grow, the more you must work on your culture. And vision is central to that.