It Always Starts With Vision
Why did you start your small business? I love asking this question and then hearing the stories. Business owners faces light up or take on this earnestness that displays their passion and expertise. Even when I have an incomplete understanding of what their business really does, I find I get carried away and want to learn more!
All of our businesses started with some story about living your dreams-you wanted to share a cool technology, a different way of doing things, a successful career, loving relationships, or even financial freedom. Then comes the moment when you think, “Gee, maybe I should write a business plan.” Now, assuming you haven’t become overwhelmed with boatloads of advice of how to write a good business plan, you realize that you need to set goals.
Well-targeted goal setting starts with an idea, a vision and a focused vision enables you to design a clear and measurable action plan to achieve your goal. It also reminds you of what you value most.
There’s not one way to write a “good” business plan. I often recommend to small business owners that they use a living business plan. This document could be the best business tool you ever use! (Seriously! But that’s another post for another day). It is an informal document that outlines the Why, the What, and the How of your business. The purpose of your business matters deeply. Think about a job you had where you had the message you were expendable or simply didn’t matter. I’d bet that you’d didn’t go to work singing, “Heigh ho, heigh ho, off to work I go” with great zeal. Now you get to set the tone and work style of your small business. So why did you start your business?
Getting to The Why
It’s worth your time clarifying the Why. I’ve had clients discover what scares them most and what their business really means to them. One client told me that money wasn’t his motivator and he undercharged for his services. Sometimes he even gave his expertise away for free. When he was asked what he really desired most, he explained he just wanted to help nonprofits fulfill their missions with more effective and fun fundraising. He also described how he wanted to become a philanthropist. Charging little to no fee wouldn’t meet those goals.
What’s in your heart and soul and how is your business going to fulfill this?
Brainstorm the details of your vision without editing or choosing what is most realistic. Imagining your ideal business requires dreaming big with no limits. Use your creativity. Actually, think of the craziest, most ridiculous ideas (the rest will follow, really). Choosing the best action steps will come later. Take a piece of paper and pen/pencil, draw, scribble, or list your ideas. To aid your brainstorming, answer these questions:
- What do I really want most for my small business?
- What are my top 3 values?
- What am I tolerating?
- What does success mean to me?
- What fears am I noticing as I add details to my vision?
Clarifying your values or what is important to you allows you to build a solid foundation under your vision. Having this clarity makes success easier by providing a deeper meaning to your choices. Laura Whitworth, Henry Kimsey-House, and Phil Sandahl write that “when we are not living out our values, there is dissonance. The discord can get so out of tune, that it can literally become unhealthy.” These values are personal and choosing to pay attention to them may reduce some of the dissatisfaction in your life. Pay attention to your values and not what someone else believes you ought to be, not what you wish you were like or ignore a value such as recognition or financial success if it is actually something you consider important. Keep in mind that this is going to become part of your organizational culture as your small business grows and matures.
Daring to dream big nurtures creativity and motivation. It also requires that you identify what feels scary or impossible. Developing a vision in accordance to your value system supports your desire to follow through and invest the necessary time, energy, and money. As George Bernard Shaw once said, “Life isn’t about finding yourself, Life is about creating yourself.” My client discovered a way to stay aligned with what’s most important to him and develop a business he’s proud of.
What small business are you creating?