July 2, 2012
One thing this country’s top business schools are experts at teaching is how to create a solid business plan that you can take to investors. They’ll teach you about the various components that need to be in the plan and all the financial calculations that are needed. But is that really the best place to start?
Having earned my MBA from one of said schools, I am well trained when it comes to creating business plans and it is something – sadly – that I actually do enjoy doing. The way I was taught though was that the business plan was really the first step towards creating the business of your dreams and, for my first business (said by someone who is coming to believe that they are a serial food entrepreneur – which is different from a cereal food entrepreneur 🙂 ). I followed my marching orders and jumped right into planning with a relish. I remember spending most of one Winter break fine-tuning my plan and updating the financials which is not exactly how most people choose to spend their Christmas Eve. But I was excited and this, I had been told, was the first step I had to take.
Looking back I’d argue that my professors were wrong…or, at least when it comes to starting and building small businesses, they were wrong. For small businesses where it’s just you or maybe you and a partner or two working to get the business off the ground, I think the first step needs to be laying out the Vision – developing a clear sense of purpose and a defined future – for your business.
What Is Visioning?
Most typically defined as developing a clear sense of purpose and goals, Visioning enables you to determine what you want to get from your business. If you’re thinking only in financial terms I’d suggest taking a step back for a moment. The specific financial numbers and sales growth will come in the business plan – for Visioning it’s best to take a 10,000 foot view and determine how you want this business to impact you and your life. Maybe it will bring you that hefty salary so you can buy the BMW you’ve always wanted. But it’s also OK to take a high-level look and realize that you want a business that enables you to stay home with your kids during the summers or a business that keeps you creatively challenged while you continue to work your somewhat boring but health-insurance-providing full-time position. Every single person’s needs are different and if we try to all fit into the strict financial measurements that business plans most focus on you may lose some of yourself in the process.
To many people the idea of “Visioning” is a little too self-help or squishy-gooey and with my freshly-minted MBA I tended to agree. But now that life has taken me down its road a little further and I’ve got some real entrepreneurial experience under my belt, I now know understand how Visioning can be one of the most critical pieces of your business. Where most people say that a business plan is the road map to your business – I would argue that Visioning provides you with the road map for that business plan.
My father – another seasoned MBA with a very analytical mind – sent me this quote the other day while I was pondering the idea of Visioning:
Vision without action is a daydream. Action without vision is a nightmare ~ Japanese Proverb
Tomorrow I’ll talk more about different ways you can incorporate Visioning into your business regardless of whether you’re still in the dreaming/thinking phase or whether you’ve been at this for a while.