BUSINESS LEADERSHIP SERIES:

Your Guiding Light — Your Vision

Prologue

The entrepreneur has become the new pioneer. Current technology has created the capability for entrepreneurs to start a potentially viable business with little capital and few, if any, employees.  As a result, businesses are sometimes started based on specific knowledge or expertise but the owners have little or no background or training in leading a business.  Even seasoned business owners can get so caught up in daily operations they never find the time to deal with management issues and soon things feel out of control.  As the owner of your business, it’s your job to be the leader.  It’s critical that you take decisive, directive action and be responsible for the outcomes.

Leaders are proactive rather than reactive.  My intent is to “lead” you through a mini-course in business leadership so you will know how to be proactive.  If that sounds like it could be valuable, read on.

Solidifying Your Vision

Let’s start at the beginning. The most basic thing about any creation is that it started from a thought, a dream, an idea, a passion. In creating a business it’s referred to as the Business Vision. As a vision, it is intangible. Our job is to lead the forces that will make it a tangible reality.

So the vision is the first element that must be refined and defined.  I say “defined” because it needs to be in writing.  Your vision is the guiding light toward which all other activities are to be directed. It’s what you want your business to become when it’s fully mature. Without a “vision” of where you want your business to go, how will you ever get there?

First, do some brainstorming. The key is to allow your thinking to be free flowing–don’t restrict any thoughts. Capture all ideas that come to mind. Be descriptive. This is where you want to call upon your personal passion, that which motivated you to take up this business in the first place. Consider the following and how they might fit together into a mental image.

  • Scope of Products or Services
  • Company Image
  • Role as Owner
  • Target Market and Scope of Market
  • Communication with Market
  • Alliances, Partners
  • Impact of Your Personal Strengths and Values
  • Personal Reward from Business
  • Exit Strategy

If you have colleagues, associates or employees whose judgment and insight you respect, talk with them to see how they view your business and what potential they see.  You may get some good ideas that will expand upon your original thoughts.  Of course, ultimately the vision has to be yours.  Look for what makes you feel excited and creates a strong desire to achieve.  Then WRITE it and put it in a place where you can see it every day.  Try to keep it to one or two sentences.  As you make decisions on a daily basis, use your vision as a point of reference.  Then choose the decision that most closely supports your vision. That’s the real value of the vision –to keep you focused on where you want to go. It’s also the foundation for setting annual goals and creating a one-year plan, which we’ll do in later issues.

Since I suggest that my clients plan their business around their strengths and a viable market niche, keep these in mind as you are writing your vision statement. They’re basic elements for success.

This is the ideal time to begin adopting the behavior that will have you functioning as the leader (as opposed to reactor) of your business for the rest of the year. With your vision to keep you on track, you’re much less likely to get lost.

Assignment

OK, are you ready? If so, your assignment is to go through the process of creating or updating your business vision and putting it in writing.

Remember a vision is abstract. This assignment takes you through the steps of refining the abstract and committing it to a written statement. See the vision in your mind first, then create a picture in writing that describes your vision. This is the first step toward making it a reality. Then find or create your own pictorial or graphic image that has the “feeling” of what you envision. Put your written vision and image near your workspace so you can see it daily. Allow it to begin to permeate your thinking and feel the excitement as you read and view it.

Now you’re on your way. Have fun!

Partnership Problem: Stress

Strategy: Expect stress, but don’t waste time on it!

Parnership Problems picture of man clentching fist over note padRunning a business can be very stressful.  If that stress is not managed properly it can often impact your relationships, including the one with your business partner.  Problems between you and your partner may simply be due to stress.  Complicating this issue is that many times what appears to be the problem on the surface is actually born out of stress and anxiety about the business.  Knowing this is half the battle.

If you think that stress anxiety is likely the case, take time to talk about it. Try to find out what you or your partner feels is wrong or what is stressing them; then take the time to fix it.  Many times stress and anxiety can be alleviated by focusing on solving an easily fixed circumstance. Recognition of your partner’s situation and feelings is a great place to start. Ask questions to determine their perspective. Share your own. If you’re having trouble coming together, it’s good to review and refocus on the original purpose for the business.  As a result you’ll learn if there has been a shift in thinking by either party.

In her article on Partnership Stressors Barbara Hauser identifies the top three stressors as being out of touch, out of sync and out of reach. You and your partner are out of touch if you have conflicting priorities, a different sense of urgency or how you choose to spend your time. Instead of feeling supported, the weight of responsibility seems to be square on your shoulders. Out of sync means you are not together on your timing. Both partners are busy, so meetings can get put off; one partner may be ready to move ahead rapidly, while the other is not ready. Out of reach produces long stretches of silence, unreturned phone calls and emails. Sudden changes of plans by one partner or the other make it difficult to stay on track in a business relationship.

The antidote for all these stressors is communication. It is absolutely critical that all partners meet on a regular basis to review the status of the business, the results of actions taken, plans for the future and concerns that may be producing stress. When one partner is stressed, it will likely affect the other partner too. Better to not allow the stress to build up, but if it does, take action now. If you’ve tried and you’re still not able to come together, it may be time for outside help.

Sometimes an outside opinion, kudos, idea… can revitalize your initial passion.  I have shared with more than one client how to, “Convert the energy of putting out fires into … plans that bring in more revenue, more customers, more brand recognition.”  Stress is not only bad for your health, but it wastes time and energy that can be focused on ______________ (you fill in the blank).  For some ideas now, you may find my Business Success Articles just what you need.  Otherwise contact me for more guidance and ideas.

Partnership Problem: Power Play

Strategy: Stay focused on the business

Is your partner pushing the boundary to see what they can get away with?  Are they trying to get you to do the bulk of the work? Are they acting like you are an employee, not a partner?  Do they sometimes act more like a child who is not getting their way, than the adult you expected to work with?  Regardless of how they act, you still need to stay focused on the business.

Negative emotions can build up over time and undermine your partnership and the business. It’s important to talk about your concerns and the issues. Listen to your partner, try to understand why they are doing what is so annoying to you. Make every effort to negotiate something that is satisfactory to both of you.

If you haven’t included specific duties and who will be responsible for each in your original business plan, now is the time.  Understand each of you have specific talents and interests. Try to utilize each partner’s strengths where appropriate. Make this your operating plan.  As your business grows, as you learn more about your customers, product and service, and as you each discover more about your abilities and shortcomings you may find it necessary to reassess your division of work… together, as partners determined to succeed in a cut-throat world.

If you missed some of these points in your initial planning stages, and find it difficult or confusing to get the right balance, you may want some help.  Getting a third party involved is a very successful strategy.  If you know folks who have started a business partnership similar to yours, and they are successful… ask for their input, ideas, and help.  If you don’t have such support, I would be happy to become a  sounding board for you. Take a look at my articles on Partnership, the last category in my Business Success Articles archive. Then let me know how I can help.