This blog is part of a series on entrepreneurship.
Albert Einstein once said, “Logic will take you from point A to point B. Imagination will get you everywhere.” Imagining a future for yourself might seem like a pointless, illusory waste of time, but let me assure you: It’s not. According to Royale Scuderi, an expert at Lifehack, your vision for the future will serve as a compass to help guide you to take the actions necessary to propel you forward in life. It’s a critical step toward achieving your goals. If you don’t forge your own vision, you may open up the door to allowing circumstances and other people to direct the course of your life.
Below, I’ve outlined the key questions and answers for creating a sustainable vision for you and your team. These questions come from my own research, from experience, and from other successful entrepreneurs I’m fortunate to have in my network. If you set time aside each week to reflect on the answers, you’ll be on your way to uncovering your vision.
- Why do you want to start your own company? Nick Kennedy, founder of Rise, an aviation startup in Dallas, once told me he never met a successful business owner who started a company simply to own a business. It’s paramount that entrepreneurs be conscious of the real reason for launching a company. They must dig deep and figure out what’s driving them to do so. If you can’t understand what drives you, then how can you understand how to motivate others?
- Who can you reach out to? Given your present situation, what is at your disposal that will help you to make progress toward launching a successful business? Who do you know and have access to? How large is your professional network?
- What are your strengths and weaknesses? As an entrepreneur, you must know your strengths as shown in your business plan, then work to enhance them. When you find a person—whether it’s a business partner or a mentor—who helps you overcome your weaknesses or makes up for what you lack, you’ll be more effective.
- Where do you want to go from here? When you know why you are pursuing entrepreneurship, it’s easier to determine where you actually want to go with your business before you start. The key is setting benchmarks that motivate progress. If the goals you set are too easy, the team will quickly become bored.
According to Jim Collins, a business consultant and author, a company must first identify audacious stretch goals. Next, it should create vivid descriptions of what it will mean to achieve them. For example, Henry Ford once said, “When I’m through…everyone will have [an automobile]. The horse will have disappeared from our highways.” (For more questions, download my free “41-Question Entrepreneurial Assessment.”)
FIND THE NORTH STAR
Having a vision is vital for entrepreneurs because it gives you and your team something to look forward to every day—especially when you feel like everything is working against you and your company. In other words, that vision becomes your North Star.
With entrepreneurship comes unpredictability. New questions, ideas, and problems arise every day. A vision will act as a sword to help you ward off the ambiguity. When confronted with new problems, ask yourself the following questions: Is this a problem with our vision? Does solving this problem get us any closer to making the vision a reality?
When I started my first company, I found it challenging to keep the team united and focused. Every single week I was confronted with new questions, ideas, and problems; this would eventually adversely affect the company. Getting the team to prioritize and work on accomplishing the most important tasks first became problematic. To make matters worse, distractions plagued us all the time.
In the midst of this crisis, I would question my decisions. Did I not recruit the right team? Why couldn’t my staff prioritize what was needed to accomplished its goals? Why did they seem incapable of seeing the big picture? It was evident that we lacked direction, and the employees needed something to keep from drifting off course.
This is when I had an epiphany: The answer wasn’t in front of my face, it was inside my head. What I uncovered was that I had a vision for myself and knew why I was pursuing entrepreneurship, but this only helped me, not the team. I made the mistake of thinking the rest of the team thought like me—that they were able to see the big picture and align themselves with it. We were in dire need of a vision that would unite us all. So I forged a vision for the company, and after showing it to the team, they became more stable and focused. We finally had our North Star.
When you have a vision, it should resonate with both you and your employees. Once that vision is established, you and the team will feel more energetic. Your vision must lift you up emotionally and provide the power to move into action. If it doesn’t, then it’s time to probe deeper and ask “Why?” again.
Your team is more vulnerable and fragile without a vision. Startups that lack resources and structure can cause a team to be less stable. When people lack direction they get distracted more easily, and this could spell disaster for a young company. A new startup does not have the luxury of time. In the competitive world of entrepreneurship, distraction can be disastrous. An effective entrepreneur must keep the team focused by uniting them with a common goal.
Don’t expect your vision to become clear instantaneously. Like a lot of things in life, it takes time and reflection. Creating a vision can be like wine: We must let it age a bit in order to mature. Take some time off from thinking about it. When you return, your mind will be fresh. According to Scuderi, your best vision will blossom from your imagination, morals, and aspirations. It’s about creating something that has never existed before. This energy will set you on your path. You must keep strengthening your vision as you move toward making it a reality.
Devon Ryan, a founder of Lion Mobile, a mobile app development company in Austin, Texas, represents the IEEE Young Professionals group on the IEEE-USA board of directors. Follow him on Twitter: @DevonRyanI.