“I dream my painting, and then paint my dream” – Vincent Van Gogh

Whether you like it or not, if you’re an entrepreneur, you’re an artist. You do what you do because you love to create. There’s an abstract of an idea in your head, and you itch to see it manifest into something tangible, something you can touch, feel and experience. No wonder, when you’re done with one business, you can’t wait to get started on the next initiative, to paint your next dream. This is your reality. You are addicted to being a visionary.

Welcome to Part 2 of the Future Vision Map series. If you missed Part 1 of the series, click here.

Well, if you’re in the business of constant visioning and creating stuff, wouldn’t you like to know how to do it better? Defining your vision is the first step to making your vision a reality. Duh!

Firstly, what is a vision? Several business owners abhor the term because they equate it with a fancily worded statement filled with business jargon that’s hung up on a wall. Let’s extricate the essence of a vision from a vision statement. A vision statement at best is the result of a brainstorming session with management headed by a consultant. Four or five statements are written and emailed out to the team, and the best one is chosen by consensus. Framed. Hung on a wall. And nobody remembers it five minutes later.

A vision, simply put, is how you see your business operating and creating value at some point in the future. A vision inspires, directs and excites your team and helps them to co-create your business.

I’m going to resist the temptation to give you examples of what a description of a business vision looks like. It could be a simple one-liner that resonates with you, or it could be a few bullet points that describe how your business operates successfully and creates value, or it could even be a picture of your choice that evokes the right emotions/reactions for you and your team. You’re an artist, so be creative with how you describe/depict/convey your vision to others.

What I will do though, is give you a framework that will help you and/or your team define your vision. This isn’t rocket science. It’s a simple framework that will help you think about what success looks like in various aspects of your business so as to give you microscopic vision for the future. There’s a caveat here: use only what makes sense to you and your business. There’s no point building a laundry list of things, confusing your team and therefore blurring your vision.

DemGen’s Six-Step Framework to Defining Your Future Business Vision:

Your Purpose: The first question you need to ask yourself why you are in business in the first place. Are you a business that aims to alleviate an existing pain in the marketplace (think 37Signal’s Basecamp, which takes away the pain of using complex project management software)? Or does your business just aim to make your customer’s lives better, not necessarily solving an existing problem (think Apple’s iPad)? As Steve Jobs put it, ask yourself how you (or your business) plan to make a dent in the universe? How are you going to change the world?

Your Business’ Financial Future: Over a period of time, say 3 or 5 years, how much sales do you envision your business bringing in? What about gross margins? Net margins? Be specific and focus on these numbers.

Your Customers: Which segment of the market do you serve in the future? What value do you create for them, or how do you make their lives easier and better? Imagine what they say or how they react when they use your product or service. Imagine people flocking to your business location or website and purchasing your product or service – and being blown away by the difference it makes in their lives.

Your People: What do people in your company do when nobody’s looking? That’s culture. What is the ideal culture you wish to cultivate in your company? What skills, attributes, and attitudes would your people need in order for you to build a high-performance company?

How Your Business Works: Imagine you’re an outside observer of your own business, whether it’s a brick-and-mortar company or a virtual one.  How do things happen at the business? What systems, rules and procedures make your business tick? What technology do you use?

The Evolution: What’s the end-game? Do you wish to sell the company, or keep building and building further? In other words, what do you wish the next evolutionary phase of your company to be? What role do you see yourself playing in this new stage?

So there you have it. Hopefully this framework will put you on a path to defining what you wish your business’ future to be. The best entrepreneurs know how to temper their unique vision for their business with market realities. In other words, if their initial vision or hypothesis isn’t working out, they decisively pivot into a business model that works or resonates with customers and, more importantly, drives revenue and profits. As an artist, you will intuitively do the same.

So now, go ahead and start dreaming about your painting.

Heads up for next week: We will deep dive into the next phase of the Future Vision Map, which includes studying our internal and external business environments, so we can come up with the best strategy to achieve our future vision. In the meantime, I’ll see you in the comments!


Faheem Moosa is DemGen’s lead business strategist and developer of the Future Vision Map. He can be reached at Faheem@demgen.com

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