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Creating Your Business Vision

By Vicki M. Daughdrill

Editor's note: This is the second article in a series on thinking about and building a business. Daughdrill's first article, "Are You an Entrepreneur?" appeared in the Oct. 25, 2004 issue of The Green Sheet (issue 04:10:02).

So you've decided that you're an entrepreneur. You've considered the reasons you want to start your own business.

You've identified and determined that you exhibit the traits and characteristics of successful entrepreneurs. And you've studied the common reasons and poor habits that contribute to failure. You are also resolute that you will not engage in any of these activities.

You are now ready to move into the next phase and create your business vision. We hear all the time, "It's the vision thing." What exactly is vision? The "Webster's II New College Dictionary" defines vision as "the way in which one sees or conceives of something; a mental image created by the imagination."

According to John Thomas, of JL Thomas & Company LLC, on, an Internet-based minority business network:

"The vision serves as a context for your business and your life. It shapes your thoughts, your feelings and your actions. It's the big picture, and it expresses a part of who you are."

When you think of vision, or visionary leaders, what examples come to mind? In 1960, President John F. Kennedy told the nation, "We will put a man on the moon by the end of the decade." Microsoft's Bill Gates' vision was to put a computer in every home. These are two examples of clear, well articulated visions.

The next step in creating your specific vision is to design the ideal business. It's answering the questions: Who are we as a business? What do we do? What is our distinctive competency? Why do we do it? For whom do we do it?

This critical phase in the business development process provides an outline to guide you in establishing a successful business. This important process will assist you in narrowing your focus so that you can exhibit the discipline discussed in my previous article regarding limiting the number of projects to pursue.

On the Web site, Jacqueline Cornaby, Chief Executive Officer and Founder of Jacqueline International Inc., which helps individuals and businesses implement effective tools and strategies for maximum personal and professional outcomes, provides a three-step process for developing and articulating vision in an article titled, "Create Your Business Vision." I found her process interesting and helpful and hope you will also.

Step 1: Create Your Vision

If you could design the ideal business, exactly what would it look like? I'm assuming since you read The Green Sheet that you also currently work, or plan to work, in the payment processing industry.

Therefore the questions you need to ask yourself include:

  • What is my distinctive competency?
  • What can I do better than my competition?
  • What is my product or service?
  • Who will I sell it to?
  • Who will I hire to work for me?
  • What kind of customers will I seek?
  • What level of revenue can I generate?
  • What geographic location will I serve?
  • What self-talk will I use to ensure my vision becomes reality?

Whatever vision you create for your business, that's where you need to focus your attention. As we discussed last time, one of the traits exhibited by successful entrepreneurs is their ability to pursue only the very best opportunities and avoid exhausting themselves and their organizations by chasing after every option.

By clearly defining and articulating your vision, you will be able to focus on only those opportunities that are in concert with your company's mission. What happens if you don't create a vision for your business? When you avoid spending the time and effort required to develop your own vision and leave all of the decisions to "fate," you allow external factors to determine your success.

Creating a vision is about taking control of your business and accepting responsibility for the choices you make. It's a proactive approach to business that says you refuse to let peripheral circumstances get in the way of your success.

By keeping your vision firmly in mind, sharing it with those who work for and with you, and letting it guide your decision-making process, you provide the environment that creates a foundation for success.

As you create this initial vision, take time to examine all areas of your company in order to determine the focus of each individual facet. For example, you need a vision for your products and services, your employee relations, your community contributions, etc.

The more focused you are on each aspect of your business, the more clarity you have for your future direction and more opportunity for success.

Step 2: Create Your Company Identity in Relation to Your Vision

What three qualities or values do you want to articulate in your vision? What adjectives best describe your ideal business? Is your vision to be "customer-oriented," "innovative," "unstoppable," "strong" or "committed"?

It's essential that you create an identity that is consistent and will be easily identifiable with you and your business to both your internal and external customers. Each decision you make concerning products and services, employees and community relations should reflect your company's identity. Creating your identity can also be described as creating a "brand." In a future column, I will discuss branding in detail.

What happens if you fail to create an identity for your company? Identity is about taking ownership of your vision and for what you want your company to become; it's entirely too easy to fall into the "excuses trap."

It's easy to blame external factors if your vision fails to come to fruition when, in actuality, it's your fault for avoiding the effort required to establish an identity for your company.

When you choose the qualities you want your business to possess, you prohibit outside factors from controlling your business. You are the one in control. You choose to add a new product or service or expand your market area so you can grow your business.

You choose to be a market leader so you can attract qualified employees. You choose to think creatively so you can reduce expenses without sacrificing quality.

When you are in control, your competitors, stakeholders, employees, the economy and even current events no longer dictate your company's direction.

If you do your homework and work through the process of defining your business, you identify both your resources and the obstacles that you must overcome in order to be successful. When you're in control, you set and act on the goals you develop.

Step 3: Commit to Your Vision

Nothing happens without action. Remember, the first characteristic of successful entrepreneurs described in my previous column was "action oriented." The same is true for making your vision a reality. Napoleon said, "Take time to deliberate, but when the time for action has arrived, stop thinking and go in."

With a clear vision and identity, you can now take the steps that will have a positive impact on your business and transform it into your ideal company.

I can hear all of you thinking to yourselves, "This is simply too much trouble. Why can't I just start a business and start making some money? I don't want to take the time and effort to work through this complicated process."

In the last article, we found that one of the major reasons for a business's failure is the lack of a solid business plan. You're probably thinking, "Then why don't I just write a business plan?"

The steps of creating your company's vision, creating an identity in relation to your vision and committing to your vision, are actually the first steps to writing your business plan.

Once you have completed this thoughtful process, you are on the way to formalizing and writing your business plan.

Now that you feel confident you can achieve success as an entrepreneur, and now that you've created your vision and identity and are committed to your business success, it's time to write a mission statement and business plan. I will discuss these two items in my next column.

In the meantime, let me hear how you're doing. Send me suggestions for future topics as well as your success stories. I want to hear from you.

Vicki M. Daughdrill is the Managing Member of Small Business Resources LLC, a management consulting company. Reach her by e-mail at or by phone at 601-310-3594.

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