Discover more from The Ask Newsletter — by Ellen Donnelly
How to connect your vision to reality in your business
The trope of the visionary founder and how to actually turn the vision of what you are building into concrete actions and steps to follow.
This week, a look at the visionary entrepreneur, and the potential pitfalls of this narrative when it comes to taking action plus a free resource to get you on your merry way towards clarity and direction in your business.
It starts by asking a simple question…
What is your vision for your business?
I know this question, whilst simple, is one many founders find challenging to answer and can even bring up feelings of doubt, overwhelm or insecurity.
We often think of the words ‘visionary’ and ‘entrepreneur’ as synonymous.
Founders are expected to be guardians of the vision, the ones who see into the future and cast their minds to a version of reality that does not yet exist but is brought to life under their guidance.
We’re in awe of leaders who can inspire the masses with their vision and bring them along for the ride.
People like Elon Musk who sees us on Mars, Bill Gates a computer in every home, Richard Branson who sees … everything.
But the narrative of this visionary founder can be limiting by assuming that to be a worthy founder you need to ‘see’ things no one else can. This narrative also leads us to believe that a big idea is the foundation of success. The temptation is to suggest that you are either a genius founder with a big idea, or you’re not.
Here’s an portrait of Donald Trump from 1989 called the The Visionary (or The Entrepreneur) by Ralph Wolfe Cowan that hangs in Trump's Palm Beach, Florida, residence of Mar-a-Lago.
Maybe you want need to be a visionary after all….
This visionary founder narrative is not that helpful to founders who inherit a company from the original founder, like a client of mine has, or to people whose skillset is in the detail rather than the big picture thinking.
The narrative plays out and is helpful in many ways for good reason. Entrepreneurs see themselves as vehicles for change. It inspires us to see that businesses can genuinely make the world a better place, boost employment opportunities and innovation.
But a vision doesn’t have to be groundbreaking to be a worthwhile one to pursue.
Not every business has to change the future in a monumental way.
You might be building something that already exists, but in a better, more ethical way, or you may create something in line with the needs of your customers, which will evolve as you co-create the future together.
So if you’re unsure how to answer the question of what your vision is for your business, don’t fret. You don’t need to shake up the world as you know it.
However as the adage indeed goes; if you don’t know where you’re going you might not get there.
A vision provides an end destination to follow in your business building pursuits.
So yes, you do need one.
But you also need a tangible plan to follow to get you there. A plan that is broken down into strategies, goals, objectives and plans.
For many founders, especially most of my clients, they are in small teams or even a company of one, so being a visionary is only a useful identity providing they can translate it into doing the day-day tasks and activities it requires.
This requires that they both wear the hat of the CEO (who sets the Vision) and the Employee (who takes the Action).
You can’t simply cast a vision for the future and expect the chips to fall neatly into place without concrete strategy and actions to follow.
Most of the big wins and successes are accomplished by mundane actions done repeatedly. Long term consistency trumps short term intensity, in the words of Bruce Lee.
So how to get your vision in writing, and then take the action on it, I hear you ask?
You need a mission statement to accompany the vision statement.
These statements are closely related, but whilst the vision statement is a mental picture of what you want to achieve in the future, the mission statement is more of a dynamic process of how this will be done in the present tense.
"A vision is aspiration. A mission is actionable"
— Jamie Falkowski, MD, Day One Agency.
While a mission statement focuses on the purpose of the brand, the vision statement looks to the fulfilment of that purpose. You use your mission to guide you to achieve the vision. The vision will stay a constant, even though how you get there exactly might shift as your explore new products, services, technology and so on.
Both the vision and mission statements should be simple enough to drive the day-to-day activities and decisions in your business and that means being specific, too.
The statements should be easy to share, remember and capture succinctly (think 140 characters rather than words). Such statements are so important as they allow you to continue to pull in the right direction and not be side tracked by shiny object syndrome, a change of focus or energy where it isn’t serving the big picture.
In larger organisations, where communication challenges creep in, clear vision and missions unite employees and departments around shared goals.
If you are struggling to capture your vision, begin by asking yourself questions like:
What ultimate impact do I want my business to have upon those I serve? (Community/industry/wider world)?
If you could have your business whatever way you want it to be, how would you want it to be?
How will my business interact with customers and clients?
What will the culture of my business be and how will that play out in within employees' lives?
Once you have your vision and mission statements, it is time to turn them to action.
You want to get granular about what this means you will and won’t do in your business. Taking on too many directions, products and services is a surefire way to lose track of your vision and so, with the right plan in place, you the CEO, can give you the employee the steps you need to succeed.
To help you do this, I’ve created this resource that helps you write our your vision, your mission and the associated goals, strategies and actions you need to take to actually bring it to life.
I break down the various parts of the process with prompts to fill in to get clarity on both your big picture vision and mission as well as what comes next to bring it to life!
As always thank you for reading, your attention is a precious resource I hope to only offer value to. If you resonated with todays post and want some help finding more confidence and clarity in your unique mission as a founder of a new business this is the support I offer as a coach. You can read more about my coaching here or book a free no-obligation call if you’re ready to take action on building your dream business I have 2 spaces left in July and then will be taking new clients again mid-September.
Until next time ✌️
Ellen Donnelly, Founder + Chief Coach, The Ask.