What is a vision for an entrepreneur

Bernd Geropp

What makes a good corporate vision? Photo: nenovrothers / Source: www.bigstock.com

Do you need a vision for your company?

I think so. With a good corporate vision, you can unleash unimagined strengths. With a vision, you paint a big picture of the future.

They describe where to go. A correct vision inspires people and creates a common understanding.

A vision is good when many perceive this vision to be important and significant. A vision gives employees orientation and makes sense.

In the following video I will show you examples of right and wrong corporate visions:

 

False visions

Forget pseudo corporate visions like:

"In the next 5 years we want to have a 20% market share!"

or

"We want to grow twice as fast as the market with 15% profit"

These statements may still be of interest to investors and shareholders. For the rest of the world, and especially for customers and employees, this has no emotional significance. Such "statements" are just boring. Just helping a business make money isn't really inspiring, is it?

What are correct visions?

If an entrepreneur has a real vision, he is pursuing a long-term goal that goes beyond himself and his ego gratification. He wants to do something positive for the world with his work and his company.

Successful entrepreneurs like Richard Branson (Virgin Group), Steve Jobs (Apple) or Götz Werner (DM Markt) live for real visions. It's not primarily about making money.

These entrepreneurs pursue other goals and visions that go beyond themselves as a person. Often it is visions that offer added value in social or ecological form for the rest of humanity.

Examples of correct visions:

The revolutionary founding vision of Microsoft in 1975:

"A computer on every desk and in every home."

probably only addressed a small part of the people of that time. But they loved it. They were intrinsically motivated to participate in this vision, which they perceived as socially.

Here are some more real corporate visions that inspire:

The Scooter Store:
"Our vision is to provide freedom and independence to people with limited mobility"
"Our vision is to make people with limited mobility freer and more independent!"

Wal Mart:
"To give ordinary people the opportunity to buy the same things as rich people."
"Enabling simple people to be able to buy the same things as the wealthy"

Wikipedia:
"Imagine a world in which every single person is given free access to the sum of all human knowledge"
"Imagine a world in which every single person has a free share in the totality of knowledge."

I apologize for my sometimes not very successful translations from English into German! But I think it becomes clear what is meant.

If an entrepreneur is committed to one significant, world-improving thing, then excited he other people. If they feel that the vision is important and useful, they will want to support it - whether as an employee, as a customer or as a supplier.

What is your company vision?

Intrinsic motivation and corporate vision

It is clear to most executives: Nowadays we need employees who think ahead, employees who are self-motivated, self-reliant and act independently, employees who we don't have to carry to work and who think along with us.

We are talking about intrinsically motivated employees, i.e. employees who are motivated by themselves, work with us and think creatively.

Intrinsically motivated people are characterized by 3 things:

  1. autonomy
  2. Striving for mastery
  3. sense

With the corporate vision, you can offer meaning.

How does it work? After all, you cannot give meaning from outside. You can only offer meaning.

How? Be enthusiastic about what you think makes sense. When you have a clear vision, talk about it. Explain why. Why are you doing what you are doing?

Viktor Frankl, a well-known psychiatrist said

"When it comes to the question of meaning, it never ever depends on what we expect from the world, it is all about what the world expects of us."

This means that the meaning should actually always be linked to benefit for others. It is not just useful to us. As a rule, something is considered useful if it creates benefits for others.

What, how and why?

In episode 63 of the podcast, I introduced you to Simon Sinek. With its 3 golden circles it describes very succinctly what is important when we talk about meaning. The link to the corporate vision can also be seen here.

Simon Sinek assumes that all outstanding people and fascinating companies think and act from the inside out, while the majority of companies and most people do exactly the opposite.

Simon Sinek assumes three circles. The outer circle is the circle denoted by the question “What?”. This circle closes a smaller circle, which is marked with the question “How?”. And again in this circle lies the core: a circle labeled “Why?”.

If we work from the outside in, this means, for example:
We ask an employee in a company

"What is your company doing?"

The employee can usually answer this question, e.g.

"We make great computers!"

If you now go further inwards and ask how - so now we are in the second smaller circle - you usually get an answer to the question: How do you do it - that is, make outstanding computers:

“We have really great technology there. Patent protected. Unique in the world. That is what makes our computers great. "

But as soon as it comes to the important question

"Why? Why do you do what you do? "

Then it becomes difficult for many because most of them answer:

"To earn money…"

The purpose of a company

But making money is a means to an end. Contrary to popular belief, the real purpose of a business is never simply to make money.

Rather, it is about benefiting others, namely the customer. A company gets its money for this, but the purpose is not the money.

Please do not misunderstand: The company needs money to be able to trade, to pay suppliers and employees and for the financiers - shareholders as well as banks - the company has to provide interest and returns, otherwise it will not survive.

But money is not the whole point of a business. Neither is the purpose of a person just to make money.

The purpose of every company is to benefit customers, whether with a product or a service. Only then does the company have a right to exist. Otherwise this company would just be a parasite in our society.

Vision and mission

You can see how important it is to answer the "why" question. The corporate vision or corporate mission is closely linked to this.

The vision is usually described as the image of the future, the model. That explains where it's going. The big guiding star, so to speak. And the mission defines what our job is. Many say:

“The mission is important for the outside world.
We can say why we exist. What is our job? "

Personally, I don't think this distinction is particularly useful, because people keep confusing it.

Nor is it useful to say that the mission is more for the outside, the vision for us is here inside. In my opinion, it is best to combine mission and vision and say that there is a vision and it has to answer both things. Either directly or indirectly. Then I don't need to make this distinction either.

5 points of a good corporate vision

Regardless of whether it is a guiding principle, vision or mission: one thing is important. When I speak of a vision, I am speaking of a guiding star, something that is vague but that is emotional. It describes a great picture in the future. It's something that people can connect to, that I can inspire people with.

What is a good vision? What are the characteristics of a good vision? From my point of view there are five characteristic points.

  1. The vision must be emotionally charged.
    It has to inspire, at least it has to appeal to a certain type of person and precisely the one I want to pick up with it. And through this she gives energy. "I want to be there, I think that's great."
  2. She gives a direction
    but no details.
  3. It is a picture that I paint in the future.
    "I have a dream." Not: "I have a plan." Although it does not provide any details, it is still unmistakable. It positions and differentiates.
    Statements like:“We'll be No. 1 in our market and offer the best quality at the lowest prices!” is not just nonsense, because nobody can deliver the lowest prices with the best quality in the long term. No, it is also interchangeable. Such a statement does not position. It doesn't explain the "why".
  4. The vision is not fixed in time.
    It has no deadline and the vision expresses clear customer benefits.
  5. The vision is a desirable improvement of the current situation.
    In the best case, it contains significant added value for society. It is therefore worth striving for for a large number of people and they can connect to this vision.

 

It is these five points that characterize a good corporate vision.

Example of a good corporate vision

As a positive example of this, I always like to take the vision of Wikipedia mentioned above.

"Imagine a world in which every single person has a free share in the totality of knowledge."

It's a vision. She is emotionally charged. This may not inspire everyone, but some who say:

“I think that's a great thing when everyone has access to knowledge. I want to support that or even be part of it. "

This vision gives direction, but no details. It is not fixed in time. There is no deadline. It clearly expresses the benefit and it is a really high added value for society.

Why do some visions not work?

Why do many corporate visions not work, even if you satisfy the 5 points I have made?

If I, as an entrepreneur, want my corporate vision to really function as a guiding star, then as a person, as an entrepreneur who sets up the vision, I have to live this vision 100%, by living the values ​​that this vision exudes myself radiate and live.

For example, if I want my company to be innovative, then I have to set an example. Then what I do has to reflect that I really want innovation - with all the consequences.

If I place great value on precise processes, goals and systems in my company, if it is very important to me that everyone behaves in accordance with the rules and everything is regulated and specified.

So if, for example, I attach great importance to the fact that each of my employees adhere to the 80-page requirement that describes in detail how travel expenses are to be settled. - Well then that doesn't fit in with innovation. That contradicts the value of creativity. I cannot want innovation on the one hand and then not allow any leeway.

"As soon as the lived values ​​do not match those in the vision, the vision is doomed."

You have to stand behind your vision 100% - and that has consequences. If someone has a great vision, it must have consequences in their behavior. Then he has to be consistent.

The vision must have consequences ...

Like Steve Jobs when he returned to Apple in 1996. Sales had fallen sharply, Apple was no longer profitable. Something had to happen. Steve Jobs had a vision with the development of the iMac, iTunes, iPod and later iPhone.

Implementing this vision, however, meant that the company had to position itself clearly and focus. That is why he closed 22 of 24 product areas within a short period of time. That was a tough approach, but consistently aligned with his vision. He focused only on the two areas that were important for the implementation of the vision.

You can see from this: When I say, as an entrepreneur, that this is our great vision, it must have consequences. Processes, rules and areas all have to be scrutinized. What fits and what doesn't.

The point here is: If I want to consistently align my company with the vision, I need a lot of energy - and as an entrepreneur I probably only have that if my vision really matches my own values ​​and motivation 100%. Because being consistent is not easy.

The big business problem

By the way: the bigger the company, the more difficult it is to be so consistent.

It is usually easier if the entrepreneur is still in the company and has the say - at least if he is really a visionary. Because, at least initially, the company will be very much shaped by the entrepreneur.

However, as soon as a company grows, perhaps moves into the 2nd or 3rd generation, or goes public on the stock market, things get difficult. Most of the time, the formative visionary is no longer there - or at least he no longer has the say and the influence.

The company's focus and point of view and thus also the company's culture are gradually changing. Instead of an entrepreneur, managers now rule. It is less and less about customer benefit and long-term thinking about the company.

Rather, the managers are measured by the achievement of short-term and perhaps medium-term goals. Sales, profit, quarterly results and the share price determine where it goes.

Pseudovisions

If high bonuses are then distributed for the achievement of short-term financial goals, one need not be surprised that the customer benefit in such companies only appears as an empty phrase. Such companies usually no longer have any real visions but only pseudo-visions such as:

“We want to become the market leader!”

or

"We will be No. 1 in our market segment and aim for 15% profit!"

Benefits for the customer or society? Subordinate. Our shareholders want profit.

That is not to say that there could be no visions in such large companies or that there would be no real customer orientation. But my impression is: These visions can usually only be lived in smaller units, mostly in companies with decentralized structures or in individual business units.

Lateral thinkers and entrepreneurs in corporations?

But this requires lateral thinkers and entrepreneurially thinking and acting managers in the management functions - well and they rarely exist, because they don't fit into the system.

As well as? Anyone who wants to advance has to adapt, not take any risks, behave in accordance with the system. But when he has reached the top, should he suddenly become visionary and think and act entrepreneurially? That is a contradiction.

Someone who has behaved in conformity with the system for decades does not simply change the way they think and act when they have now become CEO. If at all, it probably only works in the rarest of cases.

How to find your corporate vision

When a company has grown and has been successful in the market for several years, it often happens that the corporate vision is no longer so present. Maybe it is even no longer there.

When employees ask "Why?" It becomes difficult. There are certainly answers to the questions like “What makes us special?"Or“What does our company do differently from others?

But if you are honest, these are mostly just generally binding trivialities and interchangeable BlaBla.

None of this is inspiring. There is no clear line and a powerful picture of the future. This is not a real corporate vision, or no longer.

An important tip for implementing the vision

But my blog and podcast are about small and medium-sized companies and not large corporations.

Let's assume that you have found a good vision for your company, a vision that fulfills all of the 5 points mentioned above for a good company vision.

Let's still assume that you:

  1. Really exemplify the values ​​of your vision!
  2. Support the desired behavior of your employees!
  3. Align processes, goals and systems consistently with the vision and the values ​​behind it

What else can you do to make your corporate vision blossom and get your employees excited about the vision?

The vision of Christianity

Let's just go into history for this. Let us ask ourselves: If Christianity had been a company 2,000 years ago, what would Christianity's vision have been then? I could imagine that the vision of Christianity would have been:

“Our most important value is charity and we base all of our actions on it. Our long-term vision is the kingdom of heaven on earth. "

Let's say that was the vision of Christianity 2000 years ago. Now let's go over our five points for a good corporate vision.

Is the statement of this vision emotionally charged and can inspire? Yes, it is emotional. For me at least, charity is emotionally positive. Heaven on earth. Top. I find it positive.

Does the vision give a direction but no details? Yes.

Doesn't she have a deadline? Also true.

Are there any customer benefits? Well, there is even a benefit for all people. Heaven on earth, who wouldn't want that?

Is the vision an improvement on the current situation?
Yes, there really is an added value for society if society were to move in this direction.

So: the test passed. Outstanding. The five points are there. And yet, if someone had phrased it this way 2,000 years ago, it would have been enough to simply say:

“Our most important value is charity and we base all of our actions on it. Our long-term vision is the kingdom of heaven on earth. - Follow me!"

Even if one or more of them set an example. Something is still missing. And that is something that not only Christianity but every religion has. It's something that they really do to bring a vision to people - and those are stories.

Stories

Regardless of whether it is the Bible or the Koran or the holy scriptures of the Hindus, stories are always told. These stories convey the values ​​at stake and they make the vision clearer.

Is that important? Yes, it is, because - let's be honest - every corporate vision, as well as our fictional vision of Christianity, remains rather vague. But people want a colored picture. Stories give this picture.

What does charity mean? What does heaven on earth mean? Or what does it mean if we don't have it? All of this is conveyed in stories. The Bible is a huge history book that clarifies the statements of the vision and the values.

When you have a good corporate vision, look back at your past. What stories are there in and about your company or about you that convey your values ​​and vision?

If you have no or no good corporate vision, but want to develop one, then it might be worthwhile to go back in time and look for stories like this in your personal environment and in your company.

You may not even find your corporate vision by dealing with the future. After all, the triggers, the actual motivations for visions, always lie in experiences that you have had in your past.

The “vision statement” is not the vision

I believe that for many companies - small or large - it is not only very difficult to find such a beautiful vision statement as Wikipedia's.

I think that in some areas it doesn't work at all.

But the important thing is:

A vision statement is not crucial, because the vision statement is not the vision!

Yes, the vision is about answers to the various why questions. The 5 important points a vision must fulfill. But who says that all of this has to be bundled in one sentence, in a vision statement?

As an entrepreneur, simply get rid of the necessity of finding such a suitable sentence.

It's about something completely different. It's about describing your vision. I call this description a vision script - and it can be 1-2 pages long.

You can read here why the approach is so much better for the vision and how you can do it exactly: "Why you don't necessarily need a vision statement!"

The inspirational quote

In connection with the corporate vision, I find Stefan Merath’s statement very apt:

"You find your vision in your past."

Stefan Merath