How to Operate Your Business With Military Precision

a group of people with backpacks walking next to a body of water

Developing your vision and mission in business is similar to a military operation. Without knowing your vision, your mission is destined to fail. And without executing the correct mission, your vision will never be realised.

In fact, knowing your mission and what you want to achieve is something ex-Navy SEALs Jocko Willink and Leif Babin write about in their book Extreme Ownership.

Of course, I’m not privy to the internal workings of the military but I would suggest how they develop, organise and explain down the chain of command what they want to achieve in the short and long term is a key ingredient for success – when lives are on the line, failure is not a desirable outcome.

As explained in their book, before each operation everybody involved (on a need to know basis) has a clear understanding of the vision (where they want to be i.e. winning a battle) and have detailed knowledge of the mission (what needs to be done and how to do it i.e. taking out the enemy).

Fortunately, your business is not life or death and the fate of the world doesn’t rest with you. But much can be learnt from how a military operation is comprised and devolved.

To me, it comes down to two central themes – vision and mission – without either, you might not endanger somebody’s life, but you’re risking your own success.

Why having vision and mission are crucial in business

The importance of a business developing a unique vision for itself and a mission to achieve it is powerful. This will then provide a platform in which to operate that’s understood, agreed to and will act as a marker in which to judge the strategic direction of your business.

Without the individual foundations of strong values illustrated by a vision to be undertaken by a mission, a small business cannot become an overly successful organisation. And without developing a vision and mission to assist in developing a strategy, an organisation cannot identify, distinguish or explain itself to its employees or customers.

Don’t underestimate the need for your staff and customers to understand and agree with your vision and how you want to get there. Imagine soldiers entering a battle without an explanation of why they are there and why they need to do – it would be undirected carnage.

Thankfully business is not war, but you still don’t want others who represent you failing their mission and not delivering your vision.

In terms of business, think of it like this:

A brand vision is a clear statement that defines what you want to achieve and is based on the “why” of your purpose. A vision statement focuses on the future; it is a source of inspiration and motivation. Often it describes not just the future of the organisation but the future of the industry or society in which a business hopes to effect change.

While a brand mission describes how you will achieve your vision, through a specific set of actions. A mission statement concentrates on the present; it defines the customer(s), critical processes and it informs you about the desired level of performance.

As an example, Evolve to Grow’s vision is to give business owners time and freedom — starting right now. While our mission to achieve it is to support clients in making long-lasting improvements to their business and personal lives by unlocking insight and giving them the skill, and courage, to act with speed and precision. We work alongside clients to build the competencies required for sustainable market advantage and growth. Together we shape the future.

If you don’t have something like this articulated, documented and communicated to your team and potential customers, here are the six steps you need to implement to do so.

The six steps to developing your vision and mission

Developing a vision and mission that serves you requires a six-stop process. This process can be overwhelming at first, but once you get underway it will help build momentum and propel you closer to what you want out of business, and how that can benefit your life.

  1. Project five to 10 years into the future – this can be daunting, but if you get it right it will revolutionise how you operate. Start to write down what you want to achieve in business (and life) within the next five to 10 years and rank from most important to least.
  2. Determine your purpose and position as an organisation – ask yourself why you’re doing what you are doing and detail what’s unique about your offering and business.
  3. Describe what success looks like in your operations – this really depends on the individual and business, but spend time thinking about what success is and the point at which you reach it (for some that’s a business worth $500 million, for others it’s more time to spend with family and friends).
  4. Consider your company type and structure – start to look at ways your business can be more efficient and the types of managerial, workflow and operational options you have. The current one might not be right.
  5. Reference your competitors or create an analogy – take a detailed look at your competitors (like the military do) but don’t be scared by what they’re doing. Look, learn and improve what they have and do.
  6. Describe a measurable goal – now that you’ve done the previous five steps, set in place goals that can be measured in order for you to realise your vision.

Going through this six-step process will put you way ahead – most in business don’t have a clue about their vision and their mission is based off day-to-day tasks. Like the military, it’s all about utilising the correct strategy and gaining a competitive advantage.

I’ve played on a war theme in this blog which is not intended to downplay what our military service personnel do in the course of their work.

My intention is to highlight that much can be learnt from their organisations that enter into situations with a vision for what they want to achieve and a mission to complete it. If their process stands up to the pressure of highly volatile and dangerous environments, I think it will survive what you face in your business.

For you, your vision and mission are not life or death. Minus an accident or tragedy, you don’t go to work each day with the threat of not returning home but you do face the threat of small business failure (almost 80% do).

If you don’t know what you’re working towards – your vision – and have no plan of how to get there – your mission – you’re destined to end up collateral damage.