What’s your vision and how will it be achieved?
There’s no correct journey into business. It’s just something that happens through experience or dresire. Although, two common trajectories into business are:
- You were tired of slugging it out for your boss and felt your talents were better but ignored; or
- You realised your industry needed a shake-up and that your ideas could do just that.
It doesn’t matter what led you there. The reality is you were probably right in your assessment of your job or industry and you backed yourself in.
Congratulations on getting as far as you have – most don’t even start.
You hit the ground running with energy and passion producing some positive early results, but since then things have stagnated and you don’t know why.
Now you’re questioning your ability and lack the motivation to keep your dream alive. Unfortunately, this is an all too familiar experience for business owners to go through.
Have you ever stopped and asked yourself, what’s your objective?
In my experience more than 90% of the business owners I’ve worked with have started their business for a particular reason but never had a clear goal on what they want to achieve.
I believe this is a major killer of businesses across this country, yet with a little work it doesn’t have to be.
Consistently seeing this among my clients and in the wider business landscape was the reason I developed the Ultimate Objective Ladder, a five-step process to help business owners clarify their vision, gather and analyse their situation, formulate a plan, identify how to implement it and evaluate its success (or failure) and control their future.
Here’s how the Ultimate Objective Ladder works:
Step 1: Clarify your vision
Having a clear vision for what you want your business (or life) to be is paramount in achieving it. If you don’t know, you have nothing to mark success against and that leads to time wasting, distraction and tardiness – three things counterproductive to your success.
Amercian pastor and author, Rick Warren, understands the importance of having clarity of vision. In fact he states,
“To accomplish anything in life, one must first have a mission, a goal, a hope, a vision. Without a vision the people perish, the Good Book says in Proverbs 29:18.”
While this is a religious statement, it’s 100% applicable to your business. Having vision is beneficial in three ways.
It’s unifying: when a clear vision is defined within a company, it provides a gathering point, or common interest, making everyone feel as though they are a part of a greater whole.
It’s inspiring: it has a clear motivational effect on everyone within your organisation. It creates an energy and enthusiasm, increasing commitment and fostering change.
It provides direction: your vision will help you define your short and long-term goals, and guide the decisions you make along the way.
But the most important factor in having vision is that it increases your employees output by nearly 70% because they know the goal (or vision) they’re working towards. They’ll be more productive, more motivated, and more effective as your brand or company’s ambassadors.
If you don’t have a clear and tangible vision set out for your business or life, stop now and start to brainstorm what you want for your future.
Step 2: Gather and analyse
Now that you’ve set out your vision, it needs to be backed up by evidence to prove you’re on the right track. Your business journey is long and arduous and without asking yourself the right questions you can find yourself off course very quickly.
To do this step effectively you must complete the following:
Compile and analyse your data: the focus of this analysis is to understand the needs of your business as a sustainable entity. It should also help you gain insight about your strategic direction and identifying the initiatives that will help your business grow.
Examine external or internal issues: make sure you identify both the strengths and weaknesses of your organisation as well as any threats and opportunities that may arise. Gathering this data and getting the proper analysis and insights allows you to choose which direction to follow when it’s time to create and implement your strategy.
Identify strengths and weaknesses: a company’s strengths and weaknesses are internal to the business. This means you have some level of control over them – and they can therefore can be changed over time. This includes your business location, your team, your products and services, intellectual properties, and your reputation.
Look for threats and opportunities: threats and opportunities are usually external or caused by factors outside of your company. You have little or no control over these, but it’s important to be aware of them so that you have a clear picture of your ecosystem. These include market and consumer trends, prices of raw materials, your competitors, and your suppliers.
Clients regularly ask me how to start gathering and analysis process. I say start with asking yourself questions. Without knowing your personal situation, it’s difficult to advise on the questions you need to ask, but here are some common ones:
- What are your customer’s pain points?
- How do your products/services solve them for your customers?
- What is the market saying about products/services?
- What does your industry’s landscape look like?
Step 3: Formulate a Strategy
Now that you have a vision and the evidence to back it up, it’s easy to jump right in and power forward without formulating a plan first. You need to understand where you currently are and where you need to be. Without this knowledge it’s difficult to navigate the correct path in order to reach your goals most effectively.
Business owners often get confused and scared of the enormity of the task because they see it as one big mess of things that need to be actioned and completed. That’s why a strategy must be broken down into achievable chunks – a multi-year, yearly, and quarterly perspective.
I tell all my clients to look at the big picture and carve out practical, actionable, achievable goals from there. Your progress should follow this structure:
Start with the big picture: planning for the entire year will ensure your goals for each quarter are practical, achievable and in-line with your overall company goals. This aligns everyone on your team with your top priorities for that year.
Think quarterly: once you know your big picture, you can form a strategy for tackling those long-term goals every quarter. This enables you to have manageable tasks in place as opposed to an entire year looming over your head.
Key steps in forming your strategy: from here, you’re ready to take the next step towards formulating annual and quarterly plans to form the basis of your overall strategy. Make sure you do the following:
- Focus on the most critical objectives: prioritise only the most critical objectives that will help your strategy move forward;
- Develop your plan of attack: identify what resources you have or need because business and economic situations are fluid, it is critical in this stage to develop alternative approaches that target each step of the plan;
- Take a reality check: ask yourself this question: “does your business model stand?” Your business model should clearly describe and map out how your company can create and provide ongoing value for your customers; and
- Define your strategy framework: to move your business forward towards achieving your end goal, you need to build a support structure – and you can do this by defining your strategy framework. This tool is a structured method that defines how your time, people, and resources support the key objectives of your business.
Your strategy is the blueprint that you’ll follow, from an annual to quarterly perspective, that specifies the plans you need to perform towards achieving your short-term and long-term goals, until you eventually achieve your ultimate goal.
Step 4: Implement
It doesn’t matter how much work you have done in steps one to three unless your implementation is correct and achieve the objectives each of your plans were meant to achieve. This step can be the most rigorous and often demanding step in the Ultimate Objective Ladder, so buckle in for the ride (and don’t give up).
Implementation requires the input and demands of your business resources, like people, finances, logistics, control systems, business structure and more. It won’t be an overnight process. The following suggestions will ensure your strategy is executed successfully:
Commit to it fully: according to a report by Fortune Magazine, up to 86% of key personnel in businesses spend less than one hour per month discussing strategy. Probably because it’s too difficult. If you don’t commit to it, you won’t see the benefit of the results. Prepare yourself though, it will cost money and take resources and energy to do so.
Communicate the plan throughout your company: why go to all the work if you’re not going to communicate it to your team? It makes no sense to conduct this process and keep it quiet. For a successful strategy implementation, it is important that the strategy is properly communicated to all key personnel and employees. Doing so will ensure that they understand their role in the overall strategy and how they can contribute in their own specific capabilities.
Create ownership and accountability: without the proper accountability and ownership, each plan, objective and initiative will simply fall through the cracks and fail to drive the strategy and the business forward.
Decide how you’ll motivate: one of the key motivating factors that will make people in the organisation move or take a desirable action is when it directly affects their employee incentives. To push for a successful strategy implementation, it is crucial to motivate your people into executing the plans and initiative of the strategy, and what better way to do this than to link the strategy to their employee incentives.
Generate internal processes that drive the plan forward: it’s important that certain internal processes are generated and implemented to ensure that favourable actions are executed and objectives achieved. This includes progress tracking, employee empowerment and providing key personnel the proper tools to help them execute initiatives.
Remove roadblocks: there may be other roadblocks that prevent the proper execution of a successful strategy implementation. These impediments may be related to the actual implementation steps, or in the allocation of resources or support for the strategic plan.
The key to a successful strategy implementation relies heavily on the commitment of not only the business owners and managers, but everyone in the organisation as well – if they don’t fully commit, your vision will never be realised.
Step 5: Evaluate and control
If you get to this point, the work you’ve put in is outstanding (assuming it’s correct). The only way to know if it’s correct is to evaluate your progress every step of the way and control your future. It’s blind-faith to simply charge forward with hope.
Here are four actions you need to introduce to initiate proper evaluation and control actions:
Define parameters to be measured: parameters set in place should mirror the goals outlined in step one. Make sure parameters are measurable or quantifiable to help you evaluate your progress as accurately as possible.
Measure actual results versus the plan: successfully executing or implementing a strategy will produce results, but do your results match up with what was identified in the plan? If the results are not the desired outcomes according to the plan, then you should re-evaluate and make changes or corrective actions.
Monitor internal and external issues: this will enable you to react to any substantial change in your business environment. Because internal and external issues are constantly evolving, any data gained in this stage should be retained to help with any future strategies.
Gauge your progress: gauge your progress relative to your objectives by evaluating whether you have effectively followed the steps you outlined, and whether these actions have produced the desired results. If you determine that the strategy is not moving the company toward its goal, take corrective actions. If those actions are not successful, then repeat the strategic management process.
I don’t believe a business owner can be successful without a clear, well articulated vision – I’ve seen people fail too many times by not having one. But this is only the beginning of a process that will boost your business beyond its current level.
Each step builds on the previous until you’re armed with the information, knowledge and understanding to finally start achieving your goals and creating your future.
That’s why I developed the Ultimate Objective Ladder. This method identifies what steps matter right now and what must be actioned later. Logically, you can’t climb a ladder in one go – the same applies to business.
To reach the top, you need to step through each rung, carefully and mindfully, or you’ll fall off and have to start over.
Where are you on the Ultimate Objective Ladder?