For years, I’ve been telling anyone starting a new business (or diversifying an existing one) to begin by fleshing out a comprehensive vision of what they’re building. Without articulating and internalizing what you’re aiming to build, it’s almost impossible to figure out how to build it.
In a recent Inc Magazine article, Creating a Company Vision, Ari Weinzweig, founder of Zingerman’s Delicatessen in Ann Arbor, Michigan provides 8 steps to “Visioning” as he calls it. The process he outlines, which nicely supplements the Values Analysis & Dream Job Analysis found under Satisfaction in the Exercises tab above, will sound very familiar to anyone who’s taken my “I Need to Jumpstart my Business” seminar:
Step 1: Pick your topic
Before you can begin the process, you have to define what you’re trying to build. Is it a whole new business? A diversification? A change in role? Outline the scope of what you’re defining through this exercise.
Step 2: Pick your timeframe
Weinzweig offers a range of 2 to 20 years but recommends 5 years out as a good starting point for most projects.
Step 3: Put together a list of “Prouds”
Spend just 10 minutes crafting a list of past accomplishments. This will help you recognize the skills and knowledge you already have that you can bring to bear on this new endeavor.
Step 4: Write the first draft
Spend no more than 30 minutes describing what you hope to accomplish. Weinzweig notes that writing DRAFT across the top of the page helps most people get their thoughts on paper without overly stressing over language or process.
Before you start your draft, keep the following tips in mind:
- This is your dream so aim for what you really want and don’t shortchange yourself.
- Put down what’s really important to you, regardless of whether other people believe you can do it or it fits other people’s needs.
- Write from the future looking back – describe what this thing you’ve built is like, how it functions, what it’s accomplished.
- Get all your thoughts on paper – don’t edit (or self-edit) until you’ve allowed yourself to really imagine what’s possible.
- Don’t separate the personal from the professional – build your passions into this dream and make sure it will fulfill all your needs.
Step 5: Review and Redraft
After allowing your original draft to sit for a few days, make a copy and start editing. Make sure that you add in very specific information – saying you want to be successful doesn’t cut it, you have to define what successful means to you.
Step 6A, 6B & 6C: More redrafts
Under Weinzweig’s system, you’re allowed up to 3 more revisions. If you haven’t nailed it by then, you’re heading down a path that’s not really right for you.
Step 7: Solicit input
Here’s where you take your vision to trusted friends and advisers. Pick people who are open-minded but willing to give you constructive criticism. Above all, pick people who are comfortable with the idea that it really is possible to earn a living doing work you’re passionate about.
Step 8: Share the vision
The final step is to get everyone who will be working with you to build this dream on board with your vision. Partners, collaborators, spouses and employees need to understand and be fully invested in what you’re building together. If you’re not all pulling in the same direction, your boat’s going to capsize so make sure you give the people who are going to help you build this business input on how they see their role and how your vision meshes with theirs.