I love absolute statements. And this is one of my favorites. You’re at the ignition stage of a new business venture. Of course you have a vision for what that business will do to change the world. And this insight is directed to you in an attempt to stress test that vision and sharpen it further to help insure your success.
Let me address those whose vision may be limited and who will be happy with a successful local dry cleaning enterprise or small restaurant around the corner. Although many of these insights will help you succeed, you are not the target for this epic effort to help entrepreneurs build great businesses that do change the world. Take what you can from these bursts of insight. I wish you well in your endeavors.
For the rest of you who want to change the world, I am with you and happy to offer all the help I can to reinforce your opportunities for success.
To you, let me repeat: vision is everything. A great vision for a new enterprise drives innovation. It serves as the rallying cry for all future employees, investors, customers and even suppliers. It sharpens the understanding of those new to the enterprise and moves them to follow and even to become unpaid advocates for the business.
[Email readers continue here…] Think of some of the great visions from the past that did change the world. “Absolutely, positively overnight” made FedEx an indispensible name in supply chain management. “A computer on every desk” made Microsoft a partner in the growth of most every business. You can think of many more, visions expressed so clearly that the enterprise became critical to your own success.
There are other, less dramatic ways to express a vision. “Be the largest supplier of laser toner in North America”, or “Make dining into a five star experience.”
Years ago, as a panelist at an entrepreneurial seminar, I watched as over fifty aspiring young entrepreneurs filed past a microphone, each tasked with making a thirty second pitch to the panelists of professional investors. About halfway through this painful exercise, one man walked up to the microphone and said, simply, “We move oil through the Internet” and then he moved on. Immediately after the panel presentation, I found that one entrepreneur and began a conversation that led to my investing $100,000 in his vision of a supply chain enterprise based upon perfect knowledge of oil delivery systems, precise timing of delivery and coordination of resources to move oil from source to customer using the Internet as a frictionless tool for communication and coordination.
Although that business ultimately failed, I still speak with that entrepreneur as he uses his experience in a new field, better off as a result of his learning experience. I carry no rancor as a result of the loss, since I bought into the vision, helped as I could with the execution, and came to the realization along with the entrepreneurial team that the number of uncontrollable elements far exceeded those which could be controlled by any third party at that stage of development of the Internet.
We will explore vision in more depth in recognition of its importance to success.