Five Steps For Realizing Your Business Vision
Curtis Jenkins, author of Vision to Reality. He has helped dozens of small businesses accomplish their vision. Learn more at cljassoc.com.
Most entrepreneurs fail to achieve the vision set out for their business because they don’t focus on these key elements. But when orchestrated correctly, they can help create a clearer path to achieving the goals they expected when they created their business.
The issue is solvable. It’s a matter of focusing your effort on some key elements that can create a strong foundation for building a scalable business. Stick to the principles to ensure you don’t deviate from the process, but continue refining the process while your business grows.
In my years of project management experience, I’ve discovered there are five simple steps entrepreneurs can take to grow their business. I think of it as a Reality Framework Experience where what you envision becomes real when you apply it on a regular basis throughout the year. These steps are:
The first step requires you, as an entrepreneur, to visualize the future of your business with an aspirational set of goals. From day one, this means setting goals regarding the strategies needed for your business. Remember, it is one step at a time, taken in the right direction.
To help you plan and accomplish your goals, consider using SMART goals that are Specific (Significant), Measurable (Meaningful), Achievable (Attainable), Relevant (Realistic and Results-Based) and Time-Based (Targeted).
A client stated he wanted to be the largest minority-owned general contracting firm, mirroring a multi-billion-dollar conglomerate in business since the early 1900s. That is a big leap and, some would say, too ambitious. But if small companies want to grow, they should develop a model that inspires them. The client was consistently maintaining a $1M+ annual revenue. This allowed us to put a strategy in place to develop stabilization followed by developing an overall growth plan. We later developed a strategy for additional partners (joint ventures or acquiring other smaller companies) to meet the large company dream in the next 10 years. This is a great vision and can be achieved by applying the RFE methodology consistently.
Evaluating your people—your team members, your customers and potential customers, your mentors, your advisors and yourself as a leader—is an ongoing process for entrepreneurs. This not only includes current and potential customers but past customers as well. It is imperative to your success that you continually review customer feedback, both positive and negative. Doing so can help you determine issues and patterns. From there, you can distinguish what is going well and expand on those, along with what is not going so well, so you can make positive changes.
When selecting your advisors, choose carefully. In fact, I encourage business owners to set up a paid advisory board. Yes, paid and compensated according to their value. The larger companies do this well by having a board of directors to help guide the company to meet its goals through the accountability they place on the company’s senior executives.
Know your cash flow. According to Score.org, 82% of small businesses fail due to issues with cash flow. To be successful, you always need to know where your money is coming from and where it is going. (Remember: men lie, women lie, numbers don’t!) This means you need to evaluate your current cash inflows and outflows continually. Evaluate your finances and operate by the numbers using your balance sheets, income statements and cash flow statements for the current year as well as any past years. The most basic step is a budget!
Knowing salaries, working capital, accounts receivable, accounts payable, EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization), order to cash timing, costs of goods sold and more, is the key to the validation of your current measurements against industry best-in-class measurements. With this data, you can move your company forward with greater success. Also, I see too many clients whose accounts receivables are way too high—as they scramble to pay bills—especially payroll.
Clear the fog. Often in business, clearing the fog comes from a back-and-forth dialogue with a trusted advisor or colleague. During the conversation, the fog clears and you can see where you need to go to move forward again. You can visualize the future, take the next steps and realize the future you have dreamed of. Clearing the fog has the potential to take you from vision to reality in business and in life.
Begin with a “to-be” state of the future plan that matches your vision, mission and goals, then organize your company to eliminate employee, customer and cash flow problems. Your new plan should include hiring, firing and upskilling your employees, reorganizing your employees based on their strengths and gaps that need filling, acquiring external expert support (anything from a mentor to a lawyer and more) and developing a capital plan.
The result should be a clear set of actions where each “actor”—the employees, advisors, etc.—knows their role and is held accountable for fulfilling their agreed-upon duties.
Realizing the future requires training of both the entrepreneur and his or her employees to act daily, weekly and monthly toward the company’s aspirational goals. This is the step where your vision begins to take shape as your reality—in other words, your happy ending.
In this step, work to develop a dashboard to measure your goals—typically sales, financial, customer and employee measures are the baseline. Accountability is necessary—just like large businesses use a board of directors, so should small businesses use a similar structure: a board of advisors.
If you use these five steps and commit to doing them at least the first year with consistency, you’ll be more likely to experience the reality of your vision, which includes more time for you to enjoy friends and family and less time stressing over your business!
Forbes Coaches Council is an invitation-only community for leading business and career coaches. Do I qualify?