Where do you expect your business to be in five or ten years? While it’s important to have a tactical plan, it’s equally important to think big, have dreams and a vision for the future. Blue-skying may be perceived by some as a business cliché. Yet, failure to think big robs you of the opportunity to visualize your future potential.
Let me define my definition of blue-skying and how it’s been invaluable in helping us create our future. For many, blue-skying suggests dreaming about the unattainable. But, how do you know it’s unattainable? It’s important when creating your vision that you don’t limit yourself by what you believe is feasible today.
Everything changes: business climates, partners, technology and even yourself. Stretch your thinking. Aim high, and you just might surprise yourself!
By stretching your thinking, you stretch your goals. You begin to focus on a longer-term strategic plan that becomes your template for the future success of your business. Of course, like your annual plan, this takes time. Too often entrepreneurs get caught up in the day-to-day and fail to spend the necessary time to see if they are still honouring their vision. Don’t make this mistake.
As an entrepreneur, you need to spend your time developing your vision and the strategy to achieve it.
Of course, it doesn’t require your attention all day. One study1 suggests that top business leaders spend 25 minutes a day setting goals and strategizing. Surely you can find 15 minutes each day away from the front-facing work of the business and contemplate your priorities. Some of that time will be spent setting daily, weekly and monthly goals, but apply a portion of it to focus on the larger picture.
You say you don’t have time?
Time management is crucial. The key to time management is delegation. Giving important work to employees means developing a culture of empowerment. This requires building trust and learning, and – as I put it – the art of not being there.
We discussed time management in a blog earlier this year entitled Time is Not the Enemy: You Are. If you are struggling to make time for planning your vision, you may want to have a look.
The lasting value of a vision
In 2008, we took a big-picture look at Castle, our business model, and the role our vendors play in our success. The relationship was a typical one at the time, somewhat “adversarial,” with buyers demanding the best prices, rates and services. For decades, our industry had utilized the “whips and chains” tactics of supplier interaction to address competitive demands.
We had a vision. At the time it might have seemed impractical or infeasible. We believed it wasn’t, and developed a strategic plan to execute a new business model. Remember, success is in the preparation. Abraham Lincoln had a great quote: “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four hours sharpening the axe.”
We flipped the old model on its head. Our new metric for success was creating a progressive and professional relationship with our vendors. Castle and its vendors would become partners while becoming advocates for each other. Imagine the benefits when a customer becomes an advocate for you and your business!
To turn our goal into reality, we had to make some tactical and strategic changes. There would be no intimidation tactics used as leverage for pricing or deal. Respect was paramount to all our interactions with vendors. Our buyers would focus on building greater knowledge about our suppliers, their products and the various market conditions across the country. And while we are firm on our approach, professionalism and integrity would not be compromised.
This was not a daily, weekly or even annual goal. It could only be achieved by taking a big-picture approach and using it as a guiding principle for all business objectives.
It worked! Today we are committed to our relationship with our vendors. They are key to our success, and our business has more than doubled in size. While not all of our success can be attributed to this single initiative, shaping our future started with stretching our thinking. When we started this initiative some thought our departure from the traditional path of aggressive and confrontational negotiating tactics was a mistake. It wasn’t. We took our blue-skying to heart and let it guide us into the future.
What gets you excited about the future?
Think about it. There are times when you are with clients or customers and you see the opportunity. You get excited about the possibilities. You get re-energized. That’s exactly the time you need to create new paths to success. Don’t dismiss it, embrace it!
Today, start committing 15 minutes each day and ask yourself: where do I want to be in five years? What will my career or business look like? Pull out your current business plan or your personal life goals. Review them. Then begin to stretch your thinking. Don’t worry about the challenges and obstacles; think only about the opportunities. When you are truly committed to where you want to be, you will overcome any and all challenges.