The Thing about having a Vision!

Tuesday, June 25th, 2013

Before you say “what’s he still banging on about this thing called ‘vision’ for?” take a few minutes to consider this:

  • We live in a very uncertain world of business right now.  I guess it’s always been that way, but I suspect never to the extent it is now.  I get Business Day and Mail & Guardian delivered to my computer every day.  I marvel sometimes at how from one day to the next, reports will show an “improvement in business confidence” and then shortly thereafter “poor prospects for growth”.  The next article will show that South Africa has very been highly rated in one context of world economics, and then one of the worst in another.  Damn confusing!  If I was to take it all seriously, I would probably give up trying to run a business or go mad, or both!
  • In spite of the fact that the world is uncertain, we know that people still have to eat, to travel, to clothe themselves, to have a home and so on – and all these elements of our lives require products and services.  We also know that the world’s population is growing, and in spite of the fact that there are so many poor people, the numbers of consumers of these products and services is also growing.  This means, in my simple logic, that the number of businesses also has to grow.
  • However, the business environment has become even more competitive.  More and more businesses compete for market share, and clearly, price is not always the determining factor as to who gets the deal.  Innovation has a large role to play, as does fashion – just look at how successful Apple products have been.

So, how does “vision” make a difference in this environment?


I’ve recently spent some time reviewing the vision statement of my own business – Finserv.  It is comprised of Core Values, Purpose, Current Mission, and Key Strategies.

I looked at the original one I drew up in late 1997, when I started out and then followed the changes I made to it over the years.  I made five changes during the past 16 years, but there was something very noticeable about them – at no stage did the original core values on which I established the business change.  Those core values have remained consistent.

The nature of the services we provide to clients have changed to some degree.  The way in which we provide these services has also changed, spurred on to some degree by changes in technology and communications.  In other words, most of the changes in the past 16 years have been mainly of a strategic nature.  Our “impossible” goal – impossible since it will probably never be fulfilled in its entirety – is summed up in one short sentence:

“We exist to transform our clients’ future; from establishment, through success and on to significance!”

In a recent survey of current clients, an independent marketing consultant discovered that the single distinguishing feature of the survey was that clients believe they can trust us!  Lo and behold, our first and most important priority as a firm is “establishing and developing personal relationships of trust with clients”.  It seems that we have been doing something right!

Many people think that having a ‘Vision’ for one’s business means that one just needs a great business idea.  While having an idea of what you’re going to be producing, selling or servicing is important, it’s not necessarily the beginning and end-all of what having a ‘vision’ means.

What is so much more important – especially in these days – is how well you’re going to provide this product or service to a highly competitive and fickle market. And that is going to be determined by your CORE VALUES AND BELIEFS; as defined by Jim Collins in his book “Beyond Entrepreneurship”:

A system of guiding principles and tenets; a philosophy of life. Principles that are to be held inviolate.  An extension of the personal core values and beliefs of the Leaders of the organisation.  They should seldom change, – if ever!

In their great book “Built to Last” – first published in 1994, Jim Collins and Jerry Porras did extensive research into what made some businesses ‘last’; what made them survive numerous ups-and-downs; world wars (in some cases), and still remain household names.

Their survey covered some of the largest businesses in the world, and some of the smallest; in America and the rest of the world.  They eventually culled their list to 18, of what they called ‘visionary’ companies.  And get this: the youngest was founded in 1945 and the oldest in 1812!  The companies in their study averaged out at 92 years old!  Wow!

Their study looked specifically for “underlying, timeless, fundamental patterns that might apply across eras” and they discovered the “fundamental distinguishing characteristic of the most enduring and successful corporations is that they preserve a cherished core ideology while simultaneously stimulating progress and change in everything that is not part of their core ideology.”

‘Yes, that all very well,’ you might say, ‘but I just have a small plumbing business, employing two people; what’s all this got to do with me?’

Well, everything, actually!  The size of your business doesn’t matter; it doesn’t determine how well you perform for your clients.  Volume has nothing to do with greatness.  The authors of ‘Built to Last’ said this about their book:

Built to Last was not fundamentally about building to last.  It was, at its essence, about building something worthy of lasting – about building a company of such intrinsic excellence that the world would lose something important if it ceased to exist.”

Have you ever given thought to what your core values and beliefs are?  How they impact and influence your business?  Are you committed to being the best at what you provide? This is by far the most important aspect of “Vision”.  Get this right and all the rest will follow.