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Bright Object vs. Bright Future: The Battle to Building a Long Term Vision

Business Evolution Pyramid - Corporate Sustainability

March 3, 2020

  

Alan G. Badey, President and New York City Managing Partner, Citrin Cooperman

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Whether you started your business 20 years, months, or days ago, the chances are pretty high that you intended to create a long-lasting, profitable venture for you, your family, and your employeesThere are many who have come before you and many who will come after with a similar dream of creating a thriving business that will endure through changing times and continue to grow. It’s not an easy road as missteps are part of making decisions, we do our best to limit these to avoid failure. Leaders who persevere all share one pivotal quality – they all have a clear, long term vision for their business that is shared and lived by their management teams and employees 

Decision makers have long suffered from the dreaded “bright shiny object” syndrome, the workplace term for the constant daily stream of issues, choices, and inevitable consequences that come with running a business. Too often, this syndrome comes at the expense of instituting and following your business’s long term visionGetting lost in the weeds will only de-rail you, taking your priority away from what gives you and your team purpose and clarity - the company vision. The vision is what provides structure and stability, offering guidance on making decisions, large and small, within your organization, and paving the way for a focused strategy with streamlined goals to build for a sustainable future. More than that, a well thought and perpetually revisited vision will help mitigate short sightedness, misappropriation of resources, miscommunication, and paralyzing inaction.  

When we look at business leaders who get it – they share some common best practices around building a vision that works: 

  • Commit to a timeline. Composing, reviewing, and finalizing your long term vision will take time – this isn’t a commercial break task. Commit yourself to blocking off the time and give yourself a deadline. Crafting a vision that has staying power should be treated as importantly as any other critical business initiative.  

  • Use the time wisely. A vision cannot be created in a funnel - bring in your key leadership for collaboration, but don’t stop there. Select a sampling from each level in your organization. You might have a clear picture of what you want for your business but does it encompass the ideas your team has? Buy-in is key to a long-lasting result. It is critical to understand the thoughts, ideas, and concerns of your entire organization from leadership down right from the start. Diversifying the people you hear from within your organization will enable your long term vision to grow into a living, breathing tool that will serve as the cornerstone for all your company sets out to accomplish.  

  • Create a roadmap and follow the directions. You want to come out of this with clear feedback on how the vision is currently seen in your organization, but you also want to mine your people for information while you have them. Do they feel a consistent strategy is in place for the business? Do they have a clear understanding of the organizational structure? Does a lack of direction make their day-to-day life frustrating and cumbersome? The most important directive during this period is to be open and honest in identifying what works and what doesn’t for the team surrounding you. Be clear and enthusiastic with feedback and emphasize the realistic goal of your organizations long term vision: to create a sustainable business model supported by structure and cohesion.  

  • Set a vision and learn to adapt it. Everyone knows the saying, “expect the unexpected.” This is just as true in business as it is in our personal lives. While we may not know what lies around the corner, we can be better prepared if we approach a long term vision much like a guidebook, giving it room to act as a living, breathing, tenet – allowing for flexibility and room to adapt to unforeseen changes in the business environment. Breaking down your vision into sections (i.e. 3, 5, and 10 years) will make it easier to revisit and gauge if you’re on track, need to make changes, or pivot in a different direction. 

  • Drive your vision. Go on to build your company’s mission and core principles by dovetailing your vision into everything you communicate. By such, it will be part of the everyday lives of your team. 

The vision is set, it’s defined and has been solidified in the employee manual, on the wall, the website… the hard part is done, right? WRONG! Ensuring the long term vision is heard, understood, and lived throughout your business takes time, patience, a clear, consistent, communication strategy, and of course… money.  

Make an investment in the future. Establish a vision budget, a dedicated pot of funds for the sole purpose of driving your organization towards its long term vision. Earmarking these funds will prevent the dreaded argument of “is this a necessary expenditure” because you’ve already decided: it is. 

Another critical resource you have towards pushing your business towards your long term vision is your people. No one knows your organization better than the people who have quite literally built it and it is their institutional knowledge and real-life experience that will help you identify what is working and where your vision might be falling through the cracks. Set time yearly to check in with employees, welcome their ideas, and bring them into the fold of decision making. Make them part of the process. Each of us is more apt to participate when we feel our ideas are valued and we are part of the solution.  

Most importantly, treat the exercise of creating a long term vision as a necessary part of the success of your business and an investment in its future growth. Accept that you will need to visit and adjust it unendingly. Prepare yourself to question your assumptions, take stock of your resources, and adjust your strategy as needed. Break the cycle of the bright shiny object and focus your team on their bright shiny future.