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Outside voices and views for advisers

5 ways to take your firm's vision statement from cliché to inspiration

Mar 19, 2014 @ 9:44 am

By Steve Sanduski

+ Zoom

It's become cliché to say your business needs a vision statement. And by now, many businesses have one. Unfortunately, most are what I call an “obligatory” vision.

An obligatory vision is simply one you put together because you heard or read somewhere that all successful businesses have one. So, you developed it, checked off the box, and then moved on to the important stuff related to growing your business.

I get it. You are busy and you have to bring in revenue and profit to meet payroll.

However, the very best advisers understand that a vision is not some flaky, obligatory thing to be checked off. Rather, done right, it's a potent business tool.

GUESS THIS VISION

Recently, I came across a vision statement from a well-recognized company that I feel captures the essence of what a great vision statement is all about.

Here it is…

"To help people of all ages express themselves on their piece of the Earth."

Any idea who this company is? I guarantee you will never guess it.

Just for fun, tweet this article with your guess using #visionchallenge before you continue reading. The name of the company is mentioned at the end of this article. Don't peek!

This company's vision statement hits on all five points of what makes a great vision.

THE 5 POINTS OF A GREAT COMPANY VISION STATEMENT

1. It's short. If you can't state your vision in one sentence, you need better glasses.

2. It's memorable. Who wouldn't want to “express themselves on their own piece of the earth?”

3. It's inclusive. Few people are excluded from being part of this company's vision, e.g., “to help people of all ages…”

4. It's aspirational. It appeals to our need for self-expression; a desire that we all have to “make our mark” here on earth.

5. It's metaphorical. The statement captures the essence of what this company does without explicitly saying what they do. This gives the company ample room to build their business without being pigeonholed into a specific area.

Your vision should inspire you and be so powerful that during the darkest times in your business, it's the one thing that you can reconnect with and help keep you moving forward.

An inspiring vision cannot only galvanize a company, it can also galvanize a nation. Consider this…

In 1962, President Kennedy gave a speech at Rice University and laid out a vision to become the world's leading explorer of space. In his memorable language, he said,

"We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade … not because [it is] easy, but because [it is] hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win.

Despite challenging setbacks over the following seven years including President Kennedy's death and the deaths of three astronauts in 1967, NASA rose to President Kennedy's challenge and in 1969, Neil Armstrong stepped foot on the moon.

The vision of landing on the moon propelled NASA to an achievement that has not been duplicated since by any other country. Likewise, your business vision should propel you to ever-greater heights, too.

VISION EXAMPLE

Here's where I should give you a few examples of financial adviser vision statements that incorporate the five points I shared above. But, for your benefit, I'm not going to.

Why not?

Because giving you examples shortcuts the process. To make your vision powerful, you have to go through the “painful” process of developing your own.

I've seen it happen too many times where advisers take bits and pieces of somebody else's vision and then call it their own. Unfortunately, this cut-and-paste process leaves you with a cobbled-together vision that in no way shape or form can connect with you at the intrinsic level necessary to propel you to greatness.

As author David Hawkins wrote, "To be a success, it's necessary to embrace and operate from the principles that produce success, not just imitate the actions of successful people — for to really do what they do, it's necessary to be like they are."

You can't imitate your way to a great vision but you can embody the principles behind a great vision and create your own.

The vision I shared earlier should give you an example of how one company got it right. To develop your own, follow the five points I mentioned earlier. Get your team involved. Come up with multiple versions. Sleep on them. Eventually, you'll keep coming back to one version and that's the one you need to go with.

AND THE ANSWER IS

So what's the name of the company whose vision is, “To help people of all ages express themselves on their own piece of the Earth?”

It's Scotts Miracle-Gro, the world's largest marketer of branded consumer lawn and garden products.

Can you see how their vision is in perfect sync with their business and fulfills the five points I made earlier?

Now, go and develop your own vision. And once developed, share it with your clients and prospects. Promote it on your website and in your collateral material. Be inspired by it. Let it be your polestar in keeping your business on track.

Helen Keller was once asked what would be worse than being born blind. Her response was, “To have sight but no vision.” Don't make that mistake.

What's your vision? Share it in the comments below.

Steve Sanduski is a New York Times bestselling author and president of Belay Advisor. His firm designs, builds and delivers comprehensive business solutions for companies that want to make a profound impact in people's lives. Follow him on Twitter @SteveSanduski.

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