How does a company go from the idea phase, tucked away in the entrepreneur or founder’s brain, to an operational business where everyone in the organization is equally excited and actively working to bring the mission to life on a daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and yearly basis?
According to Cameron Herold, business coach, systems expert, author, speaker, and the mastermind behind the COO Alliance, if you’re relying on a simple mission statement, you’re doing it wrong.
A mission statement is not enough to get employees and stakeholders to align and “vibrate with excitement” over your vision – the type of energy and commitment you’ll need to get from concept to implementation and execution. Enter the Vivid Vision concept.
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The Vivid Vision Concept
Simply put, the Vivid Vision is a four or five page document that basically takes the business out of the entrepreneur’s brain and articulates it to the people who will help build it in the real world.
“Entrepreneurs and business leaders typically have a vision in their head of what their company will look like three years out, but no one else can see what they see at that point. The point of the Vivid Vision document is to get your employees, business partners, and customers to see your company the way you see it three years into the future, so that they can help you reverse engineer it,” says Cameron.
Once you’ve “given life” to your vision so to speak, share it with everyone – on a regular basis – to set and keep it in motion.
The Jigsaw Puzzle
Cameron likens companies to a big jigsaw puzzle – but not for the reasons that one might assume. “Every business is like a jigsaw puzzle, and the most important aspect of a puzzle is the picture of the completed puzzle on the front of the box. If you can’t see the finished product and see a picture of what you’re building, it will take you forever to construct the puzzle.” Most companies are missing the big picture because they can’t see what the entrepreneur sees and aspires to for the company’s near future.
The mission statement is like a short blurb that gives general information about the puzzle; the Vivid Vision document is the picture of the completed puzzle on the cover of the box.
Tips for Creating a Vivid Vision Document
- Don’t get caught up on the “how” or too bogged down by details or the quest for “perfection” – this is a place to dream big and set ambitious goals
- Get creative and really visualize the company’s future in three years (pro tip: as a general rule, try to keep separate Vivid Vision docs for business and personal goals)
- Change up your surroundings to get inspired, whether that means going full Walden and writing it up in a cabin in the middle of the woods, or ducking out of the office to work in your favorite coffee shop for a few hours
- Turn off the internal editor/thought police/censor and let your ideas run wild – remember this is not the place to figure out “how” to get it done, this is the “what” you want to create
- Work on the Vivid Vision alone and on your own terms, but remember that this will be the foundation you use to get partners and employees excited and interested in creating it in the real world – create something bold
And keep in mind that not everyone will “get it” or want to be a part of it, and that’s OK. In fact, Cameron points out that a Vivid Vision offers a perfect opportunity to partner with people that are truly excited and aligned with your ideas. That’s who you’ll want and need on your team in order to get things done.
So you’ve locked in your Vivid Vision statement, but when is the ideal time to share it with the world? Cameron has broken it down into five steps:
- Start with the leadership team and get them on board
- Share it with internal employees
- Share it with customers and shareholders and other interested parties outside the company
- Get employees to re-read the Vivid Vision every quarter to keep it alive and viable
- Share it with potential employees as soon as you get their resume as a way to attract the right candidates – send it out right away and get candidates to “opt in” before scheduling the first interview
People Don’t Fail, Systems Fail
Once everyone involved has received the picture, it’s time to start putting the puzzle together. That’s where the systems come in. Cameron sees a three year arc as the magic number to keep the goals immediate and actionable, with layers built in at the weekly, monthly, quarterly, and yearly level to make sure that all the parts are working and moving in the right direction, and to course correct where and when necessary.
“Make sure people are working on the right things and have the skill development and resources they need,” says Cameron. “We approach problem solving in a way that looks to identify and remove obstacles, and to give people the right tools they need to achieve the goals. This way people don’t feel blamed when something goes wrong. They take ownership knowing that help and support are available.”
Yes Meetings Suck – Here’s Why
Meetings. Cameron literally wrote the book on why they suck, and how to make them better. Here’s a hint: most companies are just plain doing them wrong. Like any initiative or aspect of the business, meetings need to be conceived and structured strategically so that they don’t waste time, resources, and rob your employees of the will to live. People need to be trained on how to give and attend meetings.
Momentum Spurs More Momentum
Perfect is the enemy of done…you’ve heard all of the cliches, but Cameron stresses the importance of jump starting your company’s momentum by focusing on building systems and processes that are “good enough” to get your profits and gross margins up. Systems are iterative and always need to be refined and adjusted as you go along, and as Cameron points out, “there’s not a problem in the world that a check can’t fix.” Get paid, and then use the resources to build and refine as you grow.
This is what Cameron refers to as the “minimal viable everything” concept. Get your product or service out the door, and use the revenue to solve the problems later. Systemizing everything that drives revenue will allow you to put the right people in place and provide them with the resources to scale and remove the flies from the ointment as they go along.
It’s Just Common Sense
It’s that simple and that complicated. The point of processes and systems is to make it easier for people to do their jobs, for the company to operate smoothly on all levels, and for the business to be profitable. Overthinking or over complicating systems is a recipe for stalled momentum and less productivity. Any system or process that a company creates should work for you, not against you.