You know that feeling of satisfaction you get after meal at a beautiful restaurant with stunning decor, comfortable seats, excellent service, fine wine and a delicious meal? Your date has had the time of their lives and you both vow that this will become your “special place.” This near perfect experience has helped create an emotional connection between you and the restaurant. A connection that transcends price or driving distance. What you experienced happened because of intention and a unified vision that touched every aspect of your experience, from the choice of silverware, to the staff hired to the choice of vendor used to supply the freshest ingredients. The leadership team used their beliefs and vision to stitch together hundreds of individual items, touchpoints and moments to ensure you not only met your expectations, but that you had a world-class, memorable experience and the restaurant profited too.
Contrast that with companies fail to scale or succeed not because of a poor product or lack of demand but rather the absence of a unified vision. A vision that stems from the core beliefs of the founders, beliefs that led them to change the course of their lives to pursue. Companies with the most brand affinity and long term outlook for success have successfully connected and instilled their tunnel-vision-like beliefs and ideology into every facet of the organization; product, sales, marketing, culture and ultimately the outside world. These companies ideology and vision is so strong that they succeed in marrying their beliefs and the rational needs of a growing business with the irrational desires of their customers. This bond has the strength over time to create a level of brand affinity, preference and margin that competitors can only dream about.
What is a unified vision?
According to Harvard Business Review, a well-conceived vision consists of two major components: core ideology and envisioned future. The core ideology dictates who you are and what you stand for while the envisioned future helps create a strategic plan in a constantly changing world.
Core ideology provides the glue that holds an organization together through time.
This unified vision allows a company to answer questions quickly, make directional business decisions, hire the right staff and maybe most importantly, allows for the democratization of the company: a unified vision that is ingrained in the culture allows every staff member, be they 20 year veterans or interns three months into their assignment to make decisions “on brand” without the need for layers of management to approve. This democratization creates a leaner, more nimble organization that is busy pursuing its goals and satisfying its customers while competitors argue over direction or struggle to decide whether the logo should be grayscale or four colors.
This unified vision then, considering its foundational importance, should be something that every company has right? You would think so, after all it can be a straightforward process to assemble. The reality is that most of you reading this will not have a shareable, repeatable vision for the company you lead or work for.
How to create your unified vision
As the founder or CEO, it falls to you to create this vision, to decide upon or verbalize the existing beliefs you have and the company espouses through every action, reaction and pursuit.
This is the cornerstone, the launchpad, the foundation upon which everything else comes from and the North Star to direct where we are going. How else will we be able to decide upon marketing campaigns, a messaging framework, product design and development, inspire staff and customers?
To help you create your unified vision, ask yourself the following questions:
- What do I believe in?
- What do I/we stand for?
- What do I/we strongly oppose or stand against?
- Do our products and services match what I/we believe in?
- Where do we want to be as a company in 3/5/20 years?
- What is our BHAG? (Big Hairy Audacious Goal)
Look at how Apple describes their vision (from an interview with CEO Tim Cook): “We believe that we are on the face of the earth to make great products and that’s not changing. We are constantly focusing on innovating. We believe in the simple not the complex. We believe that we need to own and control the primary technologies behind the products that we make, and participate only in markets where we can make a significant contribution. We believe in saying no to thousands of projects, so that we can really focus on the few that are truly important and meaningful to us. We believe in deep collaboration and cross-pollination of our groups, which allow us to innovate in a way that others cannot. And frankly, we don’t settle for anything less than excellence in every group in the company, and we have the self-honesty to admit when we’re wrong and the courage to change. And I think regardless of who is in what job those values are so embedded in this company that Apple will do extremely well.”
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