Defining Your Business Vision, Values and Strategy

Daniel Kehrer articulates the concepts of vision, values and strategy as they relate to your business.       

MentorMany growing businesses as well as startups struggle with three well-known concepts that are commonly confused and misunderstood: vision, values and strategy.  Business-building entrepreneurs often talk about their “vision” in the same context as strategy and values. 

But they are separate and distinct things that – if improperly mixed – can sabotage the very goals they seek to articulate.  Think of them as powerful prescription medicines that keep your business healthy, on track and focused but can also be deadly if combined the wrong way.

Your Business Values

The first thing to remember about values is that they don’t change.  Values are part of your business DNA.  Ask yourself: Why does my business exist?  Sure, you want to make money and serve your customers.”  Those aren’t values they’re goals. 

Much like a person’s values define who he or she is, a company’s values define what the business stands for – not merely what it does.  And although many small and local businesses don’t consider themselves to have a “culture” in the sense that larger companies use the term, every business has a culture of some kind, knowingly or not.

Values define your business and how you want the people who work there to interact with others.  Businesses that try to describe their values in writing tend to use words such as integrity, innovation, accuracy, loyalty, accountability and teamwork, among many others.  Putting your values in writing can be helpful so everyone has a clear understanding of what those values are and how they can contribute to them as they do their daily work. 

Your established values also help to guide your hiring decisions.  Values should be a constant that keeps your business on track though the many challenges it will face in the future.

The “Vision Thing”

“Vision,” however, is quite different.  Your vision is future-focused, and while values are a contributor, vision is about developing clarity and purpose around the loftiest goals you have for your business. 

This is your great aspiration for how your product or service will be better in some way, and where you want to get to in, say 10 or 20 years.  But it’s not simply about growth rates, revenues or margins. It’s more about what you want your business to create or achieve in a broader sense over time. 

That vision won’t be easy to realize and may require constant course changes, hard work and many accumulated successes over time. That’s where vision differs from values which are fixed.  As you define your vision, shoot for clarity and focus as much as you can.  For example, if you see yourself with more locations, serving specialized types of customers, or developing a broader range of products or services, put it all down. It’s tempting to talk in fuzzy terms that are difficult for others to interpret, much less follow. 

Employees, partners, investors, vendors, customers and others must be able to grasp your vision for it to work.  It’s not necessary that they agree with everything you spell out, as long as they understand it and can help get you there.

Strategy Gets You There

Strategy comes last. Only after you’ve defined values and vision can you talk about how you’re going to get there.  The most important thing to know about strategy is that it changes all the time – in small steps or radical revisions.  That’s critical because business conditions, markets, competition, consumer preferences and a wide range of other factors are constantly in flux. If your strategy remains fixed, you are doomed.  Strategy is the roadmap you use to achieve your vision and reach your goals, guided by the GPS of your values.

Have a question about defining your business vision, values and strategy? Connect with a SCORE mentor online or in your community today!

About the Author

Daniel Kehrer HeadshotDaniel Kehrer, Founder & Managing Director of BizBest Media Corp., is a nationally-known, award-winning expert on small and local business, start-ups, content marketing, entrepreneurship and social media, with an MBA from UCLA/Anderson. Read more of Daniel's tips at www.BizBest.com, follow him at www.twitter.com/140Main and connect on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/danielkehrer.
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