Entrepreneurs think with a clear vision about finance, sales, and income
Whenever you hear someone discussing a successful entrepreneur or a great CEO, one of the first things mentioned is her vision. To many people the word vision conjures up thoughts of company values and ideals, such as 'making the world a better place.'

In reality, a CEO’s vision consists of a series of clear measurable goals which she has good reason to believe she and the company can achieve within a specific time period. One of the ways she will measure her progress (and will be evaluated by others) is her success in hitting a series of milestones (intermediate-term goals) on the way to achieving that vision. This article deals with the fourth of six key components of business success, “You must have a clear, measurable vision of what you want to accomplish with your business.”

When working with business owners to create a vision statement, we often hear someone say that their vision is to "make their company lead the region" in both service and product quality, as well as sales / revenues by a certain date. While that’s a great start, it is meaningless until both service and product quality, as well as revenues, are clearly defined in some measurable manner. E.g., one measure of service quality might be defined as "receiving less than one customer complaint per thousand transactions" and sales leadership might be defined as "creating revenues of over $2 million dollars per year." The actual numbers will vary with your personal and company circumstances, but you must have them defined.

As the CEO of You, Inc., with clear measurable goals and milestones set, you will easily be able to set effective priorities, and determine both the effectiveness and efficiency of any plan of action you create.

Six Steps to Creating Your Vision

Determine where you want your business to be in five years (note: it is okay to use shorter range goals, but we find that visualizing and planning for five years is very effective). Follow these six simple steps to define that objective in the most effective way possible. Entrepreneurs we have coached around the world report that following these steps has helped them to both clarify and simplify their planning process:

1 - Your vision / goals must be stated positively. I.e. what you want to achieve, rather than what you want to avoid. For example: "I want to offer my company’s products / services to X new customers each day." [positive]. Instead of, "I want to stop being so afraid of prospecting for new customers." [negative].

2 - Your vision / goal must be within your control. For example: wanting to increase revenues by 20 percent during the next fiscal year is potentially possible. That is under your control. Wishing to grow six inches taller is not.

3 - Select goals you can achieve, but only by stretching. Each goal should be challenging, but also realistic. If you find that you are achieving a goal too easily, make the next one harder. Goals which are virtually overwhelming become discouraging and will sap your will to continue. At the other extreme, goals that are too easy are boring and will quickly lose their ability to motivate you and your employees. If you find yourself becoming too frustrated at the difficulty, consider first if you are working efficiently towards achieving it. If you are, move the goal a little closer, and if it is of a sufficiently high priority, consider reallocating resources to achieve it.

4 - Think of your desired long-term result and work backwards from there to determine what key resources you lack to get there (e.g., sufficient funds, specialized knowledge or experience, etc.). These then become your intermediate and short-term goals (your milestones).

5 - Each goal must be testable in some objective manner. For example: if your goal is to be able to achieve and maintain a certain level of production for a new product, it is easy to test whether or not you have achieved it.

6 - Always write your goals down. In 1950, the Ivy League Colleges began a study of that year's graduating classes. They asked the graduates if they had established goals for their lives. 87% said that they had not. 10% had established mental goals, but had not written them down. Only 3% had developed written goals for their lives.

The schools followed the progress of their graduates for twenty‑five years. In 1975, they found the following:

The 87% who had not established goals had performed in an average manner during the intervening twenty‑five years. In short, after attending the most expensive schools in the country, they had achieved only mediocrity.

The 10% who had at least established mental goals, but who had failed to write them down, had outperformed the combined 87% of their classmates without goals.

The 3% who had developed written goals, had outperformed the 97% of their classmates both objectively and subjectively (they had more money and toys and were happier).

Be sure you understand each goal. For example: if your goal is to achieve a certain level of revenue. How much production, sales and service must you maintain to achieve that revenue? How many, and what kinds of customers will you need? How much prospecting / advertising must you do to obtain those customers, etc.?

In addition, you need to think through and fully understand how achieving each goal will make your life and the lives of your family, company employees, and customers better. How will it make them worse? (Always remember that there is no such thing as a free lunch.) Similarly, how will delaying or eliminating a given goal make everyone’s life better? Worse? Answering these questions will help solve any issues that might come up.

Your goal should not cost more than it is worth. For example: let’s say that your goal is to reach X millions dollars in revenue during your first year of production. You may be able to accomplish this, but, depending upon the amount of time, effort, and resources required to achieve it, it may also cost you your family, your integrity, and / or your health. Would it be worth it? The number of unhappy, unhealthy, divorced, millionaire entrepreneurs is too great to ignore.

Once you have defined your vision in clear, measurable, achievable terms, the next step is to break it down into intermediate-term goals, called milestones. It is these milestones which will help you determine whether you are on track to achieve your vision. Ideally, you will want to develop both yearly and shorter milestones for each major goal.

Further Defining Your Goals

Once you have outlined each goal, it is important to define it even further, to determine your desired outcome. Why? Because, research done in a variety of industries indicates that as many as 80% or more of "successful" entrepreneurs are not happy once they achieve their goal(s)! Does all of this mean you shouldn't develop great goals? Of course not! There are also a great number of very happy, healthy, successful entrepreneurs who also have fully satisfying lives and marital / family relationships. To avoid having a goal cost more than it is worth, we suggest that you ask yourself a few simple questions about each goal you are considering:

Is this really MY goal, or something that I think is expected of me by my peers, family, or society? (The fact is that trying to live up to other people's expectations has caused more stress and more burnout than almost any other factor.)

How did I come up with this goal? (For example, my family and I decided together to work to create or increase the size of our business.)

What will change in my life if I obtain my goal? (Always remember that there is a cost that must be paid to achieve every goal. Again, there is no such thing as a free lunch.)

What will Change for the better?
For example: We will be able to afford to send our children to better schools / colleges.

What will Change for the worse?
For example: We will have to sacrifice most free evenings for the next X years to achieve our goal. (The average entrepreneur spends up to 80 hours per week on their business. Not surprising, this has often proven disastrous to marriages.)

How will I know when I have achieved it? How will I measure my progress? (see step 3 from "Six Steps of Goal Setting")

When, where, and with whom do I wish to attain my goal? (For example: With my family’s help, I expect to achieve my goal of producing and selling X new units by the end of the year.)

What will happen if I obtain my goal? What will happen if I don't? Why is this important? (Note: This is particularly important because the way we define the results of not attaining a goal are a large factor in how stressful a goal becomes. It also determines how effective this goal will be in motivating you.)

Related to the above is this question, "How do I know if my goal is really worth obtaining?" Did someone else tell me? How do they know? For example: "Everyone says it would be great to be a millionaire entrepreneur." How do they know? Are they millionaires or even entrepreneurs? If so, are they happy? (Many aren't!) WHY are they happy? Did achieving this goal make them happy, or were they happy before? For example: A good education gave me the opportunities I now have. I feel it is very important to provide the same quality education for my children.

What is stopping me, or what might stop me from obtaining my goal? What obstacles do I face? (For example: Funds: I will need to create a crowd funding program to obtain the funds needed to build a prototype of my product idea. My motivation: I enjoy my free time with my family and I hate to think of spending so much time away from them.)

What can I personally do to overcome / bypass each obstacle? (For example: Crowd funding: I will locate a qualified crowd funding professional to help get my campaign started. My motivation: This is a family goal which we will work on together so we don’t have to be apart all the time. My family will help me maintain my motivation and will also help me do the office and computer work.)

What resources will I require to overcome these obstacles and achieve my goals? (For example: My family, friends, and supporters will have to help me get the crowd funding program started by donating to it themselves and spreading the word to everyone they know on social media. My wife, daughter, and I will have to coordinate our schedules so we can work together at least one night each week.)

Reasons Goals Fail

There are several reasons why entrepreneurs fail to achieve their goals, or do not perform according to expectations. If you or someone you know is not performing well, it is probably the result of not knowing how to do some aspect of the job, not wanting to do the job (or pay the price), or of being blocked by some obstacle restricting your chance to perform (or a combination of the three). (Note: you may notice certain redundancies in the questions below, in terms of those you have previously answered. Answering those questions from this new perspective is often helpful in analyzing performance issues involved in failure to achieve your desired results.)

How To: The learning curve for most entrepreneurs is often huge. This is why so many choose to begin in an area where they already possess some level of expertise. As a result, one of the most common reasons for failure to achieve a goal is lack of required knowledge. You may not have a specific skill, or you may not fully understand how to build, produce, market, or sell a given product or service. Fortunately, "How To" problems can usually be fixed fairly easily with education / training / coaching / mentoring. Ask yourself, “What training / education do I need to achieve my goals?” (e.g., product information, new selling techniques, communications skills, etc.) For example: I will need to create and practice an effective presentation asking investors for funds and referrals before I can begin development / production, etc., of my idea.

Want To: Many business owners fail because they lack sufficient motivation to carry them through the long hours of hard work needed to identify, define, and overcome each of the many obstacles they will face. Your success will depend in large part upon your ability to maintain your drive to succeed. Write a plan for maintaining your motivation. "I will maintain my motivation by..." (For example: I am afraid to ask my family and friends not only to invest in my idea but to encourage their friends to invest as well. I will overcome my fear by rewarding myself with one-half hour of play (e.g., tennis) for each fund request I make.)

Chance To: You may find obstacles blocking your road to success that you cannot overcome on your own. For example, legal or legislative issues. When these occur, it is necessary to face directly the source of the delay. This often requires the help of an outside expert. What obstacles do I face? (For example: My current work load already fills my schedule. I do not have the time needed to get involved in solving this problem.)

Your vision / long-term goals make up the core of your strategic plan. They should cover all of the areas of your life. However, within the business arena, they must cover specific areas of productivity, how you will market your services, as well as how you will finance your goals. Once you have determined and defined your vision, break it down into intermediate goals / milestones to measure your progress on your road to success. Remember:

If you do not know HOW TO do a job, then the usual solution is additional education. Ask questions. Read books. Hire a coach or find a mentor, have someone provide a demonstration. Practice.

If you find you do not WANT TO do the job, then an exploration of needs and motivations is usually in order.

If you are faced with an obstacle so large that you do not have the CHANCE TO do a job, then either change the job, work around the obstacle, or find an outside resource (e.g., expert) who can solve the problem for you. Remember: you can’t know everything and you can always “rent” the expertise / resources needed to overcome almost any obstacle.