An introduction to defining and communicating your vision for success

Understanding what success means to your business is crucial to achieving it. This guide outlines how you can start defining your vision.

Despite the hard work that goes into running a business, a lot of leaders don’t have a clear definition of what they want to achieve or what success looks like. Only 22 per cent of employees strongly believe that leaders have a clear direction for their company.

It can be hard to know how high to aim, whether you should create a vision that’s conservative but achievable, or choose something ambitious that you might be working towards for ten or 20 years.

Defining what success means to your business is crucial to achieving it. You’ll be able to join groups and forums where people in similar situations share their experiences. You’ll also naturally become more willing to seek external advice and support, because it will be tailored to you and quickly prove its worth.

Once you’ve decided on that vision, the next challenge is communicating it. According to a recent survey, 52 per cent of employees aren’t clear on what their company’s vision is.

This guide will provide an overview of how you can define and communicate your vision for success, from common mistakes you might be making to quick wins. The next step will be to use our action plan to direct your change and improvement.

What factors affect how you define and communicate your vision for success?

Your company’s strengths and weaknesses

It’s simple to define what success looks like when a business is still a pipe dream – pick something out of thin air and assume that will be your end goal. But it becomes more challenging when your business is a living, breathing thing.

Factoring in strengths and weaknesses helps leaders to create a vision that’s realistic. If your biggest strength is retaining customers, then it makes sense to build a vision based around that.

The positioning of competitors

A key factor to consider when it comes to defining success is working out where you want to sit in the market.

It’s important to know what differentiates your business by researching competitors and finding out more about what their goals are. Your vision of success might be to be the primary partner of choice for a big player in your industry, but if your competitor has a similar vision then it would be wise to adopt a broader perspective.

Stakeholder influence

It’s worth taking into account the expectations that any investors or key stakeholders may have about your future.

With some forms of funding, there are conditional projects that must be completed, or certain targets that need to be hit. This could be a factor in shaping what you work on for the next five years and, ultimately, your vision for the company.

Ed Molyneux, Free Agent

For Ed Molyneux, having a clear goal removes the temptation to chase every opportunity

“Focus is the key because you can’t do everything. The real temptation is to pursue every opportunity and go after every customer. Setting goals with clarity is about giving yourself permission to say ‘no’ to everything else.”

Ed Molyneux, founder and CEO of FreeAgent

The cold hard facts

Despite 79 per cent of business leaders acknowledging the importance of a clear vision of success, less than half are using it to inform decision making.

A huge 66 per cent of leaders haven’t incorporated the concept of a company vision into wider decision making.

Common mistakes with defining and communicating your vision

Following the crowd

One of the biggest mistakes when defining your vision for success is following trends. While there are definitely some benefits to research and benchmarking your business against competitors, it’s important not to get too caught up in what everyone else is doing.

Following the crowd can ultimately take your business in a direction you didn’t want to go. If you’re always trying to keep up with what other people are doing, you could end up becoming reactive and losing focus on what you really wanted to achieve.

Using generic resources

Many resources geared towards small companies assume that they want to achieve rapid growth, but that advice isn’t applicable to every business. Some businesses will naturally be more focused on things like client retention or employee satisfaction.

One of the biggest mistakes that leaders make is absorbing information from every guide available, rather than honing in on what really matters to them. By establishing a clear vision, you can cut through the noise and make sure you’re only taking on advice that is relevant to you.

Losing your roots

It’s easy to get swept up in other people’s definitions of success. In doing so, you can forget what your objectives are and what is at the heart of your company.

Just because another business wants to become the next Google, it doesn’t mean you have to have the same goal. Remember that success isn’t about what you think it should look like, but what it truly means to you.

If the driving force of your company is its high level of employee satisfaction or impressive customer service, weave that into your overall vision. Stick to your roots, align your overall vision with your core values and go with what you know works.

Failing to get the rest of your team on board

Once you’ve defined what success looks like, it’s essential to spend time getting your management team and employees on board.

Sending out a single memo or mentioning it at the end of a meeting probably won’t have an impact. If you want people to really buy into your vision, they need to know why you’ve chosen what you have.

What does that vision mean to you? How does it impact their day to day work? Think about how you can get staff engaged and excited about your definition of success.

Dale Williams

Dale Williams advises other leaders to focus on what they're good at, particularly in the early stages of the business

“Focusing on what you’re good at is important. It’s too easy to diversify very early on. There’s a lot to be said for focusing on your strengths.”

Dale Williams, founder and CEO of Yolk Recruitment

The cold hard facts

Communicating a clear vision to your employees gives them direction. Around 75 per cent of satisfied employees are very aware of the purpose of their company and what they’re working towards.

Quick wins for defining and communicating your vision

Look at your original business plans or goals

Looking back at early plans for the business or your goals over the last five years can give you a good idea of where to start when defining your vision.

You might find that old plans are still relevant and you’ve been unconsciously working towards a similar vision ever since. Or, it could do the opposite and show you how much the business has changed.

Either way, it’s a quick exercise to get you thinking along the right path.

Seek a fresh perspective

Seek out an external expert or consultant to gain some objective insights and get impartial feedback. It’s a great way to focus on what you want to achieve and what is really important to you.

While getting advice from peers in your network can shape your process, it’s also easy to slip into the trap of creating a vision that you think others will approve of. If everyone else is following a certain path in their business, it creates the assumption that there’s a right or wrong direction to take.

Ready to define what success looks like for your business?

Develop a clear vision with this action plan

Run a workshop with employees

Your people are the foundation of your company and they can have invaluable insights at ground level that you may not see on a day to day basis.

Taking other people’s opinions into account makes a huge difference with projects like this, and it’s always helpful to bounce ideas around and get new perspectives on things.

Host a workshop and encourage your team to express their thoughts and ideas. Where do they see the company in ten years? What does success look like to them?

Invite them to share feedback with you and schedule a follow-up session when everyone’s had time to reflect on the discussion.

Spend time communicating your vision

One of the most important aspects of communicating your vision internally is ensuring everyone is on board, from junior employees to heads of departments.

This means taking the time to listen to any questions that your team may have, and actively working on solutions that make everyone feel included in your vision.

Make sure everyone in your company understands what you’re aiming for. Whether you’re moving in a new direction or you’ve decided to go back to basics, let your team know why you’re making that change.

“I think that vision and values are a great yardstick to come back to so that you can see if you’re fulfilling what you wanted to be doing. In our case, they’ve certainly helped us to make some important business decisions.”

Aidan Bell, co-founder of EnviroBuild

The cold hard facts

Research shows that in companies that were clear about the value they create for customers, 67 per cent of employees felt proud and 65 per cent felt passionate.

In companies that weren’t clear about their value, those figures fell to 30 per cent and 32 per cent respectively.

Now you’ve learnt about the underlying factors that affect how you define and communicate your vision for success, use our action plan to direct your improvement efforts.