This is the fourth of five articles in the Give Birth to Your Visionary Business series, originally delivered as an email series starting on Martin Luther King Day of 2017. I've ported it here to the blog without changing the original content – which is just as relevant as it was a year ago. Learn more about the entire series here.
So far in this series on visionary business leadership, we’ve talked about making peace with where you are, creating a vision that’s worthy of a visionary, and leading a brilliant team.
In these next two lessons, we’ll be bringing it down from blue-sky thinking to the grounded and gritty reality of building your business. A visionary leader is adept at bridging the gap between vision and reality, and your visionary business strategy is at the center of this bridge.
Your strategy keeps you focused and makes your vision seem less like a pipe dream and more like an inevitable reality.
Which leads us to this lesson’s visionary business capacity…
Visionary Leadership Capacity #4 – Create and maintain a solid strategy that you can trust to carry you to your vision.
The Universe is Infinite, But Our Human Reality is Limited
I’ll be honest, I believe in magic.
I believe that we attract more of who/what/how we are.
I believe that language is powerful magic that we use on a daily basis to create our reality.
I believe that we are consciousness with a lease on a human body.
I believe that we can have (nearly) anything we want, if we want it enough.
I believe that life is not a zero-sum game.
I believe that the universe is intelligent and purposeful.
I believe that we are unlimited beings.
And if these statements were the whole truth, we would need no strategy other than “vibrate high and trust the universe!”
At the same time, our experience of life is limited.
We have 24 hours in each day, and need to sleep.
We have limited financial resources.
The world as we know it is unjust and oppressive.
We can only work so hard before we get exhausted and sick.
We can only be connected to so many people before relationships start getting impersonal.
We can only absorb and maintain so much knowledge before old learning starts to atrophy. (Do you still remember your state capitals?)
And our lease on life can be revoked any day, so time is precious.
Your visionary business strategy is the reckoning of your expansive vision with your limited resources.
In the past lesson on visioning, I invited you to go big, be creative, and shoot for the moon. Now that we’re talking strategy, your job is to actually make a plan to get to the moon with the limited resources you have. (By the way, if you haven’t seen Hidden Figures yet, you have to watch it.)
All I Really Need to Know About Strategy I Learned From Computer Games
When I was a boy, I loved computer games. I regrettably played some of those uber-violent shoot-’em-up games, to my parent’s chagrin, but my favorite types of games were the civilization-building strategy games like Age of Empires, Sim City, and Starcraft. They were amazing training for strategic thinking, even better than chess, because the pace was fast and the feedback was immediate. For instance, I learned “build orders,” which are the sequences you follow early in a game to amass resources and develop your army with maximum efficiency. (Just for fun, here’s a video of a build order in action.)
The countless hours I spent playing these games trained me as a strategist, and surely shaped my ability to weave a great business strategy. (Interacting with girls was a skill that I missed… had to catch up on that later!)
Similarly, the strategies I create with clients take into account the inner and outer resources that they possess, and the “rules of the game,” and plan a path forward that is likely to be effective.
A Visionary Business Strategy…
- States what you already know. There is immense value in stating clearly and concisely what you already know to be true about your purpose and vision, your clients and their needs, the market and what else is out there. By getting this out of your brain and on paper, you will realize how much you already know.
- Reveals what you don’t know. In the process of articulating your strategy, you will realize what you haven’t thought through yet. (“Oh crap, if I’m launching this program in the Summer, and won’t have sales until the Spring, how am I going to pay for my expenses over the next few months?” or “Hmm, I really need to get clear about how I’m going to market this…” or more subtle things of course) It’s better to surface these issues now, before you make commitments that you regret.
- Lays out a plausible pathway to success. In describing what approaches you might use, what you plan to accomplish by when, and how the pieces fit together, you are articulating what the pathway to success may look like, although of course it is likely to shift as you learn more.
- Is concise, custom, and up-to-date. I am a firm believer in a short-ish (2-5 page) plan that allows for some flexibility as you see how the year pans out rather than a 10-page masterpiece with detailed financial projections that takes way too much time and has no bearing on the real world. I would also rather you improvise your business strategy based on some prompts I’ll share with you below than to follow a formula, because you’ll be more engaged and feel more ownership of the plan.
Now it’s your turn to create (or update) your strategy. Set aside a full day for this.
20 Questions for Your Visionary Business Strategy
You can answer these in any order, starting with the ones that come most easily to you. Remember that every business strategy looks different, yet there are certain buckets of information that are important for you to be thinking about:
- What is your purpose?
- What is your vision?
- Who are your ideal clients?
- What do they struggle with?
- What do they desire?
- What is your business model?
- What are your offerings?
- What is your pricing strategy?
- What is your marketing strategy?
- What is your marketing message?
- What marketing materials do you need?
- What marketing activities will you perform?
- What is your sales process?
- What is your timeline?
- What are your financial projections?
- How else do you measure success?
- What is your learning and growth plan?
- What new habits or practices will you need to develop?
- Who is on your team, and what roles does each person play?
- What technologies and systems will you need in place?
This may seem like a lot, but if you write just 1-3 well-considered paragraphs about each of these, you’ll have a 2-5 page business plan.
The final lesson in the series!
The Other 90%