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Business owners often possess some pretty lofty goals for running and growing their businesses. Maybe they want to reach $5 million in sales, or perhaps they hope to purchase a second company. It is important to have big ambitions when it comes to business ownership. Setting and attaining benchmarks is key to forward movement. But reaching company targets, even very substantial ones, is only part of the recipe for true business owner success. Often, entrepreneurs fail to recognize a crucial consideration when setting business goals or making important growth decisions: how do these objectives align with their own personal vision?
When business owners approach me for insight into achieving something significant in their company, I first ask them, “What do you want from your life, and what is your personal vision of success?”
This line of questioning often catches them off guard. They might respond, “Business is business. I can adjust my personal life to accommodate my business goals.” But that approach is not fair to the private business owner nor the company itself, as personal and business success are almost inextricably intertwined.
You are much more likely to achieve the vision you want for your business if it is aligned with the vision you want for your life.
It’s like riding a bike
Vision alignment means you get to your destination quicker and enjoy the journey much more.
Think of entrepreneurial success as a bicycle. The front wheel of the bike represents your personal vision. The rear wheel is your company’s vision. When those vision wheels are aligned, they propel both you and your business forward in a mutually positive way. If you sacrifice your personal vision to achieve your business vision, the bike’s wheels no longer move in tandem, and something has to give. And that something is usually you, the business owner.
Let’s use the purchase of that second company as an example. Your business vision might be to expand your company, bring in new revenue streams and perhaps open more locations. Which is fantastic, and that acquisition seems to make great sense to pursue. That is unless your personal vision is to cut back on those 80-hour work weeks and spend more time with the kids or grandchildren. In that case, you probably would want to pass on that opportunity to keep those vision wheels aligned and moving in synchronicity.
Personal vision comes first
So many business owners get this wrong. They set their company vision first and undoubtedly lay out some big goals in the process. Their eagerness for and commitment to business success is commendable, but at what cost to their personal vision and contentment?
Remember, the front wheel of our success bicycle is personal vision. By leading with what you desire in your personal life — whether that be spending more time with your family, planning your exit strategy or anything else that you feel is important — you can better craft and steer a vision for your company that aligns with that personal vision.
Now let’s reverse the order and lead with the business vision wheel instead. What happens, then? This isn’t even really hypothetical, because so many business owners are stuck in this unfortunate dynamic. They overlook or willingly sacrifice their personal vision to achieve whatever short- or long-term benchmarks they set for the business. Is it admirable? Maybe. Is it sustainable? Perhaps. Is it healthy? Almost certainly not.
Leading with your business vision almost always comes with a substantial personal cost.
Is this really about working less?
Creating alignment between your own vision and your business vision certainly has its personal benefits. But vision alignment is not really about a business owner’s work-life balance, per se. It is about creating stability and orchestrating success in each arena without sacrificing the well-being of the other. It is about fostering synergy in the two most important aspects of a business owner’s life. And perhaps most notably, it is about understanding that even a successful business being led by a dramatically dissatisfied business owner is actually not as successful as it could be.
Creating your personal vision
If you do not already have a meaningful personal vision statement, challenge yourself to create one. Identify your personal values, strengths and goals for your life. Consider both your short-term obligations and your long-term hopes and dreams. Craft and hone that personal vision until it is abundantly clear and concise.
If you already have a well-crafted personal vision, kudos to you. If you have also built a strong business vision, even better. It is time to align those visions to support your success and longevity.
And don’t forget to lead with that front bicycle wheel. It will steer you and your business where you want to go.