How to find a vision for your startup?

and why your startup must have a vision.

Bill Gates had the vision of having a computer in every home. Steve Jobs wanted to make the best and most original products the world had ever seen. Mark Zuckerberg was so fixed on his vision he famously declined Yahoo’s $1Billion buyout offer (Facebook had an initial public offering (IPO) of $75 billion).

Defining your vision

When forming the vision for your startup company you should be very specific about the details. Building a big, house, getting married, having your own business and five cars isn’t a vision. These are just goals. Don’t mix them up.

For example Google’s vision is pretty clear: “To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”

If you don’t have a clear vision you will get distracted. Our eyes only see what’s infront of us, but a vision sees much further. Having a vision gives you constraints. If you have vision you can focus your energy, time, priorities and heart towards a specific goal.

At the end of the day, a vision will keep you on track and steer you in the right direction.

Creating your startup vision

A healthy startup is a company with clarity about what its vision is. Not only for the CEO, but for every person working on the startup. There has been some great examples about how much better startups do (they have more passion and energy) when they have a vision and their aspirations embraced by the whole team. It forms a big part of the culture of your startup.

Look at Apple, Facebook, Google, Etsy, Fab, Dropbox and LinkedIn among many other successful startups. They all have a unique vision. As the leader of the company, you are responsible for communicating the organization’s vision clearly and confidently, sharing it with your employees.

Here are three questions that you can answer to help write and plan the vision for your startup:

What is our brand?

The brand contains many separate elements. It’s the look, the smell, the values, the way things are done, the service and everything each employee does. From how someone takes out the trash to how someone does support for your clients. An important question to ask yourself is whether your startups brand is aligned with my brand?

Look at the online shoe store called Zappos. Their brand is all about customer service. It’s the one thing they are extremely good at. It’s a true reflection of their CEO Tony Hsieh’s personality. In his book called Brandiing, Adii Pienaar mentions that before you even start your startup you need to start with branding. Not necessarily even the logo or design, but who, what and why the startup exists.

Why do we exist?

This is the long term question. It’s why you and your employees get out of bed every morning. It’s the core question, the heart and the difference you make in the world.

In his book Start With Why, Simon Sinek writes that people don’t buy what you do, but why you do it and this demonstrates why companies with a clear purpose can create a movement.

Even if you have a simple small startup that helps freelancers with invoicing. You could exist to take all the pain out of invoicing or make invoicing the simplest thing on earth or make invoicing sexy again. It doesn’t matter how insignificantly small your startup is, there is always a “why” to embrace!

What is it that we are doing?

The “why” is your aspirational question and the “how” is your practical question.

  • What is it that the business does? We help freelancers with invoicing.
  • How does the business do it? By automating the invoicing process.

Now apply your aspirations to this and figure out how you will reach them.

For example: Freelancers should never think about invoicing again.

So now the “how” is pretty easy. Build and maintain a startup with the right culture and employees that takes any work, effort and pain out of invoicing for freelancers.

So what about my personal vision?

Besides a vision for your startup I believe it’s pretty important to have your own vision and that it should more or less fit in with your startups vision. Here is a few questions that will help you find your vision:

  • Who am I? For example I’m a passionate person, that likes to give more than he receives, I love eating, I love good conversation, I love Jesus, I love entrepreneurship and I love my family.
  • What do I want to do (work wise)? I would love to build and grow many companies in my lifetime and leave a sustainable heritage to my family and the world.
  • What would I do that I love it so much I would do it for free? I love building and creating products so much I would do it for free if I didn’t need food and a roof over my head.
  • What am I passionate about? Startups, people, God’s Kingdom, any board sport and my kids.
  • What inspires me? Beauty, scenery, the ocean, music, food, wine, coffee, good conversations and exercise.

My Vision

After I have defined some of my personal views and values, I can now define my vision. From my above honest personal answers my vision is: “To build products that will change the world all while putting God and my family first and shaping a better generation than the one before me”. It’s still a work in progress, but that’s where it stands today.

Your vision is always evolving

It never feels perfect when writing down your vision so don’t wait for perfect. Keep it simple. In the end it’s not about getting the assertions perfect, but rather to have a answer that pushes the company in the intended direction.

It’s hard work figuring it out, but once you have clarity about your vision, you can live life to the fullest. Remember: you don’t need to be big to think great thoughts.You need to think great thoughts to become big.

You can read more about vision and aspiration in my new book Aspirational.