Testing Your Vision
This past weekend my good friend and client, Frank Santora started a church in the middle of Time Square NYC. He couldn’t have picked a more difficult and expensive place to plant a church, but I’m glad he did. People in the city need to hear the gospel in a dynamic and unique way, and Frank is a gifted writer and communicator. Vision is a powerful motivation and one that often doesn’t make sense, but once it grabs hold of us, it can change everything.
I had a vision to start The A Group several years before we started it in 2001. I remember a former boss saying, “what you want to do is needed, but I don’t think people will pay for it.” He was wrong. I’m glad. But too often the naysayers win the day and the vision that had been growing within us dies without ever being birthed.
Here are a few ways to look and validate vision in my life:
Let it develop. Visions start often with an “aha” moment. “What if we could do …?” Or “It’s time for someone to create a better solution to this problem. I think I know how to solve it.” Take time and think through the problem you’re solving or the experience you are about to create. Sometimes people work vision out in their minds for months, even years before they are ready to consider giving it life.
Test it. Do your work. Look around and see who’s doing something similar to what you want to do and learn from them. Understand your audience, the opportunity, the threats, and the industry or sector you are considering. Talk with a mentor or someone whom you trust who can unbiasedly give you good council.
Align it with your skills and experience. Even a dynamic vision outside your skill set and knowledge base might not succeed. If you have a passion to start a high-end restaurant but have never spent a day in the food or entertainment business, you might not make it. I remember starting a custom cabinet company years ago. I ended up giving my shares to my business partner and walking away from the business because I knew nothing, nor cared about manufacturing cabinets. It’s one thing to invest in a promising startup, but to start one up without an insider’s perspective can be painfully costly.
Count the cost. While we can never truly put a cost on a new venture, we should have a business plan as a guideline. What’s my break-even point? How much volume do I need to be profitable? How much cash do I need in hand to be able to operate? How much should I set aside for marketing? Don’t walk into a new vision blinded by the opportunity without counting the cost. The sexiness of the idea will soon give way the harshness of the realities of cash flow, unexpected expenses, and a slower-than-expected forward momentum.