E-News - Top Three Reasons Business Fail, Part III

Top Three Reasons Business Fail, Part III:
Lack of Vision

This is the final installment of The Top Three Reasons Business Fail. We’ve discussed what high growth and lack of investment can do, but we cannot dismiss this topic without discussing a crucial element: vision. Over dinner one evening, Dave Sullivan shared with me the importance of both a professional and a personal vision plan, and while our focus here is on business success, we both wholeheartedly agree that the latter is the most neglected. Truly, one is impossible without the other, and a personal vision is key.


In today’s stressful, fast-paced, instant-access world, we spend hours talking, texting, emailing, checking Facebook pages, and even watching too much TV, but few take the time or make the time to truly develop or implement any personal life vision .If you are one of the wise few who has developed one, is that vision clear? Does it provide you with the direction and guidance you need? Does your vision cover every area of your life (spiritual, relational, physical, social, mental, financial, and professional)? If you answered no to these questions, you may want to set aside time to turn off your gadgets and step away from technology for a moment, to spend some genuine time inside your head, updating and rethinking the vision that should be setting and motivating the roadmap of your life and, consequentially, your business.

Greg McAfee

It would be nice to drop a quarter in a coin-operated viewer, turn the knob, and be presented with a clear vision of your future, but it doesn’t work that way. Since we don’t have any reliable crystal balls, fortune cookies or Magic Eight-Balls, we need to face the facts that setting both a professional and a personal vision requires a lot of work. This is the very reason why so many neglect to do either.

So many walk, walk, walk and jump around from place to place, only to find they’re not getting anywhere for all their effort. Everyone wants to end up somewhere, but few stop to think and really visualize where they want to or should be.

Lewis Carroll, renowned Victorian author, once said, “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.” Alice in Wonderland, perhaps his most famous work, is not just a tale for children, and we can all glean much from it. Take, for instance, Alice’s conversation with the Cheshire Cat:

  • "Would you mind telling me, please, which way I ought to go from here?"
  • "That depends a good deal on where you want to get to," said the Cat.
  • "I don't much care where," said Alice.
  • "Then it doesn't matter which way you go," said the Cat.
  • "So long as I get somewhere," Alice added as an explanation.
  • "Oh, you're sure to do that," said the Cat, "if you only walk long enough."

Carroll’s quote is a pretty good summary of the exchange he penned between Alice and the Cheshire Cat. How can we choose the right road if we know not or care not where we are going? How do we get “there” when we don’t know or don’t care where “there” is? Perhaps Helen Keller, a woman aged by her difficult challenges in life, said it best: “The most pathetic person in the world is someone who has sight but has no vision.”

There are many templates online to help you develop a personal vision plan, but remember that this is not a single, solitary, permanent idea. Your personal vision should be ongoing, something that is fluid and never-ending. It will serve as the all-encompassing context for all that you do, for the goals you set for yourself, and it’s where you see yourself going. You should also allow your personal vision to change with time, as different things will be important to you during different phases of your life.


What is a professional vision? By no means is it some mystical thing, as out-there as it sounds. A professional vision, quite simply, is a picture of what success will look like to you at a particular time in the future. Your professional vision should hold the answers to several questions:

  • What does your organization look like? How big is it?
  • What are you famous for? Why does anyone care about what you do?
  • What do your employees think/feel about their jobs? How do you, as the CEO/president/owner, think/feel about the business?
  • What's your role in it? Why are you here?

Vision is such an important part of goal attainment, yet most people have no strong sense of what they want to achieve. Stephen Covey, who knew a thing or two about the habits of highly effective people, recommended that we begin with the end in mind. After completing the visioning process, you'll be able to clearly articulate the end for your organization, a solid foundation that won't change every time the market or your mood shifts.

In 2009, a Harvard Business Review project was performed by James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner. Tens of thousands of working people around the world were asked, “What do you look for and admire in a leader?” Then they asked, “What do you look for and admire in a colleague?” The number-one requirement of a leader was “honesty,” and this was also the top-ranking attribute of a good colleague. However, it is notable to add that the second-highest requirement of a leader was that he or she be “forward-looking,” an attribute that was only mentioned in regard to leadership. That sure smells like vision to me! Only 27 percent of respondents selected it as something they would want in a colleague, whereas 72 percent saw “forward-looking” as a desirable, admirable quality in a leader. No other quality showed such a dramatic difference between leader and colleague.

The expectation for a leader is not only to have a vision with a clear outcome in mind, but also an inspiring one. Walt Disney had a vision of a Magic Kingdom, a place where children and parents could have fun together. The more Walt dreamt of that "magical park," the more imaginative and elaborate it became. An inspiring vision can build excitement for you and everyone in the company. It can entice people to come to work and to work productively. That vision, after all, is the reason why we are here; everyone wants to be part of something that is full of energy, part of big happenings.

A vision is also far more than just wishful thinking. It must also be strategically sound. You have to have a reasonable shot at getting there, and it has to be understandable.

Although there are no guarantees about our future, we can visualize and paint a clear and compelling picture of what we’d like it to look like. Like Walt Disney, we have the capacity to translate vision into reality! Don’t let that happen in your personal or professional life. Develop a vision and work toward seeing it through.

Thanks to Mr. David L. Sullivan of the Shamrock Group for defining the top three reasons and allowing me to use them. Thanks Dave!

Carry On!

Greg McAfee
Greg McAfee
HVAC Business Consultant