The business world is fraught with uncertainty. No business leader or owner can predict with certainty what will happen to their companies in the coming year, five years, or even 100 years. “Uncertainty is the only certainty there is,” wrote mathematician John Allen Paulos. Is it possible, despite the uncertainty, to build a vision for our businesses? I believe that creating a business vision does not require certainty. Businesses need a compelling vision, even in the face of uncertainty. A vision helps them to know where they are heading. What is your vision for your company’s future?
One of the most inspiring visioning examples I’ve seen is from a company called Mainfreight. In 1978, Mainfreight began operations in New Zealand. The founding partners established a 100-year vision in 1979. The founders set out to create a business that would last another 100 years. As a result, the company bases all of its decisions on the assumption that it will continue to exist for another 100 years. Mainfreight became a public company in 1996 and is now listed on the New Zealand Stock Exchange. Today, the company has a global network of 24 countries, 305 branch locations, and 10,024 employees. Every day, its 100-year vision begins anew. Mainfreight’s vision is to continue operating for another 100 years after being in business for 44 years.
The Mainfreight 100-year vision has guided its staff recruitment and training as well as its relationships with suppliers and customers. It has become a way of life for Mainfreight. Many other global and local businesses draw their inspiration from the visions of their founders and business leaders. Walter Disney’s vision has been to be the world’s premier entertainment company. Meta’s (Facebook) vision has been to bring the world closer together. Apple’s vision seems to be about making great products, while that of Microsoft is about helping people and businesses realize their full potential. Unfortunately, many other companies lack vision and, as a result, are unable to see far. Such businesses are frequently blinded by the veil of uncertainty that surrounds them. Have you created a vision for your business? What is the vision of your business?
It is not always easy to visualize what a business will look like in the future when it’s first starting off. To do so requires an evaluation of the present as well as creating a mental image of the desired future. The visualizing process helps business leaders to have in place a shared vision, and this gives direction. Businesses where owners have spent time envisioning the future stand out from those without any vision. Once a vision has been created, it must be lived out every day through the decisions and actions that are taken. The mental picture we create for our businesses may evolve over time. This is because the internal and external environments of business change and new information becomes available. As such, visualizing the future of our businesses needs to be an ongoing process. Every day, we are either creating or destroying the future of our businesses!
Dr Lucy Kiruthu is a Management Consultant and Trainer. Connect via Twitter @KiruthuLucy