9 out of 10 Small Businesses Fail This Test

Remember the first week of grade school? It was a time of catching up with your friends you hadn't seen since the end of the last school year, a new classroom, and discovering new friends. The teachers had to get the kids back into the routine of learning. And without fail you would have to answer this question: What do you want to be when you grow up?


Fast forward a couple decades. We get older, we get out on our own, and the question remains: what do you want to be when you "grow up"? Small business leaders ask the same question about their business. What do they want their business to be when it grows up?

It's impossible to answer that question without knowing what is meant by "grow up." That's why it's important to change the question. A better question to ask is, "what do I want my business to be in 5 years?" If you're a startup, you might want to shorten the timeline to 1 or 3 years.

Answering this question about your business is, in effect, you company vision.

Unfortunately, too few business leaders think about their company vision. It's not that they can't picture in their mind what the company will look like in the future. The problem is that they cannot articulate the vision to anyone else. Think about the effect this has on the business. 

Without a clear vision statement, how are your employees going to stay motivated and driven to move the company forward? As a business leader, how will you know how to hire the right people, or business opportunities to pursue or decline?


Having a clear vision statement will bring immense clarity to your business and team. So let's talk about how you can come up with one.

First, it needs to be aspirational. It's something to strive for, something that can be measured, but not something that can be fully obtained. To give you an idea of what this is, here's Home Depot's vision statement: "To have the best customer service in retail." This is something they can strive for, they measure it in a few ways, but they can never fully obtain perfect customer service. 

Second, a clear vision statement anchors the company to something they want to become. Imagine if every decision, every behavior, and every client interaction was done through the lens of a clear mission statement! Does this action move us closer to fulfilling our vision? If not, we're not doing it.

Third, a clear vision statement provides a target for the future of what the company is to be like or achieve. It shapes the company culture. It gives direction, clarity, and a goal to pursue. It fosters growth and provides guardrails to know what to do or not do. 


Many of you reading this are thinking, "Yep. Clear vision. We've got that here." In our experience, 9 out of 10 times the leaders who have this assumption are wrong.

Here are two things you can do today to test your assumption. One, find a mirror, gaze into your reflection, and say your vision to yourself. I bet only half of you could pass this test. If you did, try test number two. Go ask your employees what the company vision is. if they get it right, give them a $5 bill. If they get it wrong, put the $5 bill in a jar. 

Once your jar is full of 5s, get to work articulating a clear vision statement. Share it at every staff meeting. Talk about it periodically during the week with your employees. Repeat it so often you can state it in your sleep. Then repeat the test. 

Take your jar full of $5 bills, and go ask your team members what they vision statement is. If they get it right, give the a bill from the jar. If they get it wrong, you know what to do. Add $5 to the jar. 

It's baffling to see so many small businesses fail to have a team of people working together toward a common vision. The companies with a clear, communicated and understood vision statement are the ones that win.   Don't make the mistake of assuming you're one of them; it's too costly to get this wrong.

Armour Martin Consulting LLC provides premium online content to help business leaders grow confidently in their business and see results in 90 days. Click here to get your free copy of the guide, 5 Steps to Achieving Any Goal.  Connect and follow on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.

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Photo courtesy of Sean Brown and Unsplash.com.