As an architect, you have likely spent thousands of hours drawing and coming up with plans for a project. That’s because you have been taught that, in order to construct a building, you need detailed drawings in place first. You know that you need to have an idea of what the finished building will look like before you even get close to construction.
It may be a surprise to you that the same theory applies to running a business.
In order to run a successful business, you need to have an idea of what you want it to look like in the future. You need a vision.
A vision is a clearly articulated, results-oriented picture of the future you intend to create. It is an energising view of the future and it is one of the most powerful weapons in the armoury of the successful business leader.
Practice owners need to have a well-formulated vision for their practice if they want their practice to truly make an impact. Otherwise, leading a practice can feel like a never-ending treadmill, full of ups and downs, with no clear direction or purpose.
In this article, we break down how you can create a vision for your practice and use it as a guiding force for your business.
Setting a vision
Setting your vision is a feelings-based exercise. The key is to be closely involved with the process.
Start off by considering what you want your practice to look like in the future, say five years.
Do you want to be leading a staff of ten people? Perhaps you see yourself in a sleek office that features spanning city views. Or maybe you simply want to have a well-run practice, one that provides you with a reasonable salary, allows you to take four week-long holidays a year and makes good profit.
Think about what you want your future to look like, and make sure that it is a clear picture that you can actually see yourself in.
Then, work backwards. If you want to make $100,000 in profit in three years time, what are the milestones along the way? What sort of projects and how many of these do you see in your vision? What will the first year need to look like to realistically move you towards your vision? You do not need to have all of the answers at this stage, but rather a general idea to get you started.
When setting your vision, it is important that you shut off the ‘how’ question. Do not let yourself be limited by ‘how’ you might secure those projects or land all those clients. All you need at this moment is a vision and the first few steps of getting there – you do not need to plan for everything in between. You have no way of knowing what’s going to happen in between.
If we had the steps to get to that point, then we would have already gotten there. There will always be, what we call, a zone of unknowns between where you are now and where you are going, so it’s best that you get comfortable with that. If the last two years have taught us anything, it’s that the best laid plans will change and importantly, we each have the resilience to work through that.
Getting others to follow your vision
Once you’ve settled on your vision, you’ll want your team and those around you to be in full support.
As a leader, you need your employees to buy into your vision. You want them to align with your plan for the future, so that you’re both working towards the same goal.
Here are a few suggestions for how to make that happen:
Communicate: The vision is not something that sits in a drawer or is framed in your reception. It should be part of daily conversation – “It’s going to be great when we achieve x, y or z”, or “I’m looking forward to the day when we have a new office / 100 clients / 2 new developers.” As the founder, you need to keep the vision center stage when the going gets tough.
Personalise: Make the vision relevant for your team at an individual level. Think about what it will mean to your employees when your practice reaches a revenue of $100,000 per month. Will Rob get a raise then? Perhaps you’ll promote Lucy to senior architect at that point. What career development opportunities will be opened up for people when the vision is realized?
Set milestones or goals, then celebrate wins: A new vision can sometimes be hard for people to grasp. They want to know exactly how we are going to reach the vision. Your job as a leader is to develop a belief that great things are possible even if we don’t exactly know how today. You can set interim goals or milestones so that you can gauge your progress towards your vision. Celebrating the achievement of these goals is a good way to maintain positive energy around the ultimate vision.
Maintain a positive energy around the vision: It’s easy for a big vision to get translated as “more work for me” or even “so what” for your employees. Your job as a leader is to notice when positive energy levels are slipping and to take steps to re-energise the team around the vision.
Using the vision as a guiding light
Once you’ve laid out your vision and your team are onboard, use the vision to help your business move forward.
One of the most important roles a business owner has is to be the key decision maker.
Your vision for your practice can serve as an anchor for all of your decisions. When faced with a tough choice, don’t think about which choice will help solve your problem today. Rather, think about which choice will take you closer to your vision.
Choosing a vision and sticking to it will also help you focus. Many entrepreneurs believe that they have a greater chance of success if they keep their options open.
For example, young entrepreneurial architects may choose to take on all kinds of projects as they think it will help them gain more business. In reality, this could not be farther from the truth. Picking a niche and sticking to that niche will be much more beneficial for the owner and the business in the long-run. That’s why it’s important to be specific about your vision and what kinds of projects you want to be doing from an early stage.
The sooner you start to align your everyday decisions to your vision, the sooner you will get there.
At the end of the day, it all boils down to belief.
At Archibiz, we often ask our clients the challenging question: “What life are you brave enough to ask for today?”
Do you have the confidence in yourself to think big?
In the words of Henry Ford, “Whether you think you can, or whether you think you can’t, you’re probably right.”
Archibiz is here to help. If you are looking for guidance in developing your own business vision, get in touch with us. We offer courses, workshops and individualized business mentoring to help you develop and grow your practice in a simple and sustainable way.