Painting a vivid vision of the future is easier than you think

I recently heard an interview with Cameron Herold, the former COO of the world’s largest junk removal company.

For anyone who said there was no money in junk, they’re wrong. He’d grown the company from $2m to $106m in 6 years.

But what was really interesting was how he made that growth happen.

‘Business is simple – we just tend to overcomplicate it’

Herold did something pretty smart, yet simple, when he joined the firm, developing a ‘Vivid Vision’ for the business.

It’s an approach that’s a welcome antidote to the way most companies approach the development of their vision statement – which he says often involves: “Getting all their favourite words up on a board, mashing them up and putting it into one sentence.”

Cue endless bland and banal vision statements – that do nothing to really give the business a sense of meaningful direction. Sound familiar? 

Instead, a ‘Vivid Vision’ is a painted picture of what the business will look like in the future.

The how

It’s this simple. Imagine you’ve got into a time machine that has taken you three years into the future. Now take a look at the entire company and describe it in vivid detail.

 Who are your customers – and what are they saying about you?
 What kind of products and services are you providing – and what value do they offer?
 Who are your suppliers and business partners?
 Who are your competitors – and what sets you apart?
 Who are your employees – and what are they saying?
 What’s your culture like?

And so on. Describe every area of your business in vivid detail – your marketing, IT, finance and operations.

Then write it up in a single three or four page document. Finesse it. Get everyone on your board fully agreed and bought in. Then share it.

That vivid vision becomes the document that aligns everyone. Not just sales and marketing, but the entire business.

As Herold explains: “Everyone can see what the future looks like – and then gets to reverse engineer it, putting the plans in place that will make it come true.”

These plans can come in the form of ‘vision boards’ for each different business function – that map out the key projects and initiatives that will make it become a reality.

I love it when a plan comes together

If you’re lacking the people to make it come true, hire. Get outsourced help or mentors in. Plan your organisational chart, three years in the future, then two years, then one year out.

If you’re concerned your people may become too distracted with the future, rather than day-to-day execution, don’t.

Herold uses an interesting analogy: “Imagine three people make bricks. Ask one guy what he’s doing and he says I’m making bricks. Ask the second and he says, I’m making bricks that make a wall. Ask the third and he says, I’m making a cathedral for god and these bricks are for that cathedral. All three people are still making bricks but the one who sees the bigger vision is more aligned, inspired and feels part of the team.”

All feel a little too set in stone for you? Well, if there’s a big event that requires your company to change its course, wouldn’t you rather have all your employees aligned already – rather than trying to keep on herding cats?

While we all obsess about the need for greater marketing and sales alignment, perhaps it’s time to think bigger. Perhaps it’s worth getting your board together – and working with them to build a vivid vision. Because as Herold succinctly points out: “Only when you know where you’re going, can you figure out how you’re going to get there.”

Cameron Herold was interviewed by Mike Volpe on the Growth Show Podcast from HubSpot. Check it out here – I’d highly recommend it.