You Need A Vision

Famous Chicago Architect David Burnham once said, “Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir men’s blood and probably themselves will not be realized. Make big plans; aim high in hope and work, remembering that a noble, logical diagram once recorded will never die, but long after we are gone will be a living thing, asserting itself with ever-growing insistency. Remember that our sons and grandsons are going to do things that would stagger us. Let your watchword be order and your beacon beauty. Think big.”

Burnham’s quote is often clipped.  It’s just “make no little plans”, or “think big”.  I think it’s important to read the entire quote because it transfers the full gravity and meaning from it.

One of the things that an entrepreneur needs, or anyone else that builds something that takes a long time, is vision.  Vision is that completed product which the world uses.  You can see it in your dreams.  You can taste it.  The vision is the thing that gets you up in the morning and is kindling for the fire that burns in your belly.

Vision also sustains the employees you attract and hire.  It sustains their work.  It motivates them.  Vision permeates the culture that you are creating along with the company you are building.   You not only are building a company, but in an obtuse way, you are building a cult.  Apple has a cult-like following. Cults are sticky.  They have loyalty.  They need vision.

However, the vision needs to connect to something else for it to be truly powerful.  It needs to connect to why you are doing what you are doing.  If your vision doesn’t connect back to your “why” it will be unsustainable.  If your vision only connects to monetary gains, it will be unsustainable.  If you are only in it for the money, do something else.  It’s got to connect to something that is real, achievable, and meaningful.

Don’t misconstrue “meaningful”.  Meaningful is understood to mean a lot of different things to different people. Meaningful doesn’t have to fit into the cookie cutter ideas people have about social justice or doing good.  Don’t let anyone pigeonhole you.  The vision has just got to be meaningful enough to stir the souls of the target market you are going after.

Often, people start to articulate their “why” and it’s a list of features and benefits.  Those aren’t a “why”.   Here is an example of the difference.

A bricklayer gets up every morning to go lay bricks at a church.  There is mortar, bricks, dust and a simple wall to build.

Someone says, “Hey, I see you are laying some bricks.  Looks like you built a good foundation and the wall is straight.  I bet it’s fun to create something like that.  Must be fun to work with your hands and work with different kinds of material.  I hear that a good bricklayer can make good money.”

The bricklayer retorts, “That’s all true.  But I don’t see it that way.”

The bypasser asks, “Oh yeah, how do you see it?”

The bricklayer says, “I am building God’s house.”

That’s vision.  That gets you up in the morning.

 

  • Seph

    I like this post. The point about monetary gains makes me think of something from Peter Drucker. Wish I could remember where (“Management”, I think), and paraphrasing:

    The object of doing business is not to make money. Monetary compensation is a result of doing business well and a means to doing business better. Making money should not be your stated goal unless you are in the business of literally making money with a printing press.

    • Exactly. Replicated in the Hackman-Oldham Theory of Motivation studies they did back in the 1970s.

      • awaldstein

        I agree with you but the real reason that economics first, value second shift is the power of the capital raise in how we do business.

        The vast majority of VC has zero operational experience. They are financiers and some good ones. Their dna is tied to their expertise and their metrics are profit.

        No fault anywhere but that is the reality.