Small business tip of the week: ID opportunities, vision for your business

Jan. 4, 2011 at 5:01 p.m.
Updated Jan. 3, 2011 at 7:04 p.m.

A new year means a new beginning with new opportunity. It's during this time of year that many of us reflect on past performances, evaluate our current positions, and plan for our futures.

In the shadow of a strained economy, it is hard to see opportunities in our future, but opportunities really do exist.

Identifying an opportunity is just the first step. Knowing which opportunity to take, and when to take it, is much more valuable. Making the right decisions at this juncture requires some vision of what you want your business to become.

As I listened to my pastor's sermon this weekend - in which he discussed the concept of a vision - I was reminded of the value of a vision, and how so many small businesses lack one.

As typical hardworking entrepreneurs, they get caught up in the day-to-day activities of chasing money, chasing work or managing chaos. Thus, the value of a vision seems foreign or irrelevant.

Creating this image of what you want your business to look like is critical for building a guidepost for all other actions. Our organization's vision was to expand our scope and quality of work so we could reach a different level of customer with greater return potential that would allow us to grow both professionally and personally.

This rather vague statement is the building block that would position us to uniquely fulfill the needs of our customers as they evolve over time - so that we are always positioned as the best solution.

Evaluating performance is a simple measure of how well you did versus how well you expected to do, but setting a vision is much more complicated. When you think of goals, you are strategizing about specific steps that will minimize cost and maximize profits, all the while growing your customer base and creating a future for your business.

When you think of a mission, you're considering the purpose of your business' existence, and the value of your products and/or services contribution in fulfilling customer needs. But when you conceive a vision, you are seeing yourself, your business and their value in a future framework that allows you to evolve into the best provider of the goods and services in your market.

So where is the relevance of a vision? I like to refer to it as a "rut buster," and I caution the typesetter to pay attention to detail in that last statement.

It seems commonplace for entrepreneurs to find themselves in a rut of some form or fashion. I can't remember the number of times I have heard or even said myself that owning a business is just not fun anymore, or I am bored and not challenged, or my hobby has become my nightmare.

All of these are symptoms of falling prey to stagnation. Overcoming this is best achieved by creating a vision for yourself and your company that leads to more fulfilling challenges for you as owner, and better sustainable solutions for your customers.

Perhaps your vision is to do more, be more and achieve more. In order to fulfill this desire, you need to build capacity, improve quality and evolve with the needs of current and future customers.

As you build your vision for your business, remember that you have a value proposition that uniquely meets the needs of your customer. Consider how that need will evolve, and plan your personal and professional growth both as individuals and a team to keep your business in the forefront.

For help in developing your vision or other issues that have an impact on your business, contact the University of Houston-Victoria Small Business Development Center.

Joe Harper is director of the University of Houston-Victoria Small Business Development Center.



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