How to Sell Your Startup's Long-Term Vision
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Convincing others to help you pursue your goals is essential to your success as an entrepreneur. An inspiring long-term vision is one of the best ways to keep employees motivated to work hard toward those goals every day. Unlike a strategic business plan, a vision offers a broader picture of how your startup will affect change in the world. It's your job to come up with a vision in which people feel driven to work for you, invest in your business, or buy your products.
"A vision outlines the values you hold and the more meaningful contribution people can have as they pursue that vision," explains John Michela, an organizational psychologist at the University of Waterloo in Ontario.
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Most often, an entrepreneur will outline a vision during a company's launch phase or when it's about to pivot. But experts say you should remind employees of the big picture on a regular basis to keep them invested in what you're trying to accomplish. "A vision gives [employees] an opportunity to be a part of something great," says Michela. That's a powerful motivator.
When you present your long-term vision, whether it's to employees or investors, consider these three elements to make your message really sink in:
1. Be clear. Your vision drives motivation, so be sure to make it crystal clear. Michela offers an example from one of his studies where he tried to convince a group of students to invest in a new bike path. When he just showed pictures of what it would look like in the end, the message was less effective (and raised less money) than when he explained directly that the new bike path would better the environment, reduce global warming, and promote health. In other words, a specific and clear vision was more effective.
2. Be enthusiastic. Even if you hate public speaking, energy and enthusiasm are essential for selling your long-term vision. Draw people in with emotion and imagination -- whether you illustrate that by a metaphor, a story, a video, or even just your own excitement. "Use whatever means you can draw upon to make it inspirational," Michela says.
3. Follow through. People need to trust that your vision is more than just lip service. "You need to align other policies and practices in the organization so that people have the resources, motivation, and rewards to do things differently," Michela says. For example, Zappos – the popular online footwear and clothing retailer -- aligns its entire organization, from company culture to return policies, around customer service. When you present your vision, show people how every aspect of your business will support it.
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What has been most effective in selling your company's long-term vision? Share your approach and respond to other readers in the comments below.