Many contractors do not have a formal vision for their company. Is this a mistake?
I don’t know if it’s a mistake, but I think you will be clearer about who you are as a company and what you represent if you have a vision for your business. Maybe it’s coincidence, but most of the successful construction companies I am familiar with all have a formal vision statement for their construction company.
Recently a successful decorative concrete contractor shared with me his transition as a contractor. He shared his evolution of starting his business because he thought he could “do it better” than the contractor whom he was currently working for. After beginning his new business, however, he and his wife soon realized that they needed a strategy that would take him out of the daily workload so he could grow the business. To paraphrase his comments:
“Brad, it wasn’t until we actually sat down and developed a vision description that we began to feel more confident about what we had initially set out to do.”
I’ve heard this same sentiment from many contractors over the past 25 years. Vision is everything for a contractor. A contractor without vision is like a family taking a trip with no destination in mind…you never know when you’ve arrived.
I’ve addressed the benefits to having a vision in a past article. I likened having a vision that was more “compass like” rather than “GPS like.” But how do you actually develop a vision? Let’s take a few lessons from some contractors who have realized how critical having a vision is to their success.
1. “Vision comes from within your heart”
Developing your vision isn’t to be found in a textbook or by adopting another company’s vision. Vision comes from “within your heart,” so says my decorative concrete contractor. He admitted that when it comes to a vision for your company, it’s a “heart thing.” In other words, it’s what your heart leads you to believe is possible for your company to achieve, not being handcuffed by your company’s finances.
2. “Your vision may be just outside your actual reach”
Over the years many contractors have taught me that developing your vision must not be tied to some hard number such as revenue or profit margins. While we want to drive revenue and realize higher profits, vision isn’t necessarily financial. Vision is where you want to see your company in terms of culture, market dominance, reputation and customer satisfaction. The irony of developing a vision is that you may not actually ever achieve your vision, but the effort it takes to try and achieve it will thrust your company further than you might have been able to realize without the vision.
3. “It helps to write a vision statement; maybe rewrite your vision statement”
One learning point I picked up from a successful masonry contractor was his experience with writing several vision statements before he landed on one that he was to bank his future upon. Your vision may come from deep within your heart, but it helps to articulate that vision by putting your thoughts into words. Try just writing your vision thoughts down on a piece of paper and then look at it for a bit of time. Does it really say what you are feeling? If not, edit your statement. Don’t worry about grammar and spelling at this early stage, just get your thoughts down on paper.
4. “I think you need to share your vision with those who know you best. Can they understand where you’re coming from?”
If you are new to developing your company’s vision then share your early vision draft with one or two of your closest leaders. Get their feedback and thoughts but remember: others may not always understand your vision in the beginning. It isn’t due to their inability to read and understand the words; what they may not fully understand is the vision that only you can have for the company. Don’t panic! Stay true to your vision, but don’t be afraid to word it so that others can better understand where you want to take the company.
5. “Don’t worry about making it ‘perfect’; just get it written and then begin to share it with your leaders and workers…again and again!”
It is very important that you communicate your vision with your workers. The better they understand what you really want the company “to be” the more reason they will have to follow work processes and procedures to help reach the vision. The secret, however, to moving your company closer to your vision is to make the discussion of it common discussion. At company meetings, during personal discussions, over coffee or at lunch you should be prepared to make your vision statement part of the fabric of daily life. Every new company process or procedure should, in some way, support the achievement of your vision.
While your vision for your company is personal, you must share it with your employees in order to get everyone “pulling in the same direction.” Let me return to my decorative concrete contractor for sampling of some of the revisions his vision statement went through before he landed on the final version that he shared with his employees.
- Rough Draft #1: My vision for my company is to be the first decorative contractor that is thought of by customers needing decorative concrete.
- Rough Draft #2: My company will be the best decorative concrete contractor for customers in our market.
- Rough Draft #3: We will be the preferred decorative concrete contractor for customers in our market.
- Rough Draft #4 — Final Version: We will be THE decorative concrete contractor of choice!
As you can see, it took four revisions to finally arrive at the final vision statement — and this is quite common. More importantly, notice that each new statement is shorter, more succinct, with each of the remaining words more powerful and descriptive. When writing your vision statement, remember, “less is more.”
If you have never completed the writing of a vision statement for your company I strongly suggest that you move to develop your own statement. If you are a leader in a larger construction company, perhaps responsible for a department, division or project, then you too should develop a vision for your area of responsibility. Using the same suggestions presented above, you can add more clarity, energy and successful performance for your workers by developing a vision that they can begin to work toward!
Good luck in developing your vision statement. This may just be the best thing you could do for your company and the people who are working to make your company the best in the area!
*Article originally published in 2015 and updated in 2020.