Recently, we have all seen both firsthand and in images a wide variety of business situations that swing between struggle and success. Perhaps it is the social media platforms that have increased our interest in who has been hard-hit and who actually benefitted from the pandemic as well as in the decisions that have both negatively and positively affected the business in our region, our state, our nation and all over the world.
Throughout my career, I have had the good fortune to attend meetings and conferences that included economic development professionals with decades more experience than me. Most of the meetings, especially early on in my experience working in economic development, I would sit silently, listen and take both physical and mental notes of what the rest of the group was discussing. If you know me today, that may seem a little hard to envision. Truth be told, despite the economic development experience I have had over the past two decades, I still consider myself a student. I still yearn to learn more and I still take notes.
Many times in economic development meetings, the topic turns to vision for a specific project, community or business. So I have been thinking quite a bit about vision and the value of vision during this COVID-19 time of commerce. Embrace and harness the power to create a realistic vision and use your skills and abilities to help others and those around you to “see it”.
Vision can be defined as a “picture”. They say a picture is worth a thousand words. All this thought and talk of pictures brings me to another question: If a picture is truly worth a thousand words, then how much are your words and actions worth?
In business, arguably your word is worth everything. If you do not keep your word to your employees and customers, you most likely will not have those employees or customers for long. If you choose not to honor a commitment to a fellow business owner you stand to lose credibility in your business community and industry.
However, when it comes to areas like economic development and how it relates to business growth and development, what value is placed on words and actions as it relates to vision?
There is tremendous value in realistic vision when it comes to economic development. People signing on to fulfilling an agreed upon vision is the strength that can power the vision to reality. Here are just a few keys that I have learned through experience that potentially can be applied to both large economic development as well as to help business owners build consensus and support the vision as it relates to individual businesses:
• Develop a plan and share the plan: Plans are the basis for action, and while the importance of a solid plan is paramount, who will work the plan that is developed is equally as important. Making sure the people that the plan affects or benefits are aware of and understand the plan is vital to gaining support and forward progress.
• Plan for what may go wrong: If you take a realistic look at what could prove to be problems or potential trouble spots in your plan or vision, work on solving those issues before they arise. They may not ever occur but plan for them anyway. Perhaps even consider enlisting those around you and perhaps some professionals (if needed) to assist in the process of outreach and managing communications.
• Create a realistic vision and work to make it real: It has been said that you have to be able to “see it” to “be it”. While adjusting the plans and timeframes of projects tends to be necessary from time to time, the original vison and reasons for the initiative, if still relevant, should remain the top priority and focus.
• Under promise and over deliver: It is so much easier to succeed when you do not over promise the impact of the work or project being undertaken. It is also easier for people to engage, support and celebrate the initiative when you experience much better results than planned for or expected.
While every proposed vision or plan does not come to fruition, a more thoughtful approach to business development in our region is needed now more than ever. Responsible and realistic business planning is good for almost everyone. Picture the vision; plan and work to champion positives ideas and concepts that can lead to more impactful business development that helps create greater value.