We're just going into election mode with the European polls upcoming (and now a by-election in Newark, to keep all the chatterati busy), and nearly every time any leading politician is interviewed, they spend much of the time talking about what they don't want.
This is obviously true of UKIP, since their entire raison d'être is dedicated to not wanting things, but all the others are almost equally guilty.
If asked what any of the main party leaders stand for, what they believe in, I could probably trot out the same some sort of meaningless waffle that they do. Motherhood and apple pie in politico speak. Ask me what their vision of Britain in 2020/2030/2050 is, and I couldn't even start waffling.
And I know it's easy to stand on the sidelines shouting, but at least I could articulate what I personally would like to see prioritised.
For me it's infrastructure: if the government supplies the right frameworks, they can leave the rest of us to get on with it, without their constant interference. That means:
1. Energy self-sufficiency (as green as possible) as soon as possible
2. Transport connectivity that is the envy of Europe. (Unlike most of my Buckinghamshire neighbours, I'm for HS2 not against it).
3. Superfast Broadband connectivity everywhere, including out in the sticks, where more and more businesses are choosing to work.
4. Complete de-regulation of all small businesses with five employees or fewer.
5. Make it much more lucrative for people to work than not work, and make everyone do work of some sort in return for benefits.
There: that's my basic manifesto. So what's that got to do with you and your business, I hear you ask? The clue is in the paragraph about infrastructure, above.
DO YOU HAVE ONE ?
When I'm talking to business owners about their growth plans, (if they don't have growth plans, we won't be talking), one of the mantras I repeat is that if you don't tell your staff where you're trying to get to, how can you expect them to help you get there?
But in order to do that, you have to define where "there" is, which means (and I'm sorry to have to use such an onanistic phrase, but I can think of no other), articulating your vision of where the business should be in 5/10/20 years' time - and the various means you propose to employ to get it there.
In common parlance, it's called a business plan, though as a Driver/High D (for those of you who have ever used personality profiling), I prefer executive summaries and single-page plans to the giant door-stops that are sometimes produced, and rarely revisited, once produced.
Vision, though, is a lot more than a bald plan of how much money you want to make. There's a "Ted Talks" video by Simon Sinek called "Getting To Why" that I've promoted here before, and I recommend anyone with a business that they have growth plans for to view it.
Its central premise is that people don't buy what you do; they buy why you do it. Most companies know what they do; some can explain how they do it; very few have any sort of belief system about why they are in business (and more importantly why anyone else should care). Your most loyal customers come from that segment that doesn't just buy what you do, they believe what you believe.
What develops from that belief structure is a unique culture - something your competitors cannot emulate or copy, because it's personal. It comes from the people at the top - in large established corporations, often from the founders - and percolates throughout the organisation. The Apple culture is essentially Steve Jobs's vision.
It is that vision, that point of difference (or uncommon offering, as it is sometimes called), that "why", that gives you an ongoing competitive advantage.
So here's your test: on the back of a postcard (you can tell how old I am) in 20 words or less (I know: it should be 'fewer'), tell me what your business believes in, that sets it apart from every other business.
It's the best exercise you'll give your brain all year.
I run workshops on this, usually lasting between half a day and a day, depending on the complexity of the business, to summarise all this in your own mind. The more directors and senior managers there are involved, the longer the process, in my experience. Unless they're all "Yes" men.
You'll still have to communicate all this to your staff, and make sure it sticks in their own communications, but at least you'll hopefully be singing from the same song-sheet.
And that will constitute some sort of vision.
David Croydon: 01844 238692 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org