Almost 90 percent of New Year’s resolutions go bad, says British psychologist and researcher Richard Wiseman. Yet, half of us will try to beat the odds anyway. For most, our attempts will lead to broken promises in February and failure guilt in March.
Why are resolutions doomed?
They’re too vague, says Wiseman. Gym memberships spike 30 percent every January. But going to the gym and hoping to lose weight are not hard resolutions. They are airy hopes. Without a plan so clear that it can be seen almost as a movie in one’s head, such resolutions will sputter. A resolution’s sad cousins in the business world are the five-year business plan and the mission statement. Most of those fail, too. Business plans of the five-year type often have numbers pulled out of thin air. Mission statements are typically mushy, politically correct, cliché-ridden and forgettable. The plans are from Mars, the statements from Venus.
A Canadian businessman, Cameron Herold, suggests a way of out of this trap. The idea occurred to him while he was watching an Olympic high-jump competition: “I saw how the best jumpers used visualisation techniques. They’d stand on the runway and use their hands to block out the view of anything but the high jump bar and the landing pit. They’d look at the bar, visualise their run up, takeoff step and roll over the bar. They could see it all, as if a movie were playing in their head.”
Why shouldn’t entrepreneurs and executives do the same thing? While chief operating officer at 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, a trash-pickup franchise based in Vancouver, Herold used what he calls “vivid visions” to increase sales from $2 million to $125 million. Today he speaks and coaches CEOs.
“A vivid vision starts when an entrepreneur, founder or CEO plants one foot in the present and then leans out and places the other in the future, the ‘what could be’.” Herold specifically recommends a three-year framework, not a one-year or a five-year one.
How to start? “Turn off your computer. Get out of your office. Go someplace remote, quiet, inspiring—a beach, a mountain. Take an unlined sketch pad and a pencil. Start writing what you see as the epitome of your success. Describe it in detail. It’s helpful to imagine that you’re filming every aspect of your business: Your employees, customers, supplier relationships and so on. Play the film in your mind. What will the big picture and the details look like three years out?”
Hold no detail back, Herold says. “What are clients saying about you? What kind of comments are your employees making at the water cooler? How is the company running day to day?” Cover every area of your business: Culture, staff, marketing, public relations, IT, operations, finance, engineering, production, customer service, etc.
Herold has written a “Vivid Vision Checklist”. He has also written a book titled Double Double: How to Double Your Revenue and Profit in Three Years or Less. Aim for 1,000 to 1,500 words, which will complete the first step. But don’t stop there. Now go out and hire a professional writer to make the words pop and a graphic artist to make it look good, says Herold.
“Your vision won’t help your company if others don’t see it as vividly as you do. Too many CEOs expect others to see the movie in their head. Well, that’s impossible. You have to make the movie available and vivid to everybody.”
After you’ve finished writing your vision and had it professionally edited and designed, put it on your website for all to see. Then make laminated copies and bring them to board and executive meetings. Start your meetings by having an executive read all or part of the vivid vision. Herold says the vivid vision should act like a magnet. “It should attract people who are committed to your vision and repel those who aren’t.”
If you think a vivid vision sounds like something a religion might do, you’re right. “The best businesses are almost religions,” says Herold without apology. “Apple, Google, Starbucks, 1-800-GOT-JUNK?” Great companies spring from vivid visions.
(Rich Karlgaard is the publisher at Forbes)
(This story appears in the 06 February, 2015 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)