(Article originally published at Entrepreneurs Magazine)
Entrepreneurs who are on their way with their businesses, and are looking to succeed in the next phase of development of their endeavor often ask me: “What is the key to turn a small startup into a large-scale business? How does one keep that ‘spirit’ that reigns when there are just a handful of people into a 100-person organization? How does one remain committed to the startup path, despite the turns and opportunities that will arise?”
Given my experience as a digital media executive who has funded and traded three startups, invested in 14, and mentored more than 80, my answer to this question has always been the same: vision.
Merriam-Webster defines vision as “the ability to see: sight or eyesight, something that you imagine, a picture that you see in your mind, something that you see or dream,” while Wikipedia gives a more simple definition: “Vision is foresight- the capacity to envisage future market trends, and plan accordingly.”
But, in the context of entrepreneurship, I believe that vision has a different meaning.
Vision is the vital energy that drives the entrepreneur, the founder, the co-founder and his immediate team. Vision is what makes them dare: dare to explore, dare to challenge, dare to insist, dare to keep pushing, dare to have the determination to succeed. Vision is the energy that provides an entrepreneur and its organization with the ability to perform and succeed. And vision is what creates and establishes the culture, which is the key component that gets softly shared between people creating and establishing norms, expectations and duties that defines organization acts. Vision is the frame where culture lies.
Jack Welch, the former Chairman and CEO of GE, said, "If you pick the right people, and give them the opportunity to spread their wings, and put compensation as a carrier behind it, you almost don't have to manage them. Culture drives great results." Thus, an entrepreneur should be the main driving force of the passion and energy that the business or vision needs to survive. As we embark upon the journey of entrepreneurship, we are bound to face ups and downs, and so, the need for energy, perseverance, tenacity and resilience is paramount. An entrepreneur is the carrier of the motivational engine that the organization needs. He should be inspiring, enduring and motivational, having the tenacity to handle all kinds of situations in times of change.
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Great and successful entrepreneurs have achieved their purpose and goal by setting a strong and clear vision, and by pursuing it with passion. If we look at Facebook, Google, Virgin, Tesla or even the Government of Dubai, all these successful endeavors have a determined entrepreneur that has formulated a clear, yet ambitious and sometimes impossible mission behind their success. These successful entrepreneurs have a common way on preserving their vision. On the one hand, they remain engaged to the extreme with their startups, and on the other side, they have been able to surround themselves by great people and empower them to extend and implement the vision.
This former allows the entrepreneurs to keep a grip on the pulse of their company, while staying connected to their market. An example of this can be seen with Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook, who continues to personally welcome all new employees, despite his company’s staff count now reaching the around 10,000-person mark. The latter approach is what H.H. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, has used, who, after setting a ambitious and disruptive vision for his country, has been able to attract the best talents, nurture them, and ultimately empower them to implement this vision in their own domains of expertise.
But the success of a venture is not only about defining and pursuing a vision, but also about being able to instrument the vision, formulate it into something tangible, and then share it as well. This last component is critical for the entrepreneur to be able to imprint the same passion, energy, dedication and drive to a wider audience and team. When the vision gets spread across the organization, it translates into culture.
The entrepreneur should thus also have the ability to imprint his vision to drive not only his, but also his team’s energy and motivation, instilling in them the same enthusiasm, drive and perseverance that brings projects and dreams to fruition. Because a vision that is unshared and does not echo into other people is not a vision. A vision needs to be believed, nurtured and followed in order to become the lighthouse that guides the endeavor.
So, the vision is the key element that not only helps the entrepreneur in the ups and downs of a venture, but also funnels its passion, perseverance and tenacity to an end goal that needs to be shared with the organization. The vision finally allows the entrepreneur to draw others towards his own idea, to build something from scratch, and solve difficult problems in unusual and innovative ways to create greatness- which is why vision is the driver of entrepreneurship.