Do you have a 5-year business plan? I know from experience of asking that question that only a tiny proportion of small businesses (under 25 staff) have anything resembling a one year plan, let alone a 5-year plan.

Or even a clear goal such as the size of the business, number of employees, types of product or service, or anything else.

Without clear goals and a written plan, it’s really difficult for you, your staff, your suppliers and other stakeholders to understand what needs doing and to help you progress in the right way. Part of it is about vision and leadership; it’s human nature that we follow natural leaders – when we see someone being inspiring, we get behind them and push them further ahead. But try inspiring people with vague goals – or no goals at all – and you’ll find it difficult.

Your company vision is also part of the ‘identity’ – how people understand and perceive the company – your brand. It’s hard for staff and customers to get excited about a business that has no clear identity. Think about any successful business and I bet you can describe what they do and what they’re all about. And if it’s something you believe in, you’ll probably recommend them to other people.

Think about your own business and consider how clear your goals are and what the company stands for. If I randomly picked on any of your staff, would they be able to tell me clearly the top 5 company goals? If I randomly picked some of your customers and asked them what your company stands for – would they be able to describe it the way you want to be described? Would they sound interested, satisfied, impressed, even excited about it?

Think also about your ‘extended team’ – you know, all those people that you’re paying but are not actually employees – your accountant, bank manager, web designer… How would they describe your company, but also do they know what your goals are? If they do, are they involved in helping you get to where you want to? When you get your extended team to understand your goals and fully behind you to get there, you’ll get there a lot faster.

Here are a few suggestions for Action to take:

  • Write a description of where your company will be in 5 years, eg revenue, profit, number of staff, number of offices, services you provide…
  • Write a description of WHY your company exists, its purpose, in a way that’s inspiring to others
  • Write 5 clear goals for where your company will be in 5 years, expressed in ways that are absolutely measurable. Then state what each of those same goals will be in 4, 3, 2 and 1 year’s time
  • Write your company values. 5-10 is typically good. Only include things you truly believe and are prepared to stand by
  • Communicate an appropriate version of the above to all stakeholders; this can be different for internal and external as long as they don’t actually conflict!

Having a clear vision for the company becomes a blueprint against which key decisions can be made. For each decision, you should ask yourself “does this take me toward the goals, away from the goals, or make no difference?”.

It’s surprising how many companies have no clear vision and struggle to make decisions. Getting the vision clear and communicated creates clarity and promotes fast growth.