By Jamie Gerdsen, an EO Cincinnati member and CEO of Apollo Home
If I had to pick one tool that’s helped me achieve the most success in business, it’s visualization. By visualizing how your industry is changing and what future customers will demand, you can position your company in the best place to satisfy them. Visualization can also help you see how an added service might impact your business, what increased staffing levels might offer, how cost-cutting might impact services, and so on. So how do you use visualization as a tool for business growth? It’s surprisingly easy, actually. To get the most out my business, I follow these visualization guidelines:
• Choose the subject of your visualization. Make your visualization topic specific. For example, imagine how your organization would function if you added another element to it. If you don’t hone in on something specific, you’ll be “blue skying” everything. Setting visualization parameters early on has helped me create a structure for my success.
• Decide who should participate in the visualization. In my experience, smaller groups work best (five people make an ideal group size). When I’m preparing to visualize, I make it a point not to automatically choose the five people at the top. A diversity of viewpoints is important. I like to have someone from sales in the group because that person is closest to the customer.
• Include someone from outside the company. I’ve found that sometimes having an objective external viewpoint can be very advantageous. If there’s a subject matter expert, an accountant or a lawyer who would add value to the discussion, ask them to join the group. Outsiders are usually respectfully quiet at the start, so try and engage them from the get-go.
• Consider an off-site location. Taking the proper amount of time to visualize your business success (and how to achieve it) is important, and if you hold the meeting in your conference room, someone will likely stick their head in the doorway every five minutes. Those interruptions disrupt the visualization process and hurt productivity. Don’t limit yourself in that way. Try and go off-site so you can have the group’s full attention.
• Tell the group what you’ll be doing. If the purpose of the session is to talk about what the company might look like after the addition of your element, share that in advance as the task to be accomplished. Head off any speculation as to what this get-together is about and don’t make them guess what they’ll be doing. I’ve found that transparency early and often is a big factor when it comes to successful strategy development.
• Leave titles at the door. If everyone is waiting to hear what the boss says before speaking, your session is doomed. I make it a point of telling everyone before the visualization begins that there is no rank in the room. Everyone is equal and all comments carry the same weight.
• Assign homework prior to the visualization. You’ll want to make sure the appropriate people at the table have brought all of the facts and figures needed to aid your discussions. Don’t be caught lacking specific information. That’s the dagger in the development of a visualized objective.
• Take your time with the process. Visualization sessions serve as a tool, just like a hammer. If properly used, you’ll drive home the needed nails. But you can also smack your thumb. In many ways, strategic visualization can give you a valuable look at the future, but it can also turn into an argumentative session. To feel the full effect of your session, keep it positive, keep it on point and always keep it tactile.
Jamie Gerdsen is the president and CEO of Apollo Home, a company that repairs and replaces home mechanical systems. Fun fact: Jamie is the author of Squirrels, Boats and Thoroughbreds: Lessons for Leading Change, which is inspired by his experience running a family business. Contact Jamie at firstname.lastname@example.org.