What To Do When Your Company Takes Over? How To fight back With Vision
In March of 2004 I was 26 years old and attempting to grow my small lawn and landscape company into a successful business.
While browsing through the business section of our local Books-A-Million, I happened across the book Mentored by a Millionaire by Steven K. Scott. Little did I know at the time, but this book would introduce me to a concept that would ultimately alter the rest of my life. In the book, Steven tells his story about how he was fired from his first 9 jobs, and then his tenth job made him a multimillionaire.
(Steven is the brain behind the marketing and sales of the fitness machine The Total Gym. Yep, that is the exercise machine that turned Chuck Norris into an undefeatable fighting machine!)
At the core of his book is a principle he calls the Vision Mapping Process. Steven attributes his success to this principle.
Fast-forward 6 years, it’s now 2010, I’m 32 years old and attempting to grow another business – Ugly Mug Marketing. A long-distant friend of mine, Ari Weinzweig, releases a book titled A Lapsed Anarchist’s Approach to Building a Great Business. Three of the chapters in his book are dedicated to something Ari calls The Visioning Process.
I had seen the power of visioning back in 2004 and 2005 when I utilized the Vision Mapping Process to grow my lawn and landscape company by over 300% annually for three consecutive years. But somehow, until I read Ari’s book, I had completely let the visioning process slip from my mind.
At the end of 2010 and again at the end of 2011, I spent some time reflecting on where we were as a company, and where we were going. I even put some of this information down on paper, but that was the extent of my efforts… and in looking back, this was a HUGE mistake.
Where We Are
By the end of May 2012 we had already done as much in business at Ugly Mug Marketing as we did during all of 2011. And by the end of 2012 we will have almost doubled our revenue from 2011. And no, this rapid growth wasn’t at the expense of our profit margins. Our margins for 2012 ended actually slightly higher than they were in 2011.
We aren’t struggling. Actually, we have to ask people to wait to work with us. Sometimes they have to wait for a month or more. We have more cash on hand than ever before.
During 2012: we received praise from some of the top names in the online world (one of the top 100 most influential people online according to The Wall Street Journal); we worked with celebrities (one has been on The Today Show twice and Dr. Oz four times); built over a dozen websites for other marketing agencies; we helped clients successfully launch new products and services (one produced over $100,000 in revenue the first month); worked with clients from all around the world (Costa Rica, England, Canada, Australia, and Taiwan); we designed, coded, and launched over 500 pages on the internet; built over 40 custom websites; published a book through Amazon; regularly received glowing testimonials from clients; received over 60 referrals from our clients; and our websites received over 86,000 unique visitors during the year.
There Was a Huge Problem
Despite what others would consider to be overwhelming success, and phenomenal growth, I wasn’t satisfied with the direction we were heading. In my opinion, Ugly Mug Marketing’s future was unclear. You see, over time Ugly Mug Marketing had grown into a website factory. So much so, at one point in mid-2012 we were building 19 custom websites at one time. Yeah, I agree that is ridiculous!
A website factory is not what I ever intended to create. Ugly Mug Marketing was started with one purpose: to provide entrepreneurs with the tools and resources they need to reach their goals.
Which Direction Should We Go
Conventional business wisdom tells us that we should hire more designers, coders, and customer support staff, and capitalize on the opportunity that is in front of us. With some combination of my stubbornness, rebelliousness, and determination to help entrepreneurs reach their goals, I knew we had to change the direction we were heading.
I wish I could tell you that I immediately knew what direction to go, and exactly how to get there. But honestly, I had no clue what to do. At night I found myself staring at the ceiling when I should be sleeping. While eating, while driving, and honestly even while chatting with clients, in the back of my mind I was searching for answers on how to steer Ugly Mug Marketing into a more meaningful and remarkable company.
At the close of each year I spend time completing an annual review. (I do this both personally and for Ugly Mug Marketing.) During this time I reflect on what went right, what went wrong, and what I/we are going to do differently in the coming year. It’s from this process that I create a vision for my personal life and business life (I don’t believe in work/life balance. Last time I checked I was still alive while working, but that is a conversation for another time.) Due to my anxiety about taking Ugly Mug Marketing in a completely different direction, I decided to start this annual review process in early October.
Out of this process, I was blown away to see how much of what I had written about in my vision had actually come to fruition. Honestly, it was a bit scary. Not scary as in watching a horror film scary, but scary because it was very evident that my subconscious had actually somehow kept me on track and pushing towards my vision.
I know, I know – it sounds very new age or spiritual. However, I don’t believe either of those played a part. I attribute these results to the amazing power of the human mind, particularly the subconscious. (If you’d like to learn more about how the subconscious mind works, you should check out: The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business; Predictably Irrational; Think and Grow Rich; and Subliminal: How Your Unconscious Mind Rules Your Behavior.)
We Began To Reshape The Future With a New Vision
Needless to say, after seeing how much we had accomplished and how much what we accomplished mirrored what the vision said we would have accomplished, I decided to devote significant time to preparing a new vision for where we are heading as a company.
This time around I decided to follow the visioning process as outlined in Ari Weinzweig’s fantastic book, A Lapsed Anarchist’s Approach to Building a Great Business. Not only does the Zingerman’s visioning provide very specific steps for creating your vision, but it also does a great job of teaching you how to actually incorporate your vision into your business.
So, with these eight steps in hand (you can check them out on our blog under the Visioning category) we got to work. I began the process by writing the first-draft version. Next, Chris (the Ugly Mug Marketing Chief Project Manager, Sounding Board, Customer Service Guru, and All-Around Good Guy) and I took a field trip down to Lafayette and spent the entire day working through and redrafting the entire vision.
From there we shared the vision with Parry (our long-distant project manager), and several other key designers, coders, and advisors. We then made revisions based on their feedback.
The Truth About the Visioning Process
I wish that I could tell you that the entire process was easy and painless, but I can’t. I wish that I could tell you that the entire process only took a few hours to complete, but I can’t. I wish that I could tell you that all of our advisors immediately embraced our vision, but I can’t.
What I can tell you is that, as a result of completing this process, we are much more certain about who we are and where we are going as a company. We are more passionate, more committed, and more engaged in truly transforming Ugly Mug Marketing into a company that has a significant impact on the lives of other entrepreneurs.
What About You?
Where are you going? Do you know? Does your team know? Do you merely react to the challenges and opportunities that come your way? Or, do you have a clear vision about where you’re going, and how you’ll respond to both the challenges and opportunities that will come your direction?
As 2013 gets off to a start, take time to reflect. Where are you? How did you get here? Are you happy with where you are? If not, what can you do in 2013 to move in the right direction? If so, how can you teach and help others around you to reach their goals?
What will your life look like when the clock strikes 12:00 midnight on December 31, 2013? Take the time now to figure it out. Or don’t. After all, it’s your life to do with as you please. Regardless of what you choose to do, or not to do, please be sure that others are better as a result of having interacted with you.
We only get one shot at this thing called life. What will you make of yours?
Want to see a copy of our entire Ugly Mug Marketing 2014 Vision? Have some questions about creating your vision? I’d love to share what we’ve learned, and answer any questions you may have. Feel free to send me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Talk soon!
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