Context or Content – Are you ‘fuelling’ your Vision?



Where there is no vision the people perish (Proverbs 29:18)

This is probably one of the oldest and most widely used quotes when discussing vision. Like me, most people take it out of context.  But it is a strong reminder for business owners and leaders that without a well formed, fuelled and focused vision, our business will not flourish. Businesses and organisations die when they lose or abuse their vision.


In the past two years I have worked with over 200 small business owners spending approximately 20 hours with each of them.  This has predominantly been with the Queensland Government subsidised Planning for Success workshop and mentoring Program.


In our first workshop, I spend considerable time exploring the difference between the ‘context’ and ‘content’ of running a small business and in developing a strategic growth plan.


Most business owners are so engrossed in the ‘content’ of running the day to day operations of their business; they forget the big questions – or the ‘context’ of their business.  Most have never seriously or formally considered answering such questions as Why does my business exist? (Purpose), Where am I headed? (Vision), How am I going to get there? (Missions) and What are the principles and values that underpin and integrate my business?


Dare I repeat the now hackneyed phrase – most business owners are so bound up working in their business (content) that they don’t take sufficient time out to work strategically on their business (context)? 


Vision is your picture of the future.  It encompasses your dreams and possibilities.  It offers inspiration and hope to your business or organisation, to you and to others.  It is both internal and external.  First you see it in your mind’s “eye” and then you bring it to reality.  As Peter Drucker says, “The best way to predict the future is to create it.”



In your organisation a vision may be a high level, inspirational, encompassing point of view that motivates and attracts others to this path.  Or it may be a picture on the wall, a graphic, a dream board or a single word or phrase. (I know of an IT company whose vision was “Business in a Button” or a Shop Fitting Business who simply had their vision as Creating Theatre).


In a recent workshop with a small group of 8 business owners I gave them all a large flip chart and a packet of coloured pens.  The aim was to capture graphically and in writing a picture of the future of their business.


After I clearly distinguished the difference between the meaning of Purpose, Vision, Missions and Values they began to think creatively outside of the usual square as they developed their vision. 


The main criterion was that it had to be inspiring.  They had to get excited.  This was not a goal setting exercise.  It had to really capture their hearts’ desires and those secret thoughts and dreams.  



When was the last time you sat down and asked yourself: ‘Where is my business headed?’ What do I want my business to look like in 2 or 3 years’ time?


If you don’t know where to start, capture your thoughts on where your business in now and then how you want to see it in the future.





If your current business were a movie, what name would you call it now?  And what title will you give to the movie of your business when you have fulfilled your vision?


Or to get you going you might like to consider the following:

  • Close your eyes, picture your organisation is 3-5 years from now. What do you see?
  • What is happening to inspire and align the people? (Think commercially and culturally)
  • Where is the energy flowing from? (Internal/External)
  • What sorts of people are involved? What’s the turnover?
  • How many staff? What sort of culture? What new products and services?
  • Where will you be located? What sort of building will you have if any?


Once you start, you will soon forget the prompts as you let your intuitive right brain take over. Dare to dream big.   Fill the page with anything that comes into your mind. This is a brain storming exercise.  Refinement comes later. 


At the end of the exercise with my business owners I invited each of them to share. They all did.  With my assistance they held up their large pieces of paper and ‘away they went’, finding it hard to stop.  They were excited, inspired, and “wide eyed and electrified” (just a test to see if you read the other article).


Most came back to the next workshop with refined statements, graphics, charts, wall hangings, posters and the like.  It was energizing and inspiring work!


So now it’s your turn. Take an hour a day, a day a week, a week a year to think strategically about the context of your business and where it is headed.  This will give you and your team confidence, clarity and a compass for the future.  If you have a team then every meeting should include discussions on how well your business is living out its Purpose, Vision, Mission and Values.  Feed your Vision daily and align it to your Purpose. It will inspire you and your team and rocket your business. 


© Dr Edward Gifford, On-Purpose Partners Pty Ltd, July 2012