Why a clear vision for your firm is critical

Doug Aitken on how you can avoid missing out on your ideal firm of the future

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Chances are you want to feel proud of the firm you’re building. You want to provide a working environment your team can feel proud of too: a place where high achievement is the norm; a place where clients feel as though they fit and are happy to encourage fellow business owners to work with your firm. You want a firm that’s well-respected in your business community too.

Well – your firm’s future depends on a vivid vision.

Here’s a challenge for you

Don’t read the remainder of this article! Instead ask three or four colleagues (of different ages and seniority) what they think the future vision of your firm actually is. And write down their answers in as much detail as you can. Avoid putting words in their mouth and avoid asking prompting questions.

Are their answers consistent? How much detail on specifics have they shared with you? How would you describe the way they feel about the vision of your firm they have just described?

Three possibilities will play out...

  1. Your people are all consistent in describing a vivid vision about what your firm will look like and how it will feel to work in your firm
  2. Your people are inconsistent and/or vague about the details about your firm’s future vision
  3. Your people have no real idea about your firm’s vision.

How can everyone in your team get excited about the future of your firm if they either don’t understand where you’re going or are unclear where you are going and what it means for them?

More important still...

How can you get excited about the future of your firm if you aren’t clear or haven’t recently shared the vivid vision you have for your firm? Without a vivid vision on the numbers you want to achieve, and a vision about the things people will feel and say about your firm, how can anyone get excited or even make the right decisions to help you get there?

They can’t.

If you have a vague, unclear or missing vision, it means the excitement, joy, sense of achievement together and ambition every one of your best people wants to experience ceases to exist or at the very least is squashed!

Most firms don't bother

So, you’ll find it unsurprising that successful ACCA firms like PJCO in Brighton, Harlands in the North East and many others take vision deadly seriously. You know they take it seriously because they commit diary time, effort and energy on their firm’s vision and strategy.

It pays to consider two questions:

  1. What happens if you take your firm’s vision seriously too?
  2. What happens if you DON’T take your firm’s vision seriously?

Ignoring the vision question for your firm turns your firm into one that strives to get better BUT one that fails to see beyond the next pressing job, next pressing problem, or next pressing opportunity. Short-termism reigns and escape from the daily, weekly, monthly grind proves to be a major (impossible and tiring) challenge.

Building and acting on a clear vision for your firm results in better decision-making with committed action and as a result brings you closer to the performance you seek for your firm. Oh, and the zeal and enjoyment everyone experiences feels pretty good too – all because you work on vision and strategy!

What's stopping you getting clear on vision?

Several things can get in the way, among them:

  • the usual stresses and strains of running your firm can make it hard to think about the future
  • you fail to set aside committed (uninterrupted) time to invest effort and energy thinking about exactly what you want your firm to look, sound and feel like in five years’ time (choose your own time frame – as long as it’s more than three years)
  • you fail to set aside time to take the strategic action needed to actually build the firm you ideally want to have
  • and often leaders just aren’t sure where or how to start on building a vivid vision they can confidently share with all their stakeholders
  • we’ve even experienced firms who have a clear and vivid vision but hide it from everyone in their firm for no apparent reason (go figure!).

So, what is your firm's vision?

What is the vividly clear description of your firm’s core numbers in five years’ time?

What does it mean to be a client and team member in your firm in five years’ time?

Both these questions help you describe what success looks like at your firm.

The question about your firm’s vision is one of eight questions on strategy that are explored and challenged in the strategy ebook, created in partnership with ACCA, which will help you answer this question (plus the other seven questions of strategy too).

Here’s what Peter Jarman of PJCO (an ACCA firm) thought of the ebook:

‘I found that by asking these eight questions ... I then became far more focused on WHAT our dream firm looked like, WHERE we fitted in the business community, WHY we are really needed, WHAT we stood up for, and HOW we can embrace change to deliver better futures for our clients, our team, our community and us personally.’

Vision is valuable on its own

Clarity and certainty about where your firm is heading, and what it looks and feels like, means you’ll see greater buy-in, engagement and enthusiasm from your people.

But imagine how your team’s buy-in, engagement and enthusiasm increase when your firm’s vision connects with their personal goals? And what about building a real sense of purpose and meaning behind every piece of work? These are two more of the eight questions of strategy you can work on.

Are you ready to get clarity on your vision and goals and purpose?

It can be transformational.

Wishing you every success.

Douglas Aitken – Director, Remarkable Practice

Douglas is a director of Remarkable Practice and (in partnership with ACCA) co-author of the ebook, How ambitious accountants make strategy work... 8 questions to help you transform your firm's results. Because of Douglas’s commitments to the United Nations Social Development Goals, every ebook download will result in the planting of a tree. You can take the survey if you want to know how strategically healthy your firm is now.

ACCA is delighted to partner with Remarkable Practice in bringing the strategy ebook to you along with the engaging podcast, Humanise The Numbers. The podcast features many ACCA firms in discussion with co-author Paul Shrimpling.

Catch up on part 1 of this series: 'Keeping quality staff – a mission-critical issue'.