Sat | Sep 23, 2023

Yaneek Page | Vision boards as a tool for smallbiz

Published:Sunday | January 16, 2022 | 12:06 AM

QUESTION: A friend invited me to a vision board workshop for entrepreneurs or anyone starting a business. It’s $20,000. I want to know if you think vision boards make sense for business, especially to get to the next level. Let me tell you, 2021...

QUESTION: A friend invited me to a vision board workshop for entrepreneurs or anyone starting a business. It’s $20,000. I want to know if you think vision boards make sense for business, especially to get to the next level. Let me tell you, 2021 has not been a good year for my business, so I must do things differently. At the same time, I don’t want to spend income on what will not work. I always look forward to your advice and respect your posts very much.

– L., Kingston

BUSINESSWISE: You have posed an interesting and timely question as January is usually the month when many undertake vision board exercises. For the benefit of my readers who may not be familiar with this practice, vision boards are a visual representation of the ambitions, dreams, or desires of those who create them.

Participants will often draw or use magazines, old newspapers, and books to cut out images that represent things they want to acquire or circumstances they desire in their personal and professional lives.

The emphasis is on bold visuals and sparse words. They will then paste or colour in these images on a flexiboard or cartridge paper, which should then be mounted in a prominent place in their homes.

The expectation is that the individuals will view their vision board collage daily, and it will serve as an emotive reminder of their driving force for the new year. You may find it interesting that my first exposure to vision boards occurred during my training to become a certified entrepreneurship trainer. It is an activity specifically recommended to assist prospective entrepreneurs to visualise and map their personal missions.

I have used it in many workshops as a fun introductory activity, to allow for reflection, introspection and ideation but not as a planning mechanism.

Vision boards are generally not used in planning for growth in established businesses. The tendency is to use more sophisticated strategic planning tools, templates, and processes (for example, the Balanced Scorecard), and often with the support of an expert external facilitator and with the collaboration of senior members of the company’s leadership.

Unfortunately, because vision boards tend to be used by individuals rather than businesses, there is not a lot of data available to evaluate the effectiveness of vision boards within the context of enterprise growth and development.

My own research for this article unearthed evidence that vision boards have been used more commonly by some younger millennials and older ‘Gen Z’ to successfully launch or support their micro businesses. In addition, science appears to support the efficacy of vision boards to achieve personal behaviour change and accomplishment as a properly executed visual representation of an individual’s desires has been shown to bring clarity to ideas, sharpen focus, and reinforce commitment.

Given the data available, it would appear that there could be value in creating a vision board for your small business. To increase usefulness and likelihood of success, I have a few recommendations for you to consider.

Before the vision-board workshop:

1. Research trends, collate historical data, study industry projections, and evaluate changes in market conditions and consumer preferences as necessary pre-work before doing a vision board. This will ensure that your brainstorming is guided by the appropriate real-life context and not fantasy or ‘guesstimates’.

2. Complete a SWOT analysis taking into account your current strengths and weaknesses vis-à-vis the opportunities and threats existing in the current environment. This will be an important lens through which your vision-board development is filtered to ensure relevance.

After the vision-board workshop:

3. Once completed, share with a wider audience. This could include your advisory committee, or board of directors if you have one, or business mentor or coach. Ideally, you want to engage with those you trust and rely on for strategic enterprise counsel and support in the leadership of your business. This mimics the collaborative approach of more established business-planning processes to yield richer outcomes.

4. Using the output from Step 3, you should then refine the vision board and create a detailed written document outlining the specific objectives and expounding on the targets or goals illustrated in your vision board.

Practically speaking, whereas the vision board would contain vague pictures, images, and drawings, a strategy document would contain the full text that provided necessary details on each strategic objective and prioritises the objectives based on importance. Prioritising goals will be critical because you will almost never have all the resources or capital needed to do all that you have envisioned.

5. A key action to help bring visions to fruition is to include measurements or metrics that allow you to properly track and evaluate progress and assign accountability mechanisms that require proper reporting and review. This is where you can enlist the ongoing support of your advisory board, mentor, or business coach in the event that you do not currently have a sound board of directors that can support the leadership, governance, and execution of the 2022 growth strategy.

In your quest to improve your business performance, I hope that in the near future, you will explore other tried-and-proven strategic tools that organisations and companies have relied on to set and achieve remarkable objectives.

All the best and one love!

Yaneek Page is the programme lead for Market Entry USA, a certified trainer in entrepreneurship, and creator and executive producer of The Innovators and Let’s Make Peace TV series.