The big dream is the cornerstone of any business, regardless of its size. When you step into the role of entrepreneur and business owner, you are essentially claiming your spot as a leader and trailblazer within your industry and community. This frames your position as one that will contribute to something greater than yourself.
But none of this can happen until the dream begins to materialize and be shared with those it will impact the most. Here are three steps for small business owners to consider when sharing their big dream:
1. Know the dream.
Defining the dream, as simple as that sounds, coupled with setting the culture/spirit/feeling of your company are the most critical factors when building a business. It sets the course and makes each next decision easier.
A business’s vision typically starts with one person – the CEO or owner. In those very first few days and weeks of starting my business in 1991, I didn’t have a vision written down – I didn’t know you were supposed to – but I sure felt one.
I envisioned every one of my future clients from two months old to 106 and how music therapy would impact their life. Feeling that dream would help me imprint the dream on others later on.
What dream do you feel you are a part of?
2. Imprint the dream on others.
At some point the dream must be shared with your clients, your team, networking partners, and even your personal connections. This is called imprinting the dream on others. For larger companies like WestJet this happens during the initial two-day orientation process, when they welcome new employees and share the WestJet vision. This creates a sense of employee ownership and communicates the opportunity for personal investment to build the employee’s sense of purpose for the greater cause.
Tyson Matheson, vice-president of people relations for WestJet states ,”The biggest thing is that employees want to have value in their work – they want to feel part of something bigger.” Dr. Michael Brenner and Steve Van Valin, of the consulting firm Culturology, talk about this process as “meaning amplification.” Individuals who feel more connected to the bigger vision demonstrate stronger connections to the clients and customers they serve. This bonding together, just like it sounds, strengthens everyone involvement with the dream.
Do you feel you have sufficient buy in to your own dream? Does your team? Do your professional networks, vendors, family and friends?
3. Spread the dream.
For years I kept my business mission inside of me – just letting it out bits and pieces at a time. Keeping it so close lead to many anxious nights and hours of “whirring” (a combination of worry and spiraling). On top of that I was focused on trying to please everyone.
These two energy-sucking activities kept me from effectively spreading the dream because the dream was not clear to myself or others. The late Warren Bennis reminds us that “at the heart of every great group is a shared dream.” When I embraced that my group was my city and everyone in it, my business grew.
Today my dream is to take that one step further and to share our business model with others so they too can impact their community by spreading their dream.
Have you put limits on where you are sharing your dream?
Unfortunately, far too often, mission statements are witnessed as empty lip service to values that aren’t lived every day by the leaders of an organization. The impact of this can be felt most during an economic downturn where the company and its team are grappling about what to hold on to. Without a strong vision, the owner and team members may not have sufficient motivation to complete a project and to persevere when times get tough.
Research shows that for organizations to be successful, the team must feel you are all moving towards a meaningful goal, a fulfilling purpose, a reason to be doing what you are doing. This is becoming even more true with our millennial workforce.
Social purpose businesses, in particular, need to focus on more than the bottom line, they need to look up to the top line, the higher purpose and the people that your business is serving and advocating for. There is no better way engage into the importance of this than through the dream.
This blog series will continue to address more critical factors to ensure team engagement throughout all stages of your company’s growth.
For now, take time to review your mission and ask these questions of yourself and your team: Does your mission inspire you? Do you get a goose bump or two when you read it? Who are you fighting for?