The “Disneyland” Entrepreneur

We’ve explored the concept of Vision in this blog before. But I’d like to share a technique that has worked for me – perhaps you’ll find it valuable too. Simply put, vision is “what it looks like when we get there.” Remember when we were young and a family vacation to Disneyland was being planned? What was the focus? It wasn’t so much on the long journey to get there. Instead, we could see ourselves riding in the Tomorrowland Jets (long gone now) or in a Matterhorn Bobsled. We could taste the cotton candy and hear the whistle on the Mark Twain Riverboat. In other words, we had a vision in our minds-eye of what we were going to experience.

As entrepreneurs we have that same vision. The problem for most of us is that it remains trapped inside our heads. We struggle to articulate it to others. And so, our team members punch the clock every day with no clear idea of “what it looks like when we get there.” It seems clear to us, but they don’t have a clue.

I struggled to communicate my vision for many years. I often launched initiatives and undertook projects that all made sense within the framework of my vision – but to others it seemed like a helter-skelter approach to something that was undefined. At times, members of our team expressed frustration with the process and begged for a clearer picture. I had tried reducing my vision to writing, but a few bullet points later even I was uninspired.

At the urging of a friend and former colleague I took another stab at it a few years ago. But instead of trying to put it on paper in a concise one or two paragraph manner I went a different direction. I decided to tell a story. I mocked up a Wall Street Journal masthead and put myself in the shoes of a WSJ reporter writing a profile of my company – ten years in the future. I picked the name of a real reporter and the date on the masthead was really ten years out. And then I told the story in considerable detail. What unfolded were several aspirations; explanations of how the aspirations were to be achieved and ensuing measures of success. I quoted real people. I talked about how our customers were going to feel. Our culture was highlighted, and several strategies were outlined. One thousand seven hundred and seventy words later a clear picture emerged representing “what it looks like when we get there.”

For the past two years I’ve been explaining the vision story to everyone in the company. My vision needs to become a shared vision and I’m eager and willing to tweak it so that it is inspiring to as many members of the team as possible. We’re beginning to work backwards from what it looks like ten years in the future, to identify the various strategies that will be needed to reach the vision. Clearly there’s a lot of work to be done – but finally; for the first time in 50 years, everyone has a clear picture of where we’re going.

If you’ve been having a tough time articulating your vision, I encourage you to write your own story. And if writing isn’t really your thing, sit down with someone who has the gift of prose and tell him or her the story from your heart. This person can serve as your translator and put on paper the story that you will share with your team. You’ll have several re-writes. You’ll add, delete, clarify, expand, and fine tune. Just remember that the final product should be inspirational. It should be as big and bold as you desire. And anyone reading it should come away without any doubt about “what it looks like when we get there.”

We all have a Disneyland image of some sort for the organization to which we have committed so much of our lives. We can share it with others through a storytelling process that creates clarity and a call to action.

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.

Was Jimmy Styks a Pirate?

If you strive to be a successful entrepreneur it’s incumbent upon you to be able to persuade others to buy from you whether it’s a product, a service, and idea or whatever. The same goes for you even if you aren’t an entrepreneur. Somewhere along the line you must convince someone else to say “yes” to you. With that as the backdrop, consider the following pitches for the same product.

Scenario #1: The Jimmy Styks Apex Hybrid 114 Stand-Up Paddle Board is one of the best paddle boards on the market today. This paddle board is 11’4” in length, 32” in width and amazingly light at 33 pounds with a thickness of only 4.8”. The 5” nose rocker and the 3” tail rocker offer tremendous stability for this sleek wave runner. And its rugged design will accommodate an NFL-sized bruiser of up to 260-pounds. Real bamboo inlays provide superior strength, and utility tie-downs keep your gear in place while you paddle. The board is camera mount ready and a carry handle is included for easy transport to and from the water. This is a top-of-the-line model and will give you years of pleasure on the water.

Scenario #2: I went on a journey the other day. But it wasn’t the kind of journey with which you might be familiar. The ocean was like glass and I could see to the bottom 40 feet below. Fish were swimming everywhere and I saw a baby octopus poke out from between two rocks. My Jimmy Styks Stand-Up Paddle Board was my constant companion as I glided effortlessly across the surface. After about 20 minutes something glistening caught my eye. The sun was bright overhead and I stopped to look. There it was again! Something was definitely on the bottom and was shining in such a way as though it was beckoning to me. I dove to the bottom and gently brushed back the sand. Yes! It was a Spanish gold doubloon. I brought it to the surface for closer inspection and found it to be in perfect condition with a mint stamp of 1798. Wow! I dove back to the same spot and there, waiting for me, were five more doubloons – a truly amazing find. Thankfully my Jimmy Styks comes equipped with a carrying case into which I stashed my treasure and utilized the built-in gear tie-downs.

Since that first journey I’ve taken many others to the same spot. Fortunately my Jimmy Styks can hold a lot of weight, up to 260-pounds actually. I only weigh 180 so I was able to haul a lot more treasure from that spot with each visit. I mounted a GoPro camera on the board to record my recovery effort and was gratified that my bamboo-constructed Jimmy Styks was so stable, even with the weight of shifting gold, diamonds and emeralds. Yes – I also found exquisite baubles on the ocean floor as well; a real pirate’s treasure. In all, there was 100 pounds of the stuff. And I was able to quit my job and now live the life of leisure thanks to my Jimmy Styks Apex Hybrid 114 Stand-Up Paddle Board.

Far too often we try to persuade others with facts and figures. While important, facts and figures don’t tell the whole story. And that’s just the point. Storytelling is a much more powerful method to help someone buy something. I don’t know about you, but I would be much more inclined to have an interest in purchasing a Jimmy Styks Stand Up Paddle Board after listening to the story in Scenario #2. The recitation of facts in Scenario #1 was fine, but I wasn’t particularly inspired. Customers are more likely persuaded to buy from us when we inspire them in some fashion.

Storytelling is an effective way to help others buy from us. Painting a picture that someone can envision is more inspiring than simply pointing out facts and features.

You can also listen to a weekly audio podcast of my blog. What you hear will be different than what you read in this blog. Subscribe on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts. You can also click on this link – Click here to listen to Audio Episode 42 – On It or In It?

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.