Build Your Vision, Not Your Reality

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How to turn the company that you have into the company that you want.

I’m blessed to be a part of an amazing community of entrepreneurs, innovators, and visionaries located in Northern California. We’re close enough to Silicon Valley to stay on the cutting edge of technology and far enough away to see the bigger picture — and avoid the drama. Our positioning gives us a unique view that we carry into projects with us, and a distinct competitive advantage while building and launching our own projects.

No matter where you are located, or what community you are a part of, for us entrepreneurs the struggle is real … and though it’s not our intention, many of us will wake up one day and ask what the hell did I just spend my life building?!?

It usually starts with a small project or product that is slightly outside the original vision for the company, and before you know it your gourmet Japanese restaurant looks more like a Pizza Hut serving Indian food. The entrepreneur’s original intention was to pay the bills or quickly solve a problem that we couldn’t afford to give our full attention that day, but somehow we wrote V2 of the ten commandments.

The simple truth is that it’s always easier to build a company for our current reality than our original vision. It would have been much easier for Henry Ford to build a better wagon. In fact, he probably would have made a lot of money a lot faster, but that wasn’t his vision.

Silicon Valley Systems

If you know me at all, you know that I’m all about being lean, agile, and making due with the minimum-viable solution. But, I’ve started to think that we have let this quick fix, minimal-effort mindset go too far, and it’s costing us more than we realize.

I came to this realization last Friday while golfing with one of my mentors. I was giving them the rundown on how my current project is going, and my frustration with having to rebuild our systems almost every month. I was in a reactive loop of fix, break, fix, break, and fix again. The fixes were always quick and by the end of the month, were no longer viable solutions to our problems. At the end of the day, quick-fixes are not quick or efficient when you have to fix them again every month.

The Challenge

Like all great mentors, he met my problem with a challenge. He pushed back with the question:

“Why are you building systems for where you are instead where you want to go?”

My stomach sank as I confronted the reality that I had been extremely inefficient for the past three months. It also made me face the fact that in order to build systems for where you are going, you actually have to know where you are going. It was a simple exercise of internal reflection and clarification that has managed to ripple through my entire value system.

From a more pragmatic standpoint, effective processes and systems that support a company of 50 employees & $20MM in revenue will work for a company of 5 employees & $2MM in revenue. On the flip side of that, a system built for a company of 5 employees & $2MM in revenue will not support a larger company.

In Conclusion

I want to keep this post fairly short, so in conclusion, I’ve created a series of questions for you.

What are you building?

I’m not looking for a vague answer. Terms like unicorn and IPO won’t cut it here. I’m looking for exact numbers, how many employees, how much revenue, how many locations, and what are your profit margins? In the words of Andy Grove, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.”

Can your systems support this vision?

Obviously, there are areas here that don’t make sense to build out. For example, it would be foolish to hire all of the employees now for a company that won’t exist for 5–10 years. But, it would not be foolish to create an organizational chart mapping out key hires as your growth progresses.

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