An overlooked characteristic of successful start-up innovators

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Vision | ArtPrize 2010
Vision | ArtPrize 2010 (Photo credit: Fellowship of the Rich)

When we admire successful small businesses we often think about the innovation or new idea that led to the business being started. But what really lies behind the success?

Consider how well some small businesses are doing that began with basic ideas. There is Midas, the car accessories and spare parts business with branches now all over South Africa. Cash Converters, founded in Australia 34 years ago, has 62 outlets in South Africa and plans to open more. The Sandwich Baron has tasted success in the country begun on an idea that almost anyone could have come up with.

The business commentators and lecturers, the spectators who watch entrepreneurs from the sidelines like rugby, cricket or soccer experts, point out all sorts of characteristics that make entrepreneurs and innovators successful. They’ll say it’s an opportunistic mindset, proactivity and persistence, prudence and their social capital (connections and networks).

All of these characteristics play a part but if you talk to and work with entrepreneurs and innovators, you’ll find that they started with a clear purpose or vision.

The word vision is thrown about so much in business circles that it seems to have become some sort of abstract term that has lost its original meaning. We all know that vision means to see. But vision also means the ability to think about or plan for the future “with imagination and wisdom” (Concise Oxford English Dictionary) or a mental image of what the future will or could be like.

Entrepreneurs and innovators are able to come up with a strong mental picture of what they wish to achieve. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they see a business in detail or fully realised. But it may mean that they can see themselves coming up with a new way of serving the motor spares and accessories customer, helping people turn their unwanted possessions into cash when they need additional money to tide them through a rough financial patch or easy-to-make sandwiches that cater to a big range of tastes, delicious and freshly prepared.

You can have ideas for all sorts of new businesses such as space rental, bed & breakfasts, seasonal pop-up shops, veggie and food processing or a pet business but without a clear mental image of what it is that you want to accomplish you won’t have rocket fuel to propel you on your journey.

Entrepreneurs and innovators know that they require a strategy to realise or actualise their vision. Identifying your strategy involves knowing who you are and what you want to do. Suppose you want to start a sandwich company. How will you be different from the competition? Will you open your own stores or use other retail formats? Where will you locate your business?

You may want to sell your special healthy sandwiches to garage stores only. Now you have a strategy to realise your vision. You would, of course, need to test your proposed strategy with one of the garage chains.

Your strategy direction will help you in your next phase as you generate ideas to implement your business plan. If you are ready to explore your vision for your own business, go here now for a presentation and one session at no charge.


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