What is a business without vision?
Without a visionary at the helm, a business cannot succeed. It may have the best product in the world and the best team in place but without somebody in the hot seat driving the strategy and setting goals, it will stagnate and ultimately fail.
You’ve probably heard it said 100 times but it bears repeating: if a business isn’t growing, it’s going backwards.
I was reminded of this yesterday when I watched a video with Simon Sinek, the leadership expert and author https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nN9hIg-_Mhw. He said, “I don’t like the term CEO. Everyone else in the C-suite has their job in their title. CFO. CMO. COO. CTO. We know exactly what you do. It’s in the title. What’s the CEO? What does an Executive Officer do? It’s not a well-defined title. We need to change the title to Chief Vision Officer. Someone who owns the vision.”
I have always found that describing myself as “Founder and CEO of BigChange” never truly explained my role here. Yes, I started the business but anyone can start a business. You just fill out a form in Companies House and – hey presto! – you have a company. Yes, I’m the CEO – but, as Simon so deftly put it, what does a Chief Executive actually do?
The thing that sets me apart is that when I launched the business eight years ago, I had a vision for where this business could go. Crucially, I understand our customer: what they want, what they need, and what they expect from a technology partner. When I’m talking to a customer, sometimes I even know what they are going to say before they open their mouth. That’s how embedded in this industry I am. I have total empathy with the people in the market we are trying to serve.
This customer intimacy helps me to create goals for the business that are ambitious yet actionable. I know that my customers aren’t asking for anything complicated. They just want reliable technology that makes their business more efficient and lets them grow sustainably, year after year. They don’t mind paying for the product, as long as it does what they need it to. That is my great strength.
I am the visionary driving BigChange forward to meet each new milestone. Yes, I have a brilliant team that comes to work and executes every single day. They do their jobs far better than I ever could – I am humbled by the talent we have in this company. But no one else can do exactly what I do. When I say that I want to make BigChange the market leader in every territory that we operate in, I say it knowing exactly how we’ll get there. I don’t have my head down, trying to get to next month’s target or hit next year’s numbers. I’m thinking five years – even 10 years – into the future. That’s my job and the role of the visionary.
My relentless focus on the customer means that when I say I want to be the market leader, I don’t just mean the de facto leader because of the number of users and businesses on our books, I mean the leader in terms of the positive impact we make on our customers’ success. Growth for growth’s sake is not the goal. It’s about the transformative effect BigChange can have on the whole ecosystem – the companies run by people who are not so different from me. They want to grow, they want to provide stable livelihoods for their employees, they want to solve a problem well and do it better than anyone else in their industry. I am my own target customer. I know how to humanise our technology so it’s not baffling or overwhelming.
I know that I am doing my job well because of the customer testimonials that come in each and every day. “Our business wouldn’t survive without BigChange.” “We couldn’t grow without BigChange.” Without my vision for this business, and the values I have put in place to underpin that vision, there’s no way we could be creating this kind of impact.
I’m not saying all this to blow my own trumpet. I’m saying this because there is a big difference between a visionary and an operative. As Simon says in his video, the two mindsets complement each other. They cannot succeed without each other. What is a visionary leader without a great Chief Financial Officer or a skilled Chief Technology Officer? They would have vision and nothing else. But the operative simply cannot do the job of the visionary. They have their heads down while we leaders have our heads up, and our gaze focused at a point on the far distant horizon.
So this is why I am changing my job title. From today onwards, I’m no longer Founder and CEO. I’m the Founder, CEO and Chief Vision Officer.