Visioning and the Deli Man

If you’re on the IT Provider Network mailing list you know that tomorrow at 5 am I am heading out to New Orleans for some team building and to soak in some fresh ideas at the Gazelles Summit.

Come Together

Because my management team is in 4 different states and three different time zones it’s going to take the better part of Monday to get everyone down south. We’ll get settled in then on Tuesday and Wednesday, the team along with our Gazelles Coach Doug Diamond will be at the summit.

The Gazelles Scaling Up Summit

The summit, or more formally, the Scaling Up Summit is tailored to business owners interested in growing their companies. Over the course of two days, we will learn from award-winning authors. Soak up some techniques and methods for building better leadership, strategy, marketing, sales, operations, and finance.
We will be in a room full of mid-market firms representing a variety of industries ($5 million to $500 million), for great interactive learning, networking, and idea-generation. This summit will be my second Gazelles event, and I am looking forward to it. I encourage you to attend events that are outside of the IT Industry to keep growing your company.
Then on Thursday, we have rented a private conference room, and the eight of us are going to go heads down into a visioning exercise. So that’s what I want to talk with you about today. Visioning, why you would want to do this and how you can do it in your company.

About Ari Weinzweig

At my first Gazelles Summit in 2016, I met Ari Weinzweig. He spoke on Leadership, and I purchased all his books. Ari is one of the co-founders of the Zimmerman Community of Businesses, some food-centric businesses in the Ann Arbor Michigan area of the united states. What started as a 1300 square foot deli in 1982 is now a 60 million dollar business with the deli still at the heart of it. For more information on Zingermans check out their About Us page. The Zingermans Community of Business or ZCOB employees over 600 people and now is over ten different food-related businesses.

You don’t grow a deli into a 60 million dollar business like that without visioning.

About My Grandson

Visioning is kind of like Walt Disney’s Imagineering, or for a better everyday example, it is what every young child does when they daydream. They never think about what’s NOT possible only what is possible. When my grandson Liam, who just turned four, is visioning he is building massive Lego cities, and waging battles with Batman and Joker. He doesn’t question batman’s superpowers he assumes that he has them.

Visioning works the same way. It’s looking to the future and describing what success looks like then. It’s now the how to; it’s the motivation and the direction. It is what success then looks and feels like in the future.

Ari describes a successful vision as

• Inspiring. To everyone that will be involved in implementing it.
• Strategically sound. That is, we have a decent shot at making it happen.
• Documented. You e need to write your vision down to make it work.
• Communicated. Not only do you have record your vision but if you want it to be effective, you actually have to tell people about it too.

This is the How not the Why

Step 1: Pick your Visioning Topic

Because visioning can be used for just about anything, it’s important to start by being clear about what you’re working on. Next week the PICS Team is looking out to 2022, and we are visioning on the whole company. If you start using visioning for your company you could do visioning on the company, a division or department, a project or even a smaller event. The process is the same; you want to see what success looks like before you execute.
For most MSP’s, visioning should probably start at the organization or company level.

Step 2: Pick your visioning time frame

As we discussed in step one after you pick the topic, you need to choose the period of time where you want to describe success. There’s no right or wrong answer for the timeframe, but according to Ari, visioning works best if you go far out enough to get beyond present-day problems but not so far out that you have no sense of how you will actually get there.

Because our industry changes so fast I think 3-5 years is a reasonable timeframe. Some visioning may occur in 2 years and some as far out as ten years. Next week we are looking to 2022.

Step 3: Get your head on right

Take ten minutes and speed write about your companies successes. Remember times you have saved a customer, times you have been proud of your success or the success of one of your employees. Write down as much good stuff as you can think of for ten minutes. If you’re just starting out and don’t have ten minutes of proud moments you’ve done in your business, then think about stuff you are proud of in your life. The idea here is to be feeling positive and getting your head away from the day to day problems in your business.

Step 4: Write the first draft of your vision.

Writing down your vision is hugely important. Before you start writing, here are a few technical tips. If you follow them, the work will be way better:

· Put something wild out there. Get past the 39 reasons why it won’t work. · Put down what pours out of your brain, not what other people want to see or even what you think they want to hear. Get out of your own head. Let it go.

· Write as if your vision has already happened. “We now have…”, “Our business is now…”. “We’ve accomplished …”.

· Keep writing for 15 to 30 minutes, regardless of how silly you sound. Try not to lift your pen off the paper. If the thought of actually writing with a pen is so very foreign to you then set a timer on your phone and just start typing.

· Build your personal passions into what you write. Don’t write a vision that you aren’t a part of. What will you be doing at that point in the future?

Step 5: Review and redraft

Put your visioning document away for at least a day then when you’re ready to revise it, read your draft through from start to finish.
Read it carefully but don’t erase anything. You’ll have plenty of opportunities to edit the content and the language. As you read through again, keep Ari’s rules for a successful vision in the back of your brain
Does this sound inspiring? If I were reading it out loud would my staff be behind it?
Do I get excited when I’m reading it? Am I excited about my vision of the future?
Look for vague statements in your document like “We have more clients than ever” or “Profit is at an all-time high”; instead, use real numbers that mean something to you, and you will be able to articulate to your staff. “We now have over 100 clients on our managed service plan”. Our MRR is 40% of our business and 50% of that revenue is on 36-month contracts. More discreet things like that.
Think about critical financial numbers that define success looking forward to that period.

Step 6: Revise a little more – but just a little.

I say a little because you can get stuck in this step forever.
If you want to, take this second draft and make additional changes. Don’t get stuck here. At some point, you need to share your vision with your team.

Step 7: Ask for Input

In step seven this is where you finally, and usually a little timidly, share your vision document with people you trust and that you can offer opinions on the document. Try to remember not to get defensive but listen attentively and take lots of notes. When you turn your vision into strategy, these suggestions might be valuable.
For my team, we all wrote our vision document independently, and then our coach merged them all without any author information. Before this coming Thursday, we will have all read and marked up each other’s documents to discuss as a group.
It should be interesting as even though we meet weekly and for some of us we have worked together for over 20 years, we are all going to have different approaches and biases as to how the future should look. I’m looking forward to reading the different visions and seeing where there is alignment and diversion.

Step 8: Share the vision with your Peeps

Remember that the vision is the why not the how. Keep this in mind when you explain your vision to your team. More than likely you will get many questions about “how” you are going to accomplish your vision, and there is also a good chance that your answer will be “I don’t know.” That’s totally OK this is the WHY you are going to do something, not the HOW.

Don’t let the haters get you down. You might have some of these two in your bigger group. Don’t let them bring you down. If this were easy, everyone would be an entrepreneur. It isn’t easy, but you got this.

Try it in your company and let me know how you make out. In an upcoming episode of the IT Provider Network we’ll go through turning your vision into the strategy to accomplish it, and if you are on the IT Provider Network mailing list, I will share with you our 2022 vision after its completed in the upcoming weeks. Sign up for the mailing list at

Anyone that is signed up before I complete the document will get a copy in your inbox when it’s completed. This will be the only time you can get it so if you have been on the fence about signing up now is the time to do it.

PS:  The steps in this post come right from the man himself Ari Weinzweng you can hear an interview with him and Verne Harish on youtube.

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