(Updated May 2017)

This is Part 1 in a series on common business startup mistakes. For the most part, these mistakes will slow down your business growth or kill the business.

What is Vision?

Vision is your dream. It contains the ideal achievements you want to have in your lifetime. It’s what you work towards each and every day of your life. On the positive side, having a well articulated vision will give you direction, focus, and motivation.

To begin with , you create a detailed description of how you want your life to be in the long term. Next, you extract your business vision from your life vision. Finally, you break down your business vision into long, medium and short term goals.

Many people find it easier to work with a 5-10 year vision because that’s a timeline they can visualize easily. Even so, you can have a longer period if that suits you.

In light of this, I always emphasize that my business startup clients first get clear about their life’s vision. They visualize the kind of life they want to live and then create their business vision.

Why is vision important?

There are 3 reasons why I recommend that you start off with a clear vision.

  • Your life’s vision has nothing to do with your business. However, it has a great impact on the kind of business you do and the way you handle the business.
  • Your business vision is one way of achieving the life that you want. It fits into your life’s vision by providing you with the lifestyle and fulfillment you’ll be looking for through business.
  • Generally, the startup phase is a very shaky time, especially for first-timers. Having a clear vision provides the push that’s needed to overcome obstacles. Obstacles include doubts, fears, inaction, lack of clarity, and lack of support and negative feedback from well-meaning friends and family.

Many people make the mistake of simply starting a business without a vision. They’re also not clear about how the business will fit into their life. Consequently, your business takes over your life and time.

Why do you need a vision?

1. Vision gives you a sense of direction

As the popular saying goes, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there”.

For business, this is the same as having an idea and starting ‘something’ as opposed to having a goal with a starting point and a destination.

If you don’t have a clear guide and direction, how will know when you have arrived at your destination? Will you arrive at the right destination or just ‘somewhere’?

How will you know whether you’re getting into something that’s fulfilling and has the potential to succeed? Or whether you’re jumping off a cliff without a parachute?

Without a clear vision, you get caught up in doing things that neither fulfill you nor build the business.

If you’ve started a business and you’re finding yourself unfulfilled, then chances are that you haven’t created a powerful vision for yourself. It could also be that you’ve created a vision that’s not what you really want.

Additionally, lack of vision leads to hits and misses. This means that there are times you you’re on track and other times you’re way off track.

In fact, this is what is actually happening in your business. You’re track some days and off track other days, but you can’t tell what’s going on.

In short, consider vision as a guiding light. This light keeps you moving on the right path and warns you when you veer off-track.

2. Vision gives you focus

When you have no vision, you end up taking many unproductive actions. You get busy doing things that don’t bring enough money to sustain and grow your business. As a result, your income becomes sporadic or in short-term bursts.

It’s easy to get stuck at this level. You can avoid this by constantly reminding yourself that the end result of a successful business is profit. Having a business therefore stops being an excuse to be busy all the time without results.

Also, don’t romanticize business to the extent that it takes over your life and your refrain becomes, “I’m busy”. Busy doing what?

“Niko kwa kabiashara kangu.”

“Nafanya kabiashara kangu jioni.”

“Wajua kale kabiashara kangu…”

Remove the kabiashara mentality from your mind. It’s either a biashara or it’s not. Mama Mboga has a kabiashara. The young man walking around your estate selling CDs or DVDs has a kabiashara.

It’s time to ask yourself some questions:

  • What led you into business?
  • Are you positioning yourself at the 'kabiashara' level?
  • Where are all the actions you’re taking leading to?
  • Will your business be there in 2, 3, 5, or 10 years' time?
  • Is your business all over the place - today you're selling this, and tomorrow you're selling that?
  • Are you always running after the newest fads?
  • Do you know what it takes to grow into a leader in your industry?

What is your vision?

3. Vision leads to motivation and determination

Without vision, there will be no motivation to move forward, grow and succeed. When you have a powerful vision and you read it every day, you’ll acquire a deep hunger to achieve it.

This will eventually translate into motivation for your business to succeed. As a result, the motivation will push you into taking more productive actions.

Vision will also help you move out of your comfort zone. Entrepreneurs are risk takers. You cannot take risks and remain in your comfort zone. The two are mutually exclusive.

Having a vision will give you the motivation to take risks. It will also make you hungry enough to succeed.

Having a clear vision and reading it daily will keep you focused on what’s important. It will also give you the ability to say No to invitations or ideas that aren’t a match with your work.

Given these points, it’s important to consider the following before you take up any goal.

  • Before you take up any goal, ask yourself “Is this taking me towards my vision or is it leading me away from my vision?”
  • If the answer is “Yes, it’s taking me towards my vision”, then continue .
  • In case the answer is “No, it’s leading me away”, then think twice before continuing because your vision should guide everything that you do.

How to create your vision

  • 1

    Write a detailed description of what you want

    Think about all areas of your life – your personal life, health, fitness, romance, family, finances, spirituality…how do you want your life to be? How do you want your days to be like? Write down everything that you want to achieve and don’t skimp on any area. Be very clear about what you want and don’t allow any doubts to creep in.

  • 2

    Define WHY you want to achieve this vision

    Come up with as many reasons why this vision is important for you. Having more reasons increases your motivation to achieve the vision.

  • 3

    How can your business help you achieve this vision?

    Create a description of the lifestyle and achievements your business will help you achieve – only those that are in line with your life’s vision. Once again, come up with as many reasons why you want to achieve this business vision as you can.

  • 4

    Create a 1-page summary of your vision

    Read through your answers for steps 1-4 and create a 1-page summary that describes how your business will help you achieve your life vision. Be very clear and brief, while at the same outlining everything that’s important.

  • 5

    Turn your vision into a goals

    Narrow down your vision into goals for the next 5 years, 3 years and 12 months.

My personal experience with vision

My first business vision

I created my first vision in December 2010. At this point, I knew that I wanted to:

  • Become an author.
  • Move to Mombasa.
  • Get international certification as a coach.
  • Spend more time with my children.
  • Work from home.

I then extracted the following 7-year goals from the vision:

  • Move to Mombasa in December 2015.
  • Write a book and start selling it by July 2017.
  • Get international certification in coaching or neuro-linguistics programming (NLP) by December 2017.
  • Work 4-5 days a week and spend a lot of time with my children by December 2013.
  • Merge my passion for writing, teaching, and helping people into a business by December 2012.

I didn’t know how I was going to achieve my vision and goals. All I knew was that these things were important for me as part of my life’s purpose.

How the vision unfolded

These were my achievements as of May 2017:

  • Attained NLP Practitioner certification in 2011.
  • Got a 3-year contract as an Associate Trainer in a leading personal development company (from 2010-2013). This provided the training and experience I needed for my new career. Consequently, I got a behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to own and run a transformational business.
  • Started coaching in 2011. I was lucky to work with a mentor coach who was already training and certifying coaches here in Kenya.
  • In October 2014, a business opportunity arose when my friend discovered my book manuscript. She used the draft version to coach a group of women in Mombasa. This opened up a business opportunity that led to me moving to Mombasa in December 2014 – one year ahead of my schedule.
  • My friend gave me a copy of the printed manuscript that had been bound into a book. Holding the book for the first time gave me the confidence to take it to the next level. First, I hired a graphic designer to create a digital cover for it. I then edited the book and shared it with my family and a few friends. Finally, the 12 Weeks to Startup eBook started selling in May 2015. It’s still selling and has become a passive income stream.
  • I joined an advanced coach training course in 2016. At the moment, I've almost completed the necessary requirements as I write this article. This means that I will have 2 international certifications by December 2017.
  • All my work is now virtual (on phone, email or via Skype) with clients from all over Kenya. I work from home 5 days a week. This has allowed me to spend time with my children each day (just as I dreamed of in 2010). We have breakfast together and I'm at home most days when they come from school.
  • As a result of all the above, my business now combines 4 elements I love: writing, speaking, teaching, and coaching.

Have a clear vision but be flexible

As you can see, most of these achievements didn’t happen as and when I’d planned. I’d actually have missed some of them if I was very strict about achieving my vision as per my plan.

Most of the opportunities that have come up were very different from my expectations. Additionally, each opportunity was hidden in something else. Most times, taking action on the opportunity that presented itself ended up with the achievement of more than one goal.

Lesson: Sometimes, taking action on one opportunity will lead to the achievement of other unrelated goals.

For example, allowing my friend to use the manuscript brought me to Mombasa. Second, it led to my book getting out and selling. Thirdly, it opened up my mind to taking the book to the next level, something I’m currently working on.

A big bonus I got from having the right vision is conquering the fear of marketing. I used to fear telling people what I do and avoided marketing.

This led to my business moving in fits and starts, or what is commonly called ‘feast and famine cycles’ in coaching. Eventually, that kind of see-saw takes a toll on anyone. It wasn’t long before I started feeling like a failure and wanted to give up.

Today, when I start going on a downward spiral, I read my vision and testimonials from people I’ve worked with – satisfied clients.

These two actions motivate me to market. I make a few more phone calls, ask someone for a referral, write an article, reach out to someone… The motivation helps me take that create a snowball that will lead to immediate and future income.


Success is inevitable when you have a clear vision and keep working on it every day. Vision goes beyond starting a business. It encompasses your whole life.

When you tie your business vision to your life’s vision, you will hang in there when things get tough in business…and they will. Your vision will give you the fire to overcome the obstacles that come your way.

Always remember that vision is a guide. As such, it’s not cast in stone. You can change it to reflect new information or ideas.

Learn to be flexible about the achievement of your vision. Take action when opportunities arise and have no regrets. Most of all, don’t let fear hold you hostage.

Also, don’t focus so much on your vision that you get tied down to it and become rigid. Things don’t have to happen exactly as you wish for. They could be better or different.

Your vision will change as you grow. Therefore, be flexible enough to make changes depending on the information and experiences you’re getting as you take action.

In conclusion, let me say that the person with the most compelling and vivid vision will succeed against all odds. They won’t be easily distracted by nay-sayers and challenges.

Are you this kind of a person?

What about you?

Lastly, it’s time for you to act on your vision. Looking at your life and business, how would you rate your vision on a scale of 1-10?

1 = “I don’t have a vision.”

10 = “My vision is very clear and motivating. It guides my life and/or business all the time”.

Rate yourself and take time to create a vision for your life and business if need be.

Over to you…

What has been your experience with Vision? Do you have one for your life and business? I’d love to hear your experiences and thoughts so please share in the Comments below.

(Image Credit Salvatore Vuono at Free Digital Photos)

The complete Common Business Startup Mistakes series is:

  1. Part 1: Lack of Vision
  2. Part 2: Poor Business Startup Preparation.
  3. Part 3: Undercapitalization.
  4. Part 4: Having a Rigid Mindset

Starting a business while still employed need not be a hassle. Sign up for this Teleclass with Business Coach Caroline Gikonyo, and find out how you can start your dream business without giving up your job.

business startup while employed-simple

Caroline Gikonyo
Caroline Gikonyo

Caroline Gikonyo created her dream business and ran it as a solopreneur for 6 years. She then teamed up with 2 other coaches and formed Biashara 360 where she is now the Head of Coaching. As a Business Coach, she's been helping professionals start and grow successful businesses while reducing the time they spend working. You can find out more about her work at www.biasharathreesixty.com.