Being a small business owner can at times make you feel like you are alone on an island when you’re trying to build your business. Luckily, I am part of a cohort of fellow small business owners, and I’m no longer stranded now that I have them. The nine of us went through the Goldman Sacs 10,000 Small Businesses program two years ago and have stuck together ever since. We created a mastermind group to push each other to grow, work on our professional development, and to help each other through the hard times. These are my people, the ones I turn to both when I am celebrating the victories and when I am working through the hardships.
Together we recently went to the Zingerman’s Visioning Training in Ann Arbor, Michigan. ZingTrain, which is a sister business to Zingerman’s Deli, offers a variety of trainings: open book management, leadership, customer service, and business/personal visioning. Several of our group attended the open book management seminar in early 2017 and were ready to get back to exploring our business visions.
After the first day was spent learning what a vision is and how to write one, the nine of us spent the second day writing away. Those two days were powerful and intense, and the room was often full of emotion. People came from different walks of life — long-time business owners, stay at home moms trying to figure out next steps, first-time business owners figuring out the how to’s, even couples that were looking to align on visions to move forward. My favorite part of the two days was “hot pen” writing, when we put our pens to the paper and started writing our visions and then sharing those refined visions with our peers. Visions provide a place for people to get creative and understand more about both what fuels and fulfills them and where they want to go. It was incredible that just by listening to peoples’ visions you knew what they were passionate about and what drives them.
Ari Weinzweig, the co-founder and owner of Zingerman’s Deli, came to speak to us during our seminar and his words were quite impactful. He made the point that there will always be a certain amount of anxiety around a vision, and that is healthy and normal. If we aren’t a bit anxious, we may not be taking risks — we may be staying in the safe zone all the time. Visioning though is about creating your ideal future and figuring out the strategically sound way to get there. The analogy that makes most sense is that if you were taking a trip, you would need to have a destination you wanted to reach and then you could start planning the way to get there; first, have the big picture, and then start filling in the details.
To be the best leader you can be, it is essential to have a direction in which you are steering the ship. We walked away with the blueprint sketch of where we are taking our businesses, as well as elements of our personal lives. After all, small business is somewhat always mixed with the personal. For me, it was both refreshing and anxiety provoking to write my vision and to see where I am now and where I want to be. One thing remains clear to me: my mission in this life is to help and inspire, and to work with people to be the best selves they can be.