The dawn of a new year is a terrific time to take a step back and gain perspective on where your firm is going. By that, I mean you should review your firm’s vision or—if your firm doesn’t have a written vision—by all means take the time to develop one.

Some design firm leaders tend to be dismissive of the importance of a vision statement for their firm, avoiding something apparently so “warm and fuzzy” in favor of nuts and bolts problem-solving. But having and articulating a clear vision is crucial to your firm’s future.

When you think of famous visionaries in history, you can hear the power of their words: remember the Reverend Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech and John F. Kennedy’s commitment “to land a man on the moon and return him safely to earth by the end of the decade.” Now recall George Bush the elder and his constantly being criticized for lacking “the vision thing.” Perhaps the importance of a vision was summed up most succinctly by Yogi Berra (who else?) when he said “If you don’t know where you’re going, you might end up someplace else.”

Your firm’s vision should describe your firm at a point in time five or more years in the future. If a strategic plan is the “roadmap” for your firm, your vision is the “destination,” a unique place to which your firm aspires to reach. Developing the vision is akin to designing the future of your firm; like any design project, you have to start with the big picture and then work out the details.

What should your firm’s vision accomplish? It should be…

  • …compelling enough to get the people in your firm excited about the future.
  • …ambitious, but not unrealistic.
  • …multi-dimensional and descriptive of your firm as you would like it to be.

No matter how small or large your firm, developing its vision cannot be a one-person exercise. To get true buy-in (or better yet, “believe-in”) it’s crucial to involve other leaders and key managers in your firm because their own personal and professional goals will depend on the firm’s vision, and vice versa.

Once you have a well-articulated vision, be sure to share it with everyone in your firm so they all know where the firm is headed and understand the context in which decisions are—and will be–made.

Daniel Burnham, the 19th century Chicago architect who laid out the city after the fire, captured the essence of a vision in his famous quote, “Make no small plans. They have no magic to stir people’s blood. Make only big plans, for a noble concept once recorded shall live forever.”