When you hear the words "business visionary," you may think of larger-than-life entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs, Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg who seem to have built their companies by channeling divine insight into the future of humankind.
Such remarkable individuals are more than worthy of the title "visionary," but assigning it only to the statistical outliers hides the fact that being visionary is a skill, not a gift that only a select few are born with.
In fact, predicting the future needs of consumers and building innovative companies to solve them is a talent many hard-working entrepreneurs across the country have mastered.
The other 99 percent of visionary entrepreneurs
Take Scott Hill, the co-founder and Executive Chairman of PERQ. Following a start in print marketing in 2001, Hill and his business partner transitioned the company into the growing MarTech space because of the tremendous potential they foresaw. Today, PERQ employs more than 100 people at its Indianapolis headquarters and works with international brands like Ford and Honda.
Or consider David DeRam, another Indianapolis founder who saw opportunity in the outdated quality management systems that medical device companies rely upon. The success of his company, greenlight.guru, has been powered by the executive team's visionary idea for a modernized, Cloud-based solution for their clients.
"The creation of a compelling vision has been instrumental in the accelerated growth we've seen. The work we do is difficult, and the vision provides clarity and inspires us to push the limits of what's possible," DeRam said.
After an interview with Scott Hill about how visionary thinking has shaped his success, I was inspired to reach out to more founders who aren't in the top one percent of entrepreneurs. Use their top strategies to develop your own inner visionary:
1. Draw inspiration from past experiences
Developing groundbreaking ideas is much easier if you draw from your own business experiences. Look within your current industry, analyze its shortcomings, and brainstorm ways you could improve the status quo with a new approach or solution.
"While working at a previous company, I was asked to run a beta test for a product, but the company didn't have a standard process for running one," said Luke Freiler of Centercode. "I saw this lack of process as an opportunity to take charge, and I soon began my own company that would standardize the process of beta testing and customer validation."
2. Exercise your ability to focus
A penchant for seeing opportunity all around you is useless if you allow it to distract you when you need to execute on an idea. Practice your ability to hone in on a single mission, and don't let a fear of missing opportunities jeopardize the vision you've chosen to pursue.
"It doesn't matter what else you might be able to see if you don't execute," Scott Hill said. "At times, you might have to pivot and adjust a little bit, but that's different than constantly moving one step forward on ten different things versus moving ten steps forward on the one critical thing you've focused on."
3. Get out of your comfort zone
It's impossible to follow through on a visionary idea if you're too nervous to step outside your wheelhouse. The best opportunities will challenge you as an entrepreneur; embrace these challenges and push yourself past the boundaries of your comfort zone.
"Launching new companies is messy and unpredictable," said Heather Hartnett of Human Ventures. "It's about having courage and being okay with an unhealthy amount of risk. That is the best skill any entrepreneur can have--trusting your gut and having the courage to act on it."
4. Visualize your future
Clearly visualizing what you want your business to be like in the future can help mentally prime you to achieve your ambitions. Keep a journal, written from the perspective of your ideal future, to create and document goals you need to work toward.
"I'll vary journaling ten years, five years and one year in the future," Scott Hill said. "I write in the present state, as if it's already happened. By putting out there what you want to have happen, the pieces you need for it to become reality seem to find you."
5. Tune out naysayers
Constructive criticism is an invaluable tool for every founder, but some people are only interested in picking apart radical new ideas. Learn to identify and ignore the naysayers to stay committed to your mission.
"With any startup worth doing, you'll face a lot of people who tell you it's a bad idea," said Alex Yakubovich of Scout RFP. "To be successful, it's crucial to have both unfaltering grit and a strong conviction around what you want the future to look like."
Listen to my full interview with Scott Hill of PERQ for even more expert advice on growing and developing your inner visionary: