I’ve always enjoyed learning, and equally as important, I’ve always enjoyed sharing what I’ve learned. Over the last 20 plus years, many people have asked me an array of questions around running my own business and what things I’ve learned to make me a better leader. Recently one of those smart people who I’ve been fortunate to surround myself with said, “You should write a blog about some of this stuff. After all, you’re not getting any younger!” So here I am…
I have to start out by saying that owning your own business, being a CEO, being a President, or being the top of whatever food chain, is all rainbows and unicorns (please note that sarcasm and ridicule have been used to describe my leadership style). I’m obviously a big fan of starting your own business, but don’t let anyone tell you it’s going to be easy. Most businesses that succeed are a lot about perseverance, vision, strong leadership, and a little bit of luck.
So let’s talk about vision. Most people have heard the saying, “do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.” Maybe that’s true for some, but I’ve also seen a lot of people ruin their favorite hobby by attempting to turn it into a business. Passion is important, but purpose is the really big factor. Antoine De Saint-Exupery, author of The Little Prince, once said; “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.” I like this quote. It hits the mark when it comes to the question of where leadership starts. Having a strong vision will create passion with a purpose, in fact, having a strong passion with a purpose is the essence of any great vision. And whenever I talk with leaders of successful organizations, they all agree that a strong vision is the place to start.
So how do you create a strong vision? A great question and a hard one. Since a vision is something that should transform an organization, it’s something that takes deliberate thought and should not be taken lightly. Sure, people like Bill Gates make it sound easy when you hear “a computer on every desk and in every home,” but the reality is it takes time to create a strong compelling vision. In my experience, creating a vision evolves from multiple conversations about the dream of what can be in in the future, and not just from one individual or event. I believe many great leaders have the seed, but the seed must get nurtured and challenged through countless conversations, debates, and objective feedback. As a leader this sometimes feels like a bunch of negative nannies and naysayers killing the dream, but in the end the vision evolves into something the team believes and stands behind.
At SSG we have gone through multiple iterations of our vision. Some more drastic than others, and it has been extremely important to let the vision evolve. As leaders we have to consistently reiterate the vision, and at the same time we have to watch and listen to how the team responds. We must have everyone rowing in the same direction and toward the same destination to truly be successful.
Steven L. Steinheimer is currently the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of SSG, Ltd. Steve has over thirty (30) years of experience in the engineering and software technology industries. He has served in his current role since 1998, and over the last six years he has grown SSG top-line revenue by and average of 27% per year. Steve was recognized in 2010 by the Caruth Institute for Entrepreneurship at the SMU Cox School of Business for being one of DFW’s top 100 fastest-growing private businesses. Also in 2010, Steve was recognized for establishing SSG as one of the best places to work in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex by the Dallas Business Journal for the 3rd consecutive year. In 2009, Steve was a finalist for the Emerging Company CEO Award, presented through the Metroplex Technology Business Council.