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Vision: Why some start-ups succeed and others don’t

Paul Oberschneider left stock market trading to build a $200m company - Success he says wouldn't have been possible without first finding a vision...

I spent years living life in the fast lane as a Wall Street trader, but the money I earned and lost meant nothing to me as all that remained at the end of the day were trading sheets and crumpled-up order sheets – just numbers. It all felt empty when what I really wanted to be able to do was to create something meaningful.

Many people starting a business will be able to identify with this feeling.

The desire to build your own business your own way and be the boss can be a powerful thing, but it is important to recognise that you cannot build a truly successful business on your own. Being a successful entrepreneur requires three things:

1. To be an entrepreneur, you need to be a leader.
2. To be a leader, you need a team.
3. To build a team, you must share your vision.
4. All entrepreneurs must have a vision.

Know what Z looks like

In business, it is never a straight line from A to Z. However, it is important that you know what Z looks like, and have your end goal in mind.

If you are going to lead a successful start-up, you must start with that vision. You are going to need to share your vision as best as you can, as it is the only way you are going to find the right employees to help you make that vision a reality.

Find the people to make your business idea happen

Second only to your vision, businesses are about people. Quite simply, you will never know how to do everything, but your employees are invaluable assets that you can call upon for their skills, expertise and energy. Your job is to know your plan and be able to communicate it with clarity and enthusiasm.

Since I took the leap into starting my own business, I have built over two million square feet of retail shopping centre space, five hotels, countless restaurants and fast food chains, and the largest real estate company in Central and Eastern Europe.

However, if you were to ask me how to pour cement, lay bricks or fit a kitchen, I’m afraid you would probably get pretty disappointing advice. I know very little, but that's just fine as I had the vision and found the people to make it all happen—that’s the role of a leader.

Five steps to find your start-up vision

So how do you go about finding your vision, and making it a reality? Here are five actions to take:

  1. Understand where opportunities come from: When you’re starting a business it can be tempting to throw all your efforts into forcing it to become a success. However, it's  important to remember that only the right circumstances bring the really golden opportunities. Sometimes, if your circumstances aren't providing the opportunities you need, you may need to look at, or change, some things about your life – thereby changing your circumstances.
  2. Ask yourself, “Where am I?”: Everybody faces a unique set of circumstances when starting a business, so take the time to look at your own. Ignoring your current circumstances is a common mistake made by start-up founders, but you're always going to face an uphill battle if the circumstances are not right. Capitalise on the opportunities your circumstances provide.
  3. Be patient: So you want to start a business, and you just can't wait for it to become an overwhelming success? Unfortunately, building a sustainable business is never completely straight forward, so it's important to be patient, open-minded and take some time to carefully watch the people and businesses around. This way you can start to really understand the available opportunities and likely challenges you will face – figuring out what really excites your imagination is a big step.
  4. Write your story: Once you have understood your circumstances and found your vision, give it time to sink in. Mull it over and see if it still excites you in a week or so. If it does, try writing it down into an exciting story. This will force you to fill in the gaps and think about all the things you may not have considered, but it will also help you to cement a clear vision in your own mind.
  5. Share your excitement: Don’t be afraid to tell your start-up story to others. Getting input from people you trust can be invaluable, and as you hone both your vision and your storytelling skills, you’ll find you can inspire a team to gather around you and your vision. A team is going to be vital to your success – nobody flies to the moon without the help of other people!

Paul Oberschneider is a successful entrepreneur, angel investor, author and speaker. For more information go to


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