While having a solid business or marketing strategy is key to founding a company and growing it, it’s important to not put blinders on and ignore vision. The term “vision” gets a lot of lip service. We’ve all heard examples of Steve Jobs’ vision at Apple. But what does it really mean?

In my own words, vision refers to your ability to see beyond where your company is today. That might mean envisioning a product that doesn’t exist, serving a market that doesn’t currently use your products or otherwise positioning your company in a way others can’t really see. It’s believing that this is possible.

If, ten years ago, someone would have told you we would all be using something called a tablet that was thinner than a book, acted like a book, radio, photo gallery and computer, you probably would have laughed. That’s vision.

All that being said, is it more important to have a strong vision or solid business strategy? My answer? They don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

Let Your Paintbrush Get Creative

Before you sit down to type a formal business strategy, take off your serious business hat for a moment. Take out your figurative crayons or paintbrush (or your literal one) and envision what you want your company to look like, both now and down the road. What does your product line look like? Are you improving upon existing ideas or completely inventing something new?

Don’t let reality limit your creativity. Ignore that niggling voice that tells you your ideas aren’t possible. Go back to being a child, when you didn’t have that voice of doubt.

Create a Visionary Strategy

Once you’ve painted the picture you want for your business, it’s time to create that strategy. You can create a down-to-earth business and marketing strategy that stays true to the vision you’ve created. In fact, it’s a fabulous idea, because the strategy is what will make that vision a reality. Otherwise it’s just a dream. If you’re looking to create something new, set up a plan for how you’ll get there. Create a timeline. Make declarations, like “we will have created a solution for X problem by winter 2013.” Simply declaring your vision will help you achieve it. But don’t forget the action steps you need to take to make it happen.

Can’t Have One Without the Other

Trying to have a business strategy without vision is like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich without the peanut butter (actually, that’s how my son eats his sandwiches. Guess I need to introduce him to vision.). Vision is the spice that makes our businesses work and that keeps us excited about them day after day. And having vision without a strategy is like setting loose a jar full of butterflies. They’re pretty but without direction, they accomplish nothing. Aim to get a balance between the two and you’ll succeed.

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