For 20 years, Ed Basler (pictured) has been the CEO of EJ Basler Company, the precision machining company his father founded. As the president of Fresh Eyes Coaching, he advises other small business owners as well. He’s parlayed his experience into the book The Meat & Potatoes Guide to Business Survival: A Handbook for Non-MBA’s & College Dropouts.
“I wrote the book because I was tired of going to all these seminars and seeing only MBAs speak,” he says. “I found out that a majority of top businesspeople today never finished college. I wanted to put out a book [that everyone] could understand.”
Basler notes one of the core issues entrepreneurs face is staying true to their original passion. “We’re all so busy, it’s easy to just get bogged down in the day-to-day things you have to do to survive,” he says. But, “without vision, businesses perish.”
Here are some of Basler’s tips for staying focused on your core vision.
1. Get Out of Town
“Every year, I get away for one week and just think, dream, talk, and research my business,” Basler says. “It’s amazing what comes out of that week.”
Whether you seclude yourself in a cabin in the woods or take along key employees to brainstorm together, “a lot of creative energy happens,” he says. Getting out of the office can also plant the seed for a new business. He tells the story of how Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz stumbled on a vision for the young company while on a trip to Italy, where he observed the vibrant café culture and saw a business opportunity.
2. Rub Elbows With Other Visionaries
“You have to research, research, research — not only your competition but other successful businesses,” Basler says. “That will definitely help you get a clearer vision for your business.”
If you don’t have Mark Zuckerberg on speed dial, you might find your inspiration in a business seminar. “You can come out of that with so much vision it’s unbelievable,” says Basler. “Get outside your business to get to some of these leadership or growth seminars.”
3. Articulate Your Vision
Basler suggests you write down your vision and keep it visible because “something happens in your brain when you look at that.” Then articulate your idea. “You want to talk about it as much as you can,” to trusted friends and employees, he says. “Every time you speak it, it gets clearer because you have to say it.” The people you discuss your vision with will bring up things you never thought about, he notes. “It’s going to expand your vision.”
4. Find Room for Improvement
“To develop a clear vision, you have to realize that everything can be improved — every business, every product,” says Basler. “Nothing is impossible. That’s the key.” Even if your idea has been tried and failed, don’t let naysayers talk you out of your vision, he advises. He cites the example of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, who made a point of getting to know his competition inside and out. “It inspired him to ask what Apple could do that went a step beyond,” Basler notes. Whatever your industry, there is something better, faster, and smarter waiting to be developed and brought to market — maybe by you.