Making Your Vision a Reality Using Focus Filters

As the old saying goes, “If you can dream it, you can do it.” In the business world, that saying translates into what we call a Vision. It’s a unified, concise set of dreams, commitments, and goals held by a tightly knit group of people like you and your Senior Leadership Team (SLT) members. Having a clear Vision — one that’s documented and shared with everyone — is essential for positioning an organization for success, and it’s the kind of success that makes it so much easier for an ambitious founder to build a great company. (You want that, right?)

The question is: How do you turn your Vision into reality? That’s where the concept of Focus Filters makes all the difference. Simply put, Focus Filters are crucial if you want to confidently navigate the Stages of Development associated with building the type of company you can gladly hand over to the next leader or owner.

In this article, you’ll learn:

  • How Focus Filters help you establish agreements with a clear and compelling Vision
  • How to embed your Focus Filters throughout your organization
  • How Focus Filters enable easier decision-making across your organization

“If you want to build a decent company, especially if you want to build a Stage Five Company… you need to have a clear and compelling Vision that provides context for virtually every decision that every person in your company makes.”
—Mark Abbott, on Ninety’s podcast



Understanding Your Vision

Let’s set the groundwork for your Focus Filters by first establishing the importance of a Vision. After all, the Vision sits at the core of your business’s strategy and growth. It’s not just where you want to go, but also who you want to be and how you plan to get from here to there; it provides context for why you do the things you do. 

At Ninety, we believe you need to develop a compelling business Vision that will help you attract and retain what is often referred to as the right people in the right seats. Without them, it's almost impossible to get to that future state 5–10 years from now when you hope to realize your Compelling and Audacious Goals (or CAGs) — the objectives that manifest from your dreams.

Here and now, however, you should expect that elements of your Vision are likely to evolve a fair amount early on. And that’s okay. That’s why Focus Filters are so critical. So let’s get into what those are…

The Role of Focus Filters

A grayscale illustration of a magnifying glass with the words focus filters inside it. Its surrounded by six other circles naming each focus filterFocus Filters are a sacrosanct set of guiding principles that keep an organization aligned on what really matters. They serve as the foundation for the organization’s Vision. Passing all your decisions through one or more Focus Filters simplifies decision-making and keeps your company focused on its primary goals.

A famous example crystallizes the point: When Britain’s 2000 Olympic rowing team began training, captain Ben Hunt-Davis encouraged the team to embrace a Focus Filter to guide them. It was a simple idea reduced to a short question: “Will it make the boat go faster?”

Imagine that for a second. Imagine eating a few slices of pepperoni pizza, enjoying a few pints, or hitting that snooze button a few times too many. All these decision points encourage you to ask yourself whether giving in to your urges will help accomplish your long-term goals.

Passing every temptation, diversion, and interruption through this filter kept the team focused on earning a gold medal — a dream the team accomplished nearly a century after the last British rowing team lapped the world.

That’s powerful stuff. Powerful enough to get you started identifying Focus Filters of your own, yes? As you set off to do that, you’ll also be forming the kind of agreements-based culture that is found in high-trust companies because you’ll be working together on what’s most important. And that is what keeps everyone aligned on the Vision.

Identifying Your Focus Filters

Let’s break down the Focus Filters that become the foundation for your Vision.

Purpose, Passion, and/or Just Cause

This filter describes the reason your organization exists (Purpose), the powerful emotions that influence you (Passion), or a future state so appealing that you're willing to go the extra mile to achieve it (Just Cause). Establishing these “whys” offers your team members a way to buy into and participate in your dreams.

Industry and Niche

This Focus Filter should be the simplest to establish. Knowing and identifying your Industry and Niche will make it easy for everyone in the organization to understand and explain what you do. These are the products or services you provide — your “whats.”

Unique Value Proposition (UVP)

Your Unique Value Proposition is your value creation promise to your Ideal Customers — why your Ideal Customer chooses your product/service over those of all your competitors. Your promise usually lands in one of four categories: 

  • Lowest cost
  • A focus on innovation
  • Impeccable customer service
  • Status for the consumer
Ideal Customer Profile (ICP)

Identifying the demographics, geographics, and psychographics of your Ideal Customer — who you serve and why — removes ambiguity from your go-to-market strategy and provides a target for your teams to focus on. Knowing your Ideal Customers is vital to maintaining the future-focused Vision you need as an organization. Aim for 90% Ideal Customers.

Core Values

These guiding principles and behaviors allow team members to connect and encourage a healthy, high-trust culture. Core Values are instrumental to decision-making, hiring new candidates, and continually caring for team members. At Ninety, our Core Values — collectively referred to as G-TRIBE — are the heart of who we are.


The outcomes of your goals are your “where.” Beginning with your most ambitious long-term goals (CAGs) and trailing down in time to your 3-Year, 1-Year, and 90-Day Goals, these milestones keep you focused and motivated while you make your organization better and better. Your CAGs should align and benefit all your Ideal Stakeholders while clearly connecting to your Purpose/Passion/Just Cause. Your 3-Year Goals push your organization to grow. Your 1-Year Goals keep you on track. Your Rocks (90-Day or Quarterly Goals) are used to advance toward your longer-term goals or build a new project or fix an existing one — they’re a fixture of the infinite quarterly life cycle of your organization.

SWOT Analysis: a Key Element of Your Vision

While all the above filters help crystallize your Vision, there’s still more to do. Identifying your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats — what is commonly referred to as a SWOT analysis — is also a key component of your Vision. This analysis helps ensure that your Vision is both aspirational and realistic. It forces you to examine internal and external factors (market conditions, industry advancements, and resource constraints, to name a few) that could derail your efforts to achieve that Vision. Here’s a quick breakdown:

Identify Strengths

What do you do well, and where do you hold an advantage over other businesses in your industry/niche? Is it your talent, your product or service, or your resilience? These form the bedrock of your business — the traits and tangible elements you want to lean into and preserve.

Acknowledge Weaknesses

Provide an honest assessment of where you might be lacking relative to others in the industry. Some of your goals will certainly be designed to address these weak spots.

Look for Opportunities

The potential for achieving something “better” is out there, something that can grow your business or help you turn a weakness into a strength. It might be as simple as finding the right people for the right seats in your organization — the kind of industry knowledge and skill that pushes organizations to greatness. Be open to finding those opportunities.

Assess Threats

Competitors, economic or geopolitical crises, evolving market trends: Any or all of these could be potential threats to the security and growth of your business. The more you’re aware of them, the more you’re ready to address them.

Implementing Focus Filters in Your Strategy

Here are some tips for implementing Focus Filters:

Define Your Core Values

This is your ultimate Focus Filter. Every decision, from product development to hiring, should be measured against these fundamental beliefs.

Identify Key Strategic Objectives

Break down your Vision into actionable and measurable goals. These objectives will act as your compass, guiding your day-to-day decisions and long-term strategies.

Evaluate Opportunities through the Lens of Focus Filters

Before pursuing a new opportunity, ask yourself whether it aligns with your Core Values, mission, and strategic objectives. If the project doesn't pass this test, it might not be worth your time.

Monitoring and Adapting Your Focus: Communicate and Reiterate

Once you’ve done the work to establish your Focus Filters, it’s important to remember the work’s still not done. Ensure your team understands and embraces these Focus Filters. Regularly revisit and communicate them to ensure that everyone is aligned.

Like the Vision itself, your Focus Filters need to be ingrained in all you do, from strategically planning for the future to capably completing tasks that arise during daily operations. Ninety’s Vision tool is a great place to start. Here’s where you can highlight filters like your industry and niche, your Core Values, goals, and more. With the filters sitting front and center, alignment among teams becomes almost easy, as we like to say.

At an individual level, you can use 1-on-1 meetings to cement the agreements associated with your seat. Team members can self-assess and be rated on how well they reflect the organization’s Core Values. They can also reaffirm their competency, commitment, and capacity with a rating that reflects how they meet the needs of their role and support the overarching Vision. Through these exercises, you build the kind of organizational culture that attracts and retains Ideal Team Members.

Set Your Focus Filters and Live Your Vision

Your Vision is at the forefront of everything you do. But when you put the value of Focus Filters to use, you can make that Vision a reality by positioning yourself for sustained growth and success. At Ninety, we have the platform tools to help you document, update, and share your filters and Vision to ensure a focused, aligned, and thriving organization.

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