Have you heard the old saying, “If you don’t know where you are going, how will you know when you get there?” When I speak with most business owners and ask them why they started their business, they generally say, “Because I was very good at ‘XYZ skill’ and was tired of watching my boss make all of the money off of my work so I decided to do it for myself.” Generally, I’ll say “Fantastic, where do you want to end up?” This is where I get that blank stare. “What do you mean, where do I want to end up?”
You started your business for a reason, what do you want to accomplish with it? You get the picture, only a few select business owners start their business with a crystal clear vision of where they want the business to end. Even fewer business owners start their business with a well defined exit plan. Not many business owners make tons of money running a business. The money comes when they sell the business. Think of the money that has been made by the owners’ with companies such as HP, Microsoft and Paychex when they decided to sell shares of their company in a public offering. I’m not suggesting that everyone reading this must take their company public, but you do need to think through your exit plan.
1. Purpose – Have you ever been asked or at least heard the question; “What’s Your Why?” This is often asked by multi-level marketing companies. The reason is simple. Anytime things get really tough, you will need a strong why to push through the difficulties and prevail. Take a few minutes and ask yourself; “What’s my why?” Why did you start your business? When you can honestly answer that, you will be getting closer to your purpose. Verne Harnish, the author of the book Mastering The Rockefeller Habits defines purpose as “Your highest reason for being in this specific business.” This is often the most difficult task when thinking about your business. You might say your purpose is to make tons of money. Great, but why do you want tons of money? What is your reason for wanting money: Safety, security, ego or to give back in the form of charitable donations? You might say that you want to provide jobs. Great, but why do you want to provide jobs? You get the picture. This will take some time, but when you truly identify your purpose, you will be unstoppable.
2. Guiding Principles – What are your guiding principles? These are your values. These valued principles are what guide you and your company. In business, it is often easy to go astray. You might make a sale just for the purpose of making a sale. You might cut some corners to save a buck in tough economic times. You might get short with your employees just to get the job done. Companies without a solid set of guiding principles will become a rudderless ship destined to crash upon the rocks of misfortune. Your guiding principles should guide your organization’s decisions, attitudes, behaviors and culture. These are the planks of wood, laminated together to form the rudder for your company that will steer it towards its vision. These are also the planks by which you will select, evaluate, promote, and develop all team members within your company.
3. Vision – Do you know people who have a fantastic idea, but for whatever reason, have not taken action on the idea? They are just living a daydream. Do you sometimes feel that your business has become a nightmare? There is an old Japanese proverb that basically translates to “Vision without action is a daydream. Action without vision is a nightmare.” So just how do you create your vision? Start with your mindset. Your vision is a long-term, almost unattainable goal of perfection–it is the “what” for your business. Ask yourself what do you want your vision to become?
4. Missions – If your vision is the “what” for your business, then the mission becomes the “how.” Over the next three to five years, how are you going to move your company in the direction of the vision? To answer this, you must answer these questions:
- Who – Who are your customers? Who do we want to do business with? To answer this, ask yourself, who are my best customers? What are their characteristics? What size business? What type of business or person are they? Where is their business or where do they live? How can you find more of them?
- What – What business are you in? What products or services do you offer or should you offer over the next three to five years to move towards your vision?
- Why – Why would someone buy from you? What makes your business stand apart from the crowd? In answering these questions, I have found it most beneficial to actually ask your customers. In a simple email survey, explain that you are looking to improve your company. Then ask them a few simple questions (no more than five or they won’t respond). The first question you should ask is why did they decide to buy from you? Based on this information, you should get a clear picture of what sets you apart from your competition. Refine this information into a statement about your company. We often call this a Unique Selling Proposition or USP. This will become the basis of your marketing message.
With a clear vision and mission, you will be on your way to developing an amazing business that will thrive in any economy.