In my last blog post I talked about the need for every business owner to have a picture of what they want their company to look like in the next 3 years IN WRITING. If you did that, congratulations, you are in the top 30% of business owners and statistically you are going to reap the rewards of that soon. In this post, I want to talk about one of the huge benefits of having this picture. It will help you and your team have a clear direction, create purpose for why you get up everyday and come to work, and create the foundation for your future business growth strategies.
I think at some point in everyone’s career you have had what they call the “Sunday night blues.” It’s Sunday night and you are thinking about what you need to do, your schedule for the week, what meetings you have, where your numbers are for the month, who you need to hire, etc. While you are in the black hole of to-do lists, you start feeling exhausted already and you don’t want to even start. You might even utter the words, “I don’t want to go to work tomorrow.” Ever been there? I have too. The truth is, your employees might be doing the same thing. So how do we combat the Sunday night blues? How do we get our team excited and for them to want to get up every day and come to work?
Clear direction and purpose!
When we’re able to give ourselves and our team a compelling reason to get up on Monday morning and be excited to come to work, we’re already winning the day. We want them to be excited about talking to potential customers, thinking about how we can create more organic growth, and product expansion. You might be saying, “but it’s their job, they’re getting paid to be here and work!” Yes that’s true, but so are you, and you have felt this way before.
Another thing to consider (especially if you are a founder), is this is your baby and you would do anything to make it work. It’s not their baby! I know you want it to be, but they will never feel the way you do about your company. It’s not theirs. You are laying in bed at night thinking about market research, product development, target audience, and different business growth strategies. Most of them aren’t. They’re worried about paying the bills, getting their kids to sports practices, and so on. So anything we can do to give them a compelling reason to be excited about coming to work benefits everyone.
Why is it so important to create a clear direction and purpose in what we do?
Not having clear direction and purpose can inadvertently create an artificial ceiling!
My first job after getting out of ministry was working as a sales/project manager at a gutter company. We were one of the top 3 gutter companies in the nation focusing on multi-family properties. The owner/founder’s vision for the company was to reach $10 million dollars in gross revenue. Everyone knew that was his goal. He said it at every weekly staff meeting.
Was this a bad goal? No, everyone understood that in business you want to grow your company as big as it could be. However, it wasn’t a very compelling goal. It certainly wasn’t a business growth strategy. Every day we would come to the office and do our job, go home, then get up the next day and do it all over again. It was a great job and I was doing well at it, but I longed for more. I longed to make an impact.
So being that I am a super competitive person, my goal was to break every sales record that I could. That was the thing that was driving me to get up and go to work every day. It worked, for a while. Once I had sold more than anyone had ever sold at that company, I was bored again. So, my passion for leadership kicked in and I went to the owner and asked if I could have some time during the weekly staff meetings to do some leadership development with the team. He agreed and I did, but it wasn’t long until that wasn’t enough.
Then one day, the owner called a full team meeting and told us that he had sold the company to a larger nationwide organization. So I went back to my office, looked them up, and found out that their mission was to strengthen and enrich communities through affordable and sustainable housing projects. That was a mission I could get behind! I never had the Sunday night blues again because I knew every day I went to work, I was helping families have an affordable, safe, environmentally friendly house of their own.
Everyone in that office worked harder because of the mission we stood for. When your business strategies align with a great mission, your growth goals will fall into place. Especially when it comes to the younger generations like millennials, gen z, and younger. They don’t just want a job, they want something to stand behind that makes an impact.
That is the power of clear direction and purpose behind doing what you do. The original owner’s goal was understandable, but not compelling. Therefore, his employees only gave 50-60% effort. We were never going to get to his goal. He inadvertently created a ceiling for himself, his team, and his company.
Questions to think about:
- What is the compelling reason for why your company exists?
- Who in your community would miss you if your company went out of business?
- How does your business plan or product line align with a cause?
Answer those questions and then communicate it to everyone every chance you get!
“Life is about making an impact, not making an income!”
Kevin Kruse, CEO of LEADx and author of Great Leaders Have No Rules.
Clear direction and purpose eliminates distractions, saving time and money.
The other day I told my 6-year-old son to go clean his room. I would love to say that he said, “Yes, sir!” and marched upstairs to do it, but he chose to act like he was dying instead. Finally, after threatening to take his swimming privileges away, he stomped up the stairs to embark on what he felt like was an impossible journey. Three hours later I went up to check on him, hoping to praise him for his victory.
Instead, I walked in and found his room messier than it was before and him on the floor playing with toys. When I asked him what happened to him cleaning his room, he told me while he was cleaning, he found some toys that he hadn’t seen in a while and wanted to play with them. Then he found the remote to his LED lights in his room and wanted to see all the different colors it could make. Finally, he found his Switch and played some video games. All the while making a bigger mess than before.
Honestly, I already knew it was a low percentage that when I walked upstairs his room was going to be clean. I wish I could say that this kind of behavior was only reserved for kids, but adults do this all the time. I’m not talking about when it comes to cleaning our room, but distractions. As adults, we are masters of falling victim to distractions, but the worst one is when it comes to the direction and purpose of our company.
This can be disastrous for you as the owner, your employees, and your company. You can lose market share, money, culture, employee engagement, customer experience, and the list goes on. This is why it is important to understand your target market and have a market penetration strategy. Don’t get distracted by new features, new customer segments, and a new audience. Does this mean we can never adjust or break into new markets… no. Just make sure you have a firm foundation in your existing market before you move on.
I worked with a small business owner for a while that had shiny object syndrome. Every time he saw a new and exciting opportunity, he wanted us to take it. Every month he would start 2-3 new initiatives, expecting us to add it onto our plates. He was focused on market expansion, but it was too early and super exhausting! In his mind, the best business growth strategies were to cast the widest net possible and joint venture with everyone he could find, instead of focusing on our current market. We ended up wasting so much time, money, and energy on things that didn’t even matter.
Eventually, profit margin was going down, and the company’s growth was declining. Every time the owner would come up with a new idea that he wanted us to implement, no one would do it. Everyone knew to just wait a week and there would be another one. Finally, it got to a point where people didn’t even know what they were supposed to be doing. People started quitting, the vision of our core business was fuzzy, and the company ended up going out of business. If you are a leader of an organization, the best gift you can give to yourself and your people is clear direction. Otherwise, your brand awareness gets diluted.
“If you don’t know where your going, every road will get you nowhere!”
How, then, do we make sure we don’t fall into the distraction trap? Is it okay to adjust our course? We are going to cover this next…
6 Steps for Creating Your Strategic Plan
Having a 3-year picture is great, but if you do nothing with it, you have just :
- Wasted your time
- Wasted your team’s time—especially if they helped you craft that 3-year plan (and, by extension, have communicated that their ideas aren’t worth implementing)
- Shortchanged the future potential of your company and your income.
- Shortchanged the future people you would have hired to help support their families.
- Shortchanged the people you would have impacted by providing your services or product.
Okay, number 4 & 5 might be a little dramatic, but you understand my point. Having a dream doesn’t matter unless you do something about it. How do we do that? I’m glad you asked…
Below, we’ve to put the 3-year picture into actionable steps to ensure that you can make it a reality and begin forming the new foundation for your future business growth strategies:
- Make sure your 3-year plan is as detailed as possible. How big will your company be? How many employees will you have? What roles will they fill? What new products will you offer? What equipment will you need? What training will you or your team need? What size building will you need? How many new customers will you have? What will your revenue need to be? What new markets do you want to be in? What support will you need? (HR, Accounting, healthcare, benefits, insurance, etc.)
- Divide your 3-year picture up into 7 categories: Finances, people, systems & processes, marketing efforts, Equipment/facilities, products/services, and strategic partnerships. If you have other areas based on your specific industry, add them in there as well. What will you need/want in all 7 areas at the end of the 3-years?
- The best way is to work backwards. In those 7 areas, figure out what you will need to have in place by the end of year 2 to be on track.
- Then, do the same thing for the end of year 1.
- Now you have your yearly goals in place. Take year one and break it out by quarter. You are trying to create actionable steps each quarter to make sure you are on track to accomplish your 3-year goal. Then do the same thing for year 2 and 3.
- If you can, create a team of people to help you accomplish these quarterly goals. Make sure you assign an action plan and responsibilities to these team members to move specific areas forward. Hold regular check-in meetings to hold your team accountable to the timelines and responsibilities created. If you don’t have a team yet, time management will be crucial. You will have to balance working IN your business versus working ON your business. These meetings are to evaluate if you are on track or need to adjust course.
Hopefully now you can start seeing the importance of having a business growth strategy, not only for you, but your team as well. Having a clear purpose and direction is ultimately not the end goal. It really is the internal structure business leaders need to grow your company to serve your customer base with your product or service that solves a major problem in the world. That is the end goal.
Having this kind of plan in place allows you and your team long term to grow past your artificial ceiling and eliminates distractions. Once you complete this plan you and your team will now have a laser focus on what you are doing on a daily basis and gives you the reason to get up and come to work every day. In our next post we are going to talk about how to communicate this vision to your team and getting them on-board to help you achieve your 3-year goal!