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Where Do You Start?

It is the beginning of the year.  Once again, on your list of to-dos is “Business plan”.  You are stuck, as you have been in the past.  How does one create a plan that means something, that makes a difference in the day-to-day operation of a company?

The best place, as usual, is the beginning.  The owner started the business for a variety of reasons, one of which is likely to be the need to earn money!  However, that is not a truly compelling vision for the company, particularly for all the people who work in and with the company.

What is your vision for your company?  What are the drivers, the motivators, the reasons for it to exist?  What is the company passionate about?  What is it about what your company does that gets you out of bed every morning?

These are such important questions.  The person who holds the answers is the business owner.

The typical remodeling business owner wears many different hats.  It is not unusual for the owner to be wrapped up in what Steve Covey in “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” calls the important and urgent, the stuff that needs to happen right now, the work that earns the company money.

This is a seductive trap that prevents the owner from being the vision setter.  Yes, the business exists but it is stuck, going no place fast.  Only by stepping back and looking at the big picture can the owner start focusing on those issues that are important and not urgent.

According to Wikipedia, a mission statement tells one what that company is about now.  It concentrates on the present: it defines the ideal customer(s), critical processes and it informs one about the desired level of performance.   A vision statement outlines what a company wants to be.  It concentrates on the future; it is a source of inspiration; it provides clear decision-making criteria.

I like these definitions because they clearly distinguish between the two statements and provide the direction needed to get started with writing some drafts.  Keep in mind that these are to be, at most, several sentences. The easier they are to remember the more likely they are to be referenced on a day-to-day decision-making basis.

Kraig Kramers, in “CEO Tools”, stresses the importance of creating a vision that all your stakeholders can buy into. The vision must be exciting and relevant for everyone in the organization.  When well crafted such a statement makes working together towards a challenging goal fun and encourages all involved to be productively creative.

In “Built To Last” and “Good To Great” Jim Collins talks about the Hedgehog Concept.  Imagine three over-lapping circles.  One is what you are deeply passionate about.  The second is what you can be best in the world at.  The third is what drives your economic engine.  The place where all three circles overlap is the Big Hairy Audacious Goal, or BHAG.  A well-written BHAG is clear, compelling, and people get it right away.  It serves as a unifying focal point of effort.

It is interesting to note that neither Kramers nor Collins talk at all about a mission statement.  Their point is the need to provide a focus that moves the company forward, in writing, that all who work in the company can reference.

Michael Gerber in “The E Myth Contractor” suggests that there are three questions that need to be addressed when creating a plan for one’s business.  They are:

Who are we?

What do we do?

How do we do it?

It could be that the answers to the first two questions are great starting points for creating a mission/vision statement.

You have probably noticed how diverse the opinions about what a mission statement and a vision statement are and whether one or both are statements needed.  That very diversity can be a stumbling block to getting started on this important and essential work.  Don’t let it stop you!

How to get started?  As you go through your work week jot down notes about the reasons your company exists and what it would look like if your company was successful.

Ask your employees for input.  This can be done informally, at one of your regular company meetings, or done in writing.

Ask several of your best clients, trade contractors and suppliers for input.  They all have opinions about what your business is about.  It is useful to hear what they have to say.

Review your notes.  Start to winnow them down.  Then create a draft.  Don’t wordsmith it too much.

Print the result in a typeface that is easy to read.  Share it with your people, letting them know that you are interested in their feedback.  Consider the feedback, incorporating what you think makes sense.

Now post it where all involved in the company see it everyday.

This is a good start!  You have never made it this far before.  With what you have created and how you put it together you have a great beginning to your business plan!

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