The first column in this series focused on how to begin the process of thinking strategically about your business in the difficult economic times of 2009. This advice applies to any type of business of any size. Now is the time to plan for the future and building a solid foundation for the plan is the critical first step. This includes creating a dialog with your most trusted employees who you will depend on the execute whatever plan is developed.
To reiterate my main point about how successful companies plan in difficult times. One of the best approaches is to balance the following steps:
- Know what you stand for and what you do best
- Understand what is paying the bills now and for the next 1 – 2 years
- Have a clear vision of what you hope to be in 10 years
- Establish a “base camp” 1 – 3 years in the future that bites off a big chunk of achieving your 10 year vision
- Use elements of Scenario Planning to learn more about the future
- Boil everything down to an action plan for the next year
The Second Step
The first step we discussed is to form a small team and determine what your Core Values really are. This step defines what your company Stands For. The second step we’ll discuss in this column focuses on What Your Company Does Best.
What Your Company Does Best
When you think about what your best customers value about your company, what is it that they say? Do you provide terrific service, are your products and services affordable, do you solve problems that others can’t, does your technical knowledge pull customers, etc? In other words, what is your company’s Core Purpose? What is it that you can be the best in the world at doing, or at least the best in your town, city, region, state or the US?
Gather your team again, the same one you hopefully already met with to flesh out your Core Values. Ask everyone to write a sentence that describes the Core Purpose they believe that best defines what the company can be the best at doing. Write these on a flip chart or white board and then ask each person to select one statement that they believe best describes the company’s Core Purpose and then answer the following questions about each Core Purpose statement:
- Do you find this purpose personally inspiring?
- Can you envision this purpose being as valid 10 years or so from now as it is today?
- Does the purpose help you think expansively about the long-term possibilities and range of activities the organization can consider over the next 10 years or more, beyond its current products,services, markets, industries, and strategies?
- Does the purpose help you to decide what activities to not pursue, to eliminate from consideration?
- Is this purpose authentic—something true to what the organization is all about—not merely words on paper that “sound nice”?
- Would this purpose be greeted with enthusiasm rather than cynicism by a broad base of people in the organization?
- When telling your children and/or other loved ones what you do for a living, would you feel proud in describing your work in terms of this purpose?
Next, debrief with the team on the best Core Purpose statements and craft one that is meaningful to everyone and best represents what your company does best. Write it on a flip chart or white board next to your Core Values statement.
Here are a few examples of Core Purpose statements to help with this process:
- 3M – To solve unsolved problems innovatively
- Boeing – To push the leading edge of aviation, taking on huge challenges and doing what others cannot do
- Merck – To preserve and improve human life
- Nike – To experience the emotion of competition, winning, and crushing competitors
- Sony – To experience the sheer joy of advancing and applying technology for the benefit of the public
Background material on these questions is available on-line at www.jimcollins.com if you would like to research more about this topic.
Charlie Alter owns Bentbrook Advisors LLC based in Sylvania, Ohio. He specializes in Growth Strategy, Innovation and Coaching and can be reached at email@example.com visit http://bentbrookadvisors.com/ for more information on his business advisory practice.