Recently, a small business owner confided to me, “When I started this company I had no idea where I was going with it.” Twenty years later, he’s still trying to figure that out. Yes, his company is still in business, it’s profitable, and it provides him a comfortable income. But what became clear in our conversation was that this business has significant unrealized potential because the CEO never decided where it was going.
I’ve heard a variation on this theme a dozen times, most often from those entrepreneurs who started a business based on a skill set instead of a vision. Their expertise fueled a passion, but they didn’t have the know how to create a scalable enterprise. Without an articulated vision for the future, they just showed up for work each day and “made” a product, or sold a service, but never leveraged all that hard work into a sustainable asset, the kind they could take an “off the grid” vacation from, or sell to a strategic buyer.
Companies that don’t have a vision of the future have a very difficult time growing beyond the bandwidth their CEO has for day-to-day work. Why? Because without articulated goals, it’s very difficult to create a strategy and the structure necessary to support it. Worse, employees have no idea what they were striving for, how they are aligned, what their shared vision looks like. That’s a tough formula for hiring and retention of the people that can build a company.
The place to begin is gaining clarity about your goals for your business. Get specific. Paint a picture for yourself. What do you want from it personally? Is it for lifestyle or significant profit? How will it embody your values? How big will it be? What markets will it serve? What kind of enterprise is required? How big are the financial investments? Do you have the risk profile to meet them? What would the exit strategy look like?
When you see the future, it’s much easier to figure out how to get there. If you’re going to work this hard, you might as well see a tangible, sustainable asset from the effort. There’s too much at stake not to.| Categories: Business Planning, Exit Strategy, Growth, Selling a Business