To operate a successful business, owners need to provide clarity on what the company’s vision and mission statements are, then follow up with commitment. Donald Cooper tells us how.
Managing any business today is tough and getting tougher. We’re all faced with more demanding customers, more and stronger competition, increased complexity, and shrinking margins. On top of that, great staff are hard to find and keep…and that problem won’t go away any time soon.
Every industry is over-served and under-differentiated. To thrive we must create, deliver, and communicate extraordinary customer value and experiences that clearly differentiate us from our competitors, make us ‘famous’ and grow our bottom line. Mediocrity is no longer an option.
In spite of what anyone tells you, whether your business is large, small, or just getting started, your first and most important job is creating clarity. Nobody talks about that. If we, as a business, don’t know clearly ‘who’ we are, where we’re going, and what we stand for, how will our target customers know who we are, how can we be focused and intentional in running the business, and how will we know what talent we need to attract, develop and retain to make it all happen?
Clarity always starts at the top so, as owners, leaders, or managers, our first job is to be clear about the following eight things:
- Who our target customers are and what life’s really like for them.
- The compelling customer value and experience that we commit to deliver. Value and experiences that will ‘grab’ our target customers, clearly differentiate us from our competitors, make us famous, and grow our bottom line.
- How we’ll communicate our compelling value story in a crowded and cynical market. There’s no point being the best if we’re also the best kept secret.
- What we commit to become to be a profitable and responsible market leader in three to five years. How will our business be different from what and who we are today? The answers to this are the vision.
- The extraordinary bottom line that we commit to generate. Without a healthy bottom line, there is no business.
- The specific decisions, actions, and improvements that we must take—the mission—in every part of the business to get us to our three- to five-year vision. How might parts of our business model change to keep relevant?
- The talent, team, and organizational structure we need to create, and how to grow as leaders to make this happen.
- How we commit to behave along the way (our values, ethics, culture, and standards). One of the most important roles of our leaders is to guard the integrity of the business.
Most businesses lack this kind of clarity, and it’s hurting them badly.
So, how do you get started on improving clarity in your business? Clarity, commitment, urgency, and accountability start with you and filter all the way down the team through communication, daily example, rewards for performance, and consequences for non-performance. If you as an owner, leader, or manager are not clear about each of these eight key factors, who else in the business could possibly be?
Realistically, as a business owner, leader, or manager, on a scale of one to 10 with 10 being ‘very clear,’ how would you rate your personal clarity on each of these eight key success factors? How clear are your management team and your front-line people? Sit down with some of the best minds and hearts in your business, give them the list of the eight clarities and have an open and honest conversation about what they’re clear about and not clear about. Finally, get agreement on what needs doing or fixing and specifically what will be done, by whom, by when, measured how, to improve clarity, commitment, urgency, and accountability throughout your business.
Forget Goals, Targets, Aims, and Objectives. Let’s Talk About ‘Commitments’:
You’ll notice that in the eight key clarities listed above, I’ve used the word ‘commitments.’ I talked about what we commit to deliver, what we commit to become, the bottom line we commit to generate and how we commit to behave along the way.
Every business in the world talks about goals, targets, aims, and objectives. They have efficiency goals, sales targets, profit objectives, and they aim to satisfy customers. One of my recent business coaching clients proudly states on their website, “We strive to be ethical.” What the heck is that?
All of these words, ‘goals, targets, aims, and objectives’ leave way too much wiggle room to not perform. We need to replace all of them with one word: commitments. There’s a big difference between a goal and a commitment. A target is something we hit sometimes and miss other times and it’s okay, because it’s just a target. Goals are something we score sometimes and miss other times, and that’s okay. And, in business, nobody cares what we aim to do, they want to know what we commit to do. When we change our language, we change our culture. We become what we speak. Talking about ‘commitments’ helps create the culture of urgency and accountability that every business needs to thrive, or even survive.
So, for 2017 and beyond, what will you do, starting right now, to improve clarity in your business? From that clarity will come commitment, urgency, and accountability.
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