Reassessing your business' go-forward plan: Why? Who? How?

I last wrote an article for the Goering newsletter in February 2020, before the world came to a crashing halt. The article outlined potential New Year’s resolutions for all business owners and leaders as they led their respective organizations into a new year. After all, if these stewards of their businesses weren’t making time for introspection and “white space” to think strategically with the long view in mind, who was? I focused on the key issues of (1) reviewing and updating business succession/exit strategy planning; and (2) thoughtfully evaluating whether one’s current outside advisors could still advise and provide the necessary resources to take the business to the next level of sustainable growth.

Hopefully, during the COVID-19 response period, you took the opportunity to reflect on these issues and more. Those people you lead or who count on the business’s continued existence and success most certainly did (and continue to) contemplate next steps. In fact, these individuals, many of whom are being regularly courted to leave during this fierce labor market and “war for talent,” are counting on you to formulate and articulate a clear vision for the future, create and foster a healthy culture, and show even greater empathy for the new challenges they face in this post-pandemic period.

Why?

As the prolific thought leader Simon Sinek encourages all business leaders, always start with “why!” Why are you in business? If your business closed up shop tomorrow, would anyone notice and would anyone care (besides your employees)? What market need does your business fill that makes it more than a commodity producer/service provider? Your employees (especially your A players) need to understand both their critical part in carrying out the business’s purpose and what their future with the company/organization looks like. Otherwise, you are much more vulnerable to losing them. Also, as we better appreciate how to engage and retain our Millennial and younger workforce, do we understand their employment expectations and needs, besides regular feedback? Research strongly suggests younger employees want to better understand and support the purpose and mission of the organizations that they work for.

Who?

Although it is hard to fathom making personnel moves in such a tight labor market, culture is largely driven by who you hire, who you retain, and who you put in a leadership role. If you have a values statement or code of ethics, that is a great start to guide these critical decisions. However, if you as the leader are not living nor holding your leadership team accountable to those values, or publicly recognizing those leaders who are living them out, these aspirational documents are meaningless. Further, this clear disconnect will be deemed hypocrisy and adversely hurt your organization, result in plummeting morale, and ensure that the exit doors of employees leaving for other opportunities are heavily trafficked. And once your leaders leave, those under their leadership may soon follow. Collaborate with your leadership team to review (or create for the first time) the organization’s shared vision and values statement. That way, everyone can take ownership of these core tenets, live them, and hold others accountable for doing so or celebrate and advance them for embodying them. If your written values statement no longer reflects who you are as a company, then get real and update it. But also include things you can aspire to and don’t be afraid to set the bar high. After all, as the person leading the company, you are also the CCO or chief cultural officer, and you ultimately set the tone.

How?

Does your company have a written strategy that your leadership team had input in creating and for which each member has a role in implementing? I’m not referring to a written document that is gathering dust on your shelf and has never been discussed or implemented. I’m talking about a dynamic roadmap that will help your team in building synergy around collaboration and enhanced teamwork. In my experience advising business leaders, I believe this is the most critical factor (after a healthy culture) in setting up an organization for sustainable and profitable growth. Also, by creating a roadmap, you now have something to measure and use to confront losses and celebrate “wins.”

The stark reality is most everyone wants to be a part of a winning team that is making a difference. They also want to feel that the organization is making progress and not just sitting complacently on its hands or riding on its past successes. An effective and dynamic strategy is a “must” for all companies who are committed to getting to the next level. Without one and a commitment to growth, you might as well say “goodbye” to your leaders. Again, they have plenty of opportunities. Their phones are ringing and their e-mail inboxes are filling up from recruiters and other companies (including your competitors), who promise them a future and advancement opportunities, not just a few more bucks.

So what are you waiting for? For what purpose do you exist as an organization? Who do you need to fulfill this purpose? How are you going to achieve this purpose?

If you don’t lead this effort, then who? If not now, then when? Don’t put this critical task off any longer. Your employees are counting on you! 

Headshot of E. Todd Wilkowski

E. Todd Wilkowski

Attorney at Law, Frost Brown Todd LLC

513-870-8241

About the Goering Center for Family & Private Business

Established in 1989, the Goering Center serves more than 400 member companies, making it North America’s largest university-based educational non-profit center for family and private businesses. The Center’s mission is to nurture and educate family and private businesses to drive a vibrant economy. Affiliation with the Carl H. Lindner College of Business at the University of Cincinnati provides access to a vast resource of business programming and expertise. Goering Center members receive real-world insights that enlighten, strengthen and prolong family and private business success. For more information on the Center, participation and membership visit goering.uc.edu.

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