As a business owner, do you often feel lost? Disoriented? Not knowing which way to turn? For the perplexed business owner, the metaphor of being lost is a good one. To examine this problem let us ask: “What does a hiker do to avoid becoming lost?”

There are reliable ways not to get lost. The hiker without a GPS but having a map and a compass before starting out can identify the starting location on the map. Also, the hiker will have a destination identified on the map. Then the hiker uses the compass to determine the direction to travel. From time to time, the hiker checks the map to identify the hiker’s location on the map, comparing geographical features on the map to those the hiker is seeing. Seems pretty obvious, doesn’t it?

Yet, I encounter business owners not sure of what they want to accomplish (no destination). I see business owners in business without knowing where they are in terms of actions taken, information about finances and markets (no map), trusting intuition (no compass), and hoping things will work out. Sometimes things do work out for a short while, but over time it does not go well because intuition combined with a lack of knowledge will not produce good decision-making. Good decision-making is the key factor in obtaining consistent successful business results. Poor results lead to disorientation and a feeling of being lost. Let us be like the hiker who does not get lost and does what needs to be done to avoid becoming lost.

We need a destination. We can call it a goal – it usually is several goals - but each goal must be based on a value that can be articulated and shared with other owners. The goal must describe a value result – simply saying “I want to make a lot of money” or “I want to control my destiny” is not specific enough. An example of a good goal statement would be: “I want to build the value of the business and realize that value in five years in a way that the value becomes a liquid, personal asset not subject to business risk.” You could also say: “I want to build the business such that it provides income for my family members working in the business over several generations.”

We need a map. The map provides knowledge. As business owners, we obtain knowledge from those who have experience with the decisions we need to make, from experts who have studied the relevant topics, and from those who understand and will take the actions necessary to accomplish the goals. Just as a map shows hills and valleys, as well as other features that help locate where we are, those who are familiar with the information on which the decisions will be based should be consulted. This is a decision-making group. The group does not make the decision but is part of the decision-making process.

We need a compass. We need to know what actions to take to accomplish the goal. The decision-making group, especially those who will carry out the actions, should advise on the actions to be taken to accomplish the goals. Then the actions need to be taken.

We need to check the progress along the way. If we monitor the results of the actions taken, then, as it becomes apparent that actions need to be changed, those actions can be changed immediately so that we stay on the path to the destination. In this way, if we are not completely on track, we can change course to stay on the path to the destination.

To say this another way: if you as a business owner are feeling lost, it is because you do not have a plan providing you with goals (a destination), information (a map), actions to take (a compass), and monitoring of progress and correction (checking the map along the way). To avoid becoming lost just as the hiker uses a map and a compass, you must create and use a strategic plan. It is not easy, but there is help available. Review the articles in my blog, listen to my podcasts, or give me a call.