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Business Planning – How To Choose Your Actions

Business Planning – How To Choose Your Actions

OK, if you’ve done a good job so far, this is where business planning meets action. It’s time to launch! 20% of your work will give you 80% of your results so due the right 20%!

  • Look at your first year goals and for each one, define the actions that will need to be done to meet each goal.
  • For each action vote on how hard it is (not how long it will take!). Use something visual like animals. Is this job a: chipmunk, squirrel, rabbit, raccoon, rabbit, wolf, grizzly bear, elephant! That just gives you a quantity for the work.
  • Assign a dollar amount to how valuable each action is to the company.
  • Now all you have to do is compare the dollar amount to the work measurement you described on, and do the tasks the will give you the most result for the least amount of work.

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Business Planning – S.W.O.T. Plus Analysis

Business Planning – S.W.O.T. Plus Analysis

It really is worth it, but you need to keep it real.

  • Strengths – What are our 3 biggest strengths?
  • Weakness – What are our 3 biggest weaknesses?
  • Opportunities – What are the 3 biggest opportunities we can succeed with in the next 6 months?
  • Threats – What three things do you worry about the most?
  • The Plus Question – If you could change 1 thing about the agency, what would it be?

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Business Planning – Writing A Mission Statement and Guiding Principles

Business Planning – Writing A Mission Statement and Guiding Principles

mission-statementWriting a Mission Statement and Guiding Principles is an important part of business planning. This step really can give you guidance as you’re making day to day decisions and deciding what projects to commit to. The key to ending up with something that makes an impact on your business is asking just a few questions, and taking a few steps. Keep it simple, and be decisive.

A Mission Statement answers the following questions.

  • What do we do?
  • How do we do it?
  • Whom do we do it for?
  • What value are we bringing?

Guiding Principles are the values or beliefs that guide how you decide things.

These are the “do the right thing” guides that people can look to when things are getting a little “grey”. How do we interact with each other and with our clients. Preferred Insurance Center’s guiding principles are:

  • We are joyfully grateful for all our blessings.
  • We are faithfully enthusiastic about our future.
  • We are selflessly making a difference for our teammates and clients.
  • We are growth focused to make a difference for more.

Steps to bringing it all together

  • Step 1: Gather some information from the participants and summarize it.
    • Ask everyone to write answers to the four questions a Mission Statement is supposed to answer.
      • What do we do?
      • How do we do it?
      • Whom do we do it for?
      • What value are we bringing?
    • For guiding principles ask people the following
      • What values are most important to you?
      • How will you interact with your stakeholders (think about customers, employees, vendors, the communities you work in and with, and shareholders)?
      • How can you balance your values with financial goals and common sense?
      • What are you NOT willing to do to make this business successful?
    • Take their written responses and summarize them. Some will be very similar so make sure you keep track how many times a similar statement is made. The statements made the most are likely to end up in that final Mission Statement.
  • Step 2: Give everyone a chance to write a Mission Statement and suggest guiding principles
    • You won’t get a response from everyone but you will get about as much variety as you have people helping you.
    • Tell everyone there is a deadline and don’t give it too much time. The longer till the deadline, the fewer responses you will get.
    • Share all the submission with everyone and plan a meeting a few days.
  • Step 3: Sit down with everyone in the room and try to come up with a consensus.
  • Step 4: Wait a few days so everyone can think it over and make a decision. If you are struggling with this, follow the decision process you decided on during the Decide Who Gets To Decide & How phase at the beginning of this process.

This should get you to a pretty good Mission Statement and set of Guiding Principles. Of course you can also google some mission statements of companies you admire to get some ideas. In the end, you can make this take forever, or you can make some decisions and move forward. I personally prefer action.

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Business Planning – Decide Who Gets To Decide & How

Business Planning – Decide Who Gets To Decide & How

LeadershipMake up your mind who gets to have input, and who gets to decide.

It may sound simple, but it isn’t often. In some organizations they vote on everything. That isn’t leadership at all, that is a recipe for disaster. We are talking about writing plans and statements that define what your organization will become. It requires vision, leadership, and accountability. If you want a statement about what you are now, then involve everyone and vote on everything. You may need that actually to decide how much you need to change. But when it comes to planning, it is time to lead.

Who gets to decide? – Include people who either have ownership, or directly report to people who have ownership. Choose people who will be there long enough to feel the ramifications of the plan and make sure they are people who will actually feel the ramifications. Respected, retired founders are good for guidance, but they don’t get to make decisions.  Choose people who believe that change is not just inevitable, but desirable…if you don’t you won’t get change.

Who gets to have input? – Now this is entirely different. I think the paragraph above makes this pretty clear. You can ask for ideas from anyone you want. A lot of ideas is usually good. But even if you get input from someone, you are NOT obligated to use it, like it, or even respect it. You need to be a filter, not a sponge. Don’t throw something out just because it makes you uncomfortable, but don’t include it just because it makes you feel good. Be open-minded, but not ridiculous. Consider who gave you the input. If you are not a good filter, then be very careful who you solicit input from.

How is the decision made? – If your organization is truly yours, and only yours, than you need to be fully responsible in the end. If it isn’t, you need a different plan. Consensus among leaders (voting by stakeholders for example) can be very good if they are truly the people you decided get to decide. You still will likely need to decide what is considered a decision (66% of the vote?) and what has no consensus.  What happens when there is no consensus? Nothing (I hate that choice)?

Now just make a decision on how to decide so you can make more decisions better and faster going forward.

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Business Planning – How To Write A Culture Statement

Business Planning – How To Write A Culture Statement


Group Sky SmallBusiness planning needs to start somewhere, and I think it should start with writing a culture description.  I debated between writing a Mission Statement or a Culture Statement. I chose to start with the Culture Statement because it is a statement about “who” your business is, or perhaps “who” you want your business to be. A Mission Statement is about “what” your business wants to accomplish. I simply decided that in business, as in life, “who” trumps “what” almost every time.

Webster’s definition of culture: “The set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution or organization.”  You and your team are going to spend a lot of time in this business, don’t let the culture be an accident. Why would you allow something so vital  as your attitudes, values, goals and practices “just happen”?

Why does a culture statement need to be written? My experience is that we are all a bit unstable, are not the clearest communicators, and suffer from short term amnesia. That means if we have an idea or goal in our mind only, that idea or goal is going to change based on our mood, circumstances and how well we remember our previous thoughts. Perhaps even more important than remembering our previous thoughts is remembering why we thought them. On the other hand, when we put something in writing we end up making it organized and more clear. The written statement also holds us accountable to it and makes us think before we change it. Lastly, we can simply hand the people we work with the statement and we are all at least reading from the “same page”.

So lets get started!

Going forward from here is rather simple. Choose each part of the definition and explain what you want your organization to be. The hard part is being clear enough. Be so descriptive that you can “see” your business functioning and your team interacting. Make it alive, almost like a painting. I’ve seen people actually give examples or tell stories, and that is very effective. This is not the place for an intellectual business format complete with white shirts and perfect ties under 3 piece suits. No, this is what happens at the water cooler, or in the breakroom, or at the bar the team goes to after work.

  • Attitude is NOT everything – but it is the Difference Maker. There is a very short book by John Maxwell called Attitude 101. It is GREAT and everyone should read it…in the third grade and every year thereafter. Make it clear what is a great attitude, and what is an unacceptable attitude.
  • Your Values Define You – define them now. You can’t assume your organization will have the values you have. As a matter of fact, if you don’t write them down, you likely aren’t really sure what your values are.
  • Goals – You can’t keep your eye on the ball if you don’t know what “the ball” is. These can change over time, unless you make this your Mission Statement. Some people think that is redundant, and a mission is different than a goal, but either will work here.
  • Practices – Define How Things Get Done – define them carefully. This is the “how” of your organization and these will need to change over time. Processes change with technology, regulation, and goals. Try to keep them “high level”, but I don’t think they can be effective if they are so high level that they don’t need to be changed.

The Preferred Insurance Center Culture Statement

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