In one of the scenes from “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation,” Clark Griswold receives something quite unexpected. He had pinned all his hopes on a huge bonus so that he could surprise his family with a down payment on a swimming pool. All have gathered around him as the much-expected envelope finally arrives, watching with bated breath for the big reveal.
The envelope is opened. Clark’s face falls. His grin erased. Instead of a generous check, his boss had sent him a membership to the “Jelly of the Month” club. (See Clark’s rant here.)
Expectations and reality are far too often worlds apart. There’s always an envelope of the unexpected waiting for every business. Your past achievements never assure your future success.
How can you best prepare for the future? Begin by asking crucial questions.
The first thing we do with a new client is to set aside uninterrupted time to think through where their company is now and where they want to be. This isn’t pie-in-the-sky stuff. This is digging, probing, sometimes satisfying, and often painful.
You may think you know everything about your company and your processes and your people, but our clients are always surprised by what they know and what they don’t know when we start asking key questions.
- Organizational chart – Do you have one?
- Job Descriptions – Do your team members have a written job description so they, and everyone else, know exactly what they should be doing?
- Strategic Plan – Do you have current, achievable goals and an up-to-date strategic plan to guide all your decisions? When is the last time you read, evaluated, and updated it?
As times change, so must your company. Where is the market heading? Who is your competition? What are they doing, right and wrong? Is your Internet presence up to date? Do you need to consider new, innovative trends? What are the unique strengths and unhealthy weaknesses within your own organization?
As is so often the case, we are facing economic uncertainty and unpredictability. Even without knowing precisely what is ahead, it is imperative to regularly think through the various eventualities so you can act quickly and decisively when things turn on a dime, which they inevitably will.
This thought process is no different for a billion-dollar company than it is for a small entrepreneurial business. It must be tailored to the experience and capabilities of the leadership team, and to produce optimal results, it must be kept simple, yet laser-focused.
A successful future starts by asking the right questions. The next step is to set key goals.
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Photo Credit: National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
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