My father piloted one of the first American airplanes to land in Japan after their surrender in WWII. As he parked the C47 cargo plane, a Japanese man approached on a bicycle.
Hanging from the top tube of his bike was a sign that read “Watanabe Trucking Company.” He was looking for work.
“Do you even have a truck?” asked my father through an interpreter.
“No,” replied the man, “but my son will.”
I have no way of knowing if they are related, but there is a Watanabe Trucking Company, founded in 1957, that grew to be the 2nd largest transport company in Japan, with over 25,000 employees and $7 billion in revenue before it succumbed to scandal in the early 1990s.
I like to think this was the legacy of the man on the bike - without the scandal part, of course.
If you have read my previous article “How to Create a Powerful Vision for your Company”, you’ve seen the importance of having a clear vision for your business. Our vision provides guidance for every decision we make and every action we take.
Without it, we are Alice. With it, we are the man on the bicycle.
Vision is not Enough
A powerful Vision is imperative, but it’s not enough. It is the first step in setting and achieving powerful goals, but it is impossible to execute a vision except through intermediate steps that lead to the ultimate goal.
General to Specific
The work process is to map out our plan proceeding from the general to the specific, from ideas to activities.
We do that by creating four types of goals:
Our Vision is the clear, written statement of our ultimate goal.
Our Annual Goals are what we need to accomplish each successive year to advance toward our vision.
Our Quarterly Projects are what we need to accomplish each quarter to achieve our Annual Goals.
Our Weekly Tasks are the things we need to do each week to complete a project. All four types of goals are critical, but it is through weekly tasks that we actually get things done.
Ideas to Activities
Our vision is the picture of what we want in the future. The “future” can be 100 years, or ten or five, but let’s use three years.
Three years is sufficient time to execute, but not so far out that we lose a sense of urgency to get things done, and not so far out that inevitable change explodes every assumption our vision is based on.
To illustrate how to create and execute on goals, let’s create a vision and one element of an overall plan.
Suppose our vision is to develop:
A company that provides us $10,000 of “mailbox money” each month by January 1, 2020, at which time we no longer have to go to work.
How does that sound?
It contains written, specific goals and a deadline. With the vision as a guide, we can begin to think the through the annual goals, projects and tasks that will get us there.
What has to happen to build a profitable company that works without us?
Proceeding from the general to the specific, we constantly ask ourselves “what do we have to do to…”
Let’s see how it works with a specific example:
In order to have a company that works without us in three years, we will need (among other things) a CEO to take our place. Someone to lead the team, protect the culture, delegate, hold people accountable, create and execute operational plans, make decisions and deal with bankers, lawyers, CPAs, important customers, and so on - all the thing we do ourselves now.
What do we have to do to bring on a CEO in three years?
Annual Goal level
In order to hire a CEO and have enough cash left to pay ourselves mailbox money, we will need, among other things, to generate at least $150,000 more cash from profit each year.
What do we have to do to make $150,000 more profit over the next 12 months?
Quarterly Project level
To generate an extra $150,000 more in cash each year, we need, among other things, to improve efficiency, and to do that, we need better financial information.
What do we have to do to get better financial information?
Weekly Task level
To get better financial information by the end of this quarter, we need to hire the right CPA, begin keeping proper books, and learn to use financial statements.
Our tasks for this quarter become:
Week 1 : Get recommendations and interview CPAs.
By Week 3 : Hire CPA and get recommendations for bookkeeping software.
By Week 5 : Install software and load financial information.
By Week 12 : Read, watch videos, ask our accountant in order to learn how to use financial information to improve business productivity.
You get the idea.
Other things your business will likely need are systems, budget, cash management, key performance indicators, marketing and sales goals, and operational plans.
Think through them all. Item by item, general to specific. Constantly breaking down larger goals until we reach an actionable item: “Call Bill and ask who he recommends for a CPA.”
Think about your vision as you go through your normal days, constantly asking: Who will do this when I’m gone? How can I know it will be done right? How can it be done better? What skills, tools, information and insights do I have that they will need when I’m gone?
Keep a list, place the goals in the right category and constantly break them down until you come to an actionable item - then do it.
Finding and scheduling time to “do it” is the next critical step in the process. For information on how to manage your time, read my article “How to Make Time to Manage your Time”
How about you?
Do you have a compelling vision that guides your decisions and actions? Do you have a map and timeline of the steps it will take to make your vision a reality? If you're having trouble creating a powerful vision, one you can believe in and that will inspire you, see my article “How to Change Reality.”
As always, thank you for reading this article. I very much appreciate questions, comments and suggestions for future articles. Please leave your comments in the box below.