Archives for March 2015

Four Documents Every Business Needs

Four Documents Every Business Needs - Pathmaker BlogAfter a career that included working with companies of all sizes from start-ups to industry icons, I have learned that there are four vital documents that every business needs.

The problem is that far too many do not have them. The bigger issue is that not having them invariably leads to failure.

One: A Mission Statement

It only takes a few sentences to establish for yourself, your employees and your clients your raison d’etre. I have witnessed business owners struggle for day and weeks trying to define their mission. That worries me. If you can’t state your mission, what are you doing in business? No mission = no purpose. No written Mission Statement = no vision. “Where there is no vision, the people perish.”

Two: A Policy Manual

A Policy Manual states the principles upon which your business operates. You might say that it is a compilation of the ethical and moral things you will or will not do to accomplish your mission.

A Policy Manual may deal with a wide range of matters from integrity to sustainability. For instance, you may say, “We will respect every individual and we will value their ideas.”

Simply put, a Policy Manual is the system of beliefs upon which you will run your business.

Three: A Current Business Plan

Your Mission Statement and Policy Manual should rarely, if ever, change. Your Business Plan must. I am writing this during the weekend of the 2015 NCAA basketball Sweet Sixteen. Each team has a clear mission and policies according to which they live and play. But they have a different plan for every game.

A company Business Plan defines where you plan to go and how you plan to get there, within the context of your Mission Statement and Policy Manual. As the game changes, so must your plan.

A Business Plan should include an analysis of all the factors that affect the business. It should include clearly-defined, achievable objectives, be reviewed at least annually, and revised as necessary based on the review.

Four: A Procedure Manual

No business can operate successfully for very long using a “fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants” approach. Every process needs to be controlled. That control is your defined procedures. It is critical that every employee knows and understands your procedures. The best companies audit their procedures from time-to-time to ensure that employees are complying with them. A Procedure Manual is an absolute must for ensuring consistency, accuracy and quality.

A Procedure Manual on its own will have no meaning to employees unless they know and ascribe to your Mission Statement, your Policy Manual, and your Business Plan. Most problems occur at the lower levels of the company when the people do not understand the big picture.

Conclusion

I said earlier that “not having them invariably leads to failure.” I did not say that having them will ensure your success, but having them will go a long way to helping your business succeed. Many small business owners feel no need to create and follow these documents, because it seems like a waste of time. Let’s put it this way, many people who have no teeth once thought it was a waste of time to brush them. I think you get the point.

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Sacrificing the Permanent on the Altar of the Immediate

Sacrificing the Permanent on the Altar of the Immediate - Pathmaker BlogLife is about choices – the decisions that we must make in response to circumstances and people around us.

One of our major problems is our failure to think about our choices with a long-term perspective. This often causes unintended consequences for ourselves and foists those consequences on others as well. We need to develop a mindset that understands that every decision we make has both immediate and long-term consequences. That mindset is determining to “Never sacrifice the permanent on the altar of the immediate.”

A decision to disobey a direct order thousands of years ago caused permanent damage to the entire human race. “It’s just a piece of fruit. What could possibly go wrong?”

A decision “see how fast this baby can go” has put many a young man in a wheelchair – and created a burden for his family – for the rest of their collective lives.

A decision to “try” drugs has landed tens of thousands of people in poverty, desperation, jail or a grave.

One decision in favor of the immediate. Results that last a lifetime.

How You Make Decisions Can Affect Your Business’ Success

The executive staff was engaged in a major strategy session in which the life of the company was on the line, when one person proposed a counter-intuitive tactic. The idea created a stir in the boardroom, with some for and some against, but it met with an immediate dismissal by the CEO as a stupid idea.

The next day, the CEO called a special meeting of those who had been at the aforementioned one. This time he put the tactic back on the table. He said, “I spent a long time last night thinking about what would happen if we do this.” He paused judiciously. He continued, “Then I spent the same amount of time thinking about what would happy if we don’t.”

“Having thought it through, I still believe that we will take a hit short-term if we do it. On the other hand, I believe that it is the only path that ensures long-term success. The path we had previously espoused would give us the euphoria of short-term success, but ultimately would have been a nail in our coffin.”

The Right Kind of Decisions Come From the Right Kind of Decision Making

The CEO had done it. He had recognized that they were about to sacrifice the permanent on the altar of the immediate. When he did, he changed the course of the company’s future from failure to success. The only way he could have made the right decision was to take the right approach and consider the more permanent effects more valuable than the immediate effects.

You will make better decisions, more often, that have better results in the long run, if you determine to count the cost of sacrificing the permanent on the altar of the immediate – and commit to never doing it.

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What Were They Thinking?

What Were They Thinking - Pathmaker BlogOn April 24, 2014, two men in Kenya were taking selfies with a wild elephant when they were trampled to death by the irate pachyderm who proceeded to bury their bodies with brush. What in the world were they thinking?

Just in case you may think that stupidity of this sort is limited to third-world countries, here is a story from Lake Allatoona, a few miles northwest of Atlanta. A recent high-school graduate, 18-year old Chance Turner, and his friends decided to play the Shopping Cart Game early one morning. This, by the way, is a regular pastime for collegial young men on vacation in NW Georgia. A shopping cart is tied to a tree near the dock. A, for lack of a better word, “brave” young man sits in the cart, whereupon his friends run him and the cart at high speed off the end of the dock. After the big splash, the rider returns to shore and everyone pulls on the rope to retrieve the cart for the next round.

On the morning of May 25, 2014, barely a month following the pachyderm paparazzi were pummeled, Chance decided to take a chance. Unfortunately, he also decided not to tie the cart to the tree AND to strap himself to the cart with his belt. The coroner ruled it an accidental death when he drowned in nearly 30 feet of water, still strapped to the cart.

What was he thinking? We can’t say for sure, but Chance’s parents agreed that, “Not one person thought that this was not a good game to play.” To put it simply, not one person thought at all.

Think about this

Life is full of risks. We have to have our wits about us to successfully turn risks into rewards. We can, if we so choose, think of ways to minimize some risks. For the most part, we simply have to understand the risks and react accordingly, which, apparently. none of these gentlemen did.

Einstein said that, “Only 5% of the people think. Another 10% only think that they think. The other 85% would rather die than think.” Why would anyone want to be counted in the 85%? The fact is that these three actually did die because they did not think.

It’s worse than you think

This is the place where you may be inclined to retort that these incidents were just flukes. Let me posit a theory: Let’s say that are on vacation, that you go to church on Sunday and you meet a guy named Anatole. The next time you go on vacation, you go to the same church and you see Anatole again. Another year passes, you go back to the beach, and there Anatole is again! Is it a fluke? Of course not. He doesn’t just go there once a year. He goes to church there all the time!

Here’s the point. It is no fluke that those gentlemen met their demise. People who think don’t do it just once a year. They think all the time. In the same way, people who don’t think practice the deadly art of not thinking all the time. It’s only a matter of time before not thinking catches up with them.

Thinking takes practice, but it can eliminate a whole lot of unintended consequences that make us look foolish, or even make us look dead. Don’t be a fool. Think.

(Thanks to the DarwinAwards.com for the true stories of people who weren’t thinking.)

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Indecisiveness

Indecisiveness - Pathmaker Blog“I thought I was indecisive, now I’m not so sure.”

There is no doubt about it, our society, both in the public and private sector, needs to have someone who can make a decision. We live in a world of wishy-washiness, where so much time is spent avoiding the need to make a decision that those decisions never seem to get made. You want to know the reason this is true? Because more and more people are Unable to make the same decree that Harry Truman did – The Buck Stops Here!

I think the thing that may be the most devastating about this is the fact that those who are willing to make decisions and stand by them are known as leaders. And friends, we are dangerously short on real leaders in this country! In business this is not only especially true, but especially sad as well. The sadness is because so many of US fear retribution should our decisions fail. As a result, no one takes the risk of being a decision maker. The real question is, how can we overcome this problem?

The secret here is this: If you have created an environment where people are afraid to make decisions and/or take chances, you are thwarting the very essence of creativity at your place of work. Risk is always an important part of ultimate success, and if you have nurtured fear to the point that no one dares to make a decision and stand by it, then you have already doomed your business to eventual failure!

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It ain’t the Size of the Dog in the Fight…

It ain't the Size of the Dog in the Fight - Pathmaker Blog“It ain’t the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.”

It is sad to listen to so many of the youth, and entrepreneurs, of today, who basically claim that they can’t compete in today’s economy or marketplace because they just don’t have what it takes to make it. They look at the circumstances around them as giants, and virtually give up without even going into battle, never considering today’s point: “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog!”

What those of us with experience in the business world, and life in general, need to do is impress upon others the fact that if you want it bad enough you can get it – whatever “it” is. Make no doubt about it, the task/struggle won’t be easy. You are going to have to fight, sometimes tenaciously, but anything worth having is worth fighting for. Precious few of us ever have anything given to us. Rather, we must go out and get it. And, we cannot allow the giants that seem to stand in our way stop us. So, if you are hoping to achieve a particular status; master certain tasks or rise to the level of success you are hoping for, do a little introspection and determine just how much fight you have in you!

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