Are you on the right path?

We do retreats, seminars on leadership and strategic planning for small businesses and law firms. Recently we have been getting questions about high performance teams and leadership asking what the most important elements were. There are a lot of variables which are related to the type of business and the business culture you want to create however I believe that your vision for the business and being consistent are the top two elements of success. When I talk about a vision I refer to a picture of success. Nothing too restrictive and something you can have a passion for. When I talk about work culture I mean the way you want your business to run. Within those two elements are a large number of variables. Once defined you have a good idea of what your business is like and now you can tailor all the best business practices to your business. As long as the business is defined in that order (vision, culture, policies and practices) there will be very few conflicts. Now you have to concentrate on being consistent.
So, there is not one cookie cutter answer but there is a recognized process for defining your business. This is usually referred to as strategic planning but that is just a term. If that term is not to your liking then just call it Dave’s plan or your plan. Ultimately it is just a high level description of the business you want, defined business metrics to keep you on track and a set of goals to implement the business plan. Now that you have the big picture drawn you can define detailed, consistent plans like your marketing plan, IT plan, security plan, and many more.
So what was the key to success? It was having defined the vision for the business you want and the business culture you want to work in. If you develop a passion for your vision and your implementation of your plans do not violate any of your values you will be happy. Once that combination is realized (a passion for a vision with no violations of your values) your business is energized. Your attitude is positive and that energy and joy becomes evident to your clients and your staff.
Too many times business owners have no vision. With no vision they have no idea what the work culture would look or feel like. They begin to create policies and process that conflict with their expectations and even their values. The business generates frustration and a negative attitude which is felt by your clients and staff.
The same principle applies with an existing business. If you do not have a vision, a set of values, or a plan then start there to improve your business. The problem that almost always appears is that you start fighting brush fires and soon have an out of control forest fire. This happens when you address an immediate problem with no idea how it relates to the big picture. You are easily forced off your path to success. Soon you are so busy handling interrupts that you have no time to work on real solutions. My Grandpa would say that if my dance card was full when I spotted the girl of my dreams only trouble would result.
This is only the first step, so let’s say that you have all the preliminary work done. You did your homework and you are ready. The next consideration is the environment in which you are doing business. You have to keep up with the times and notice what is happening around you. Technology, cultures, laws and the economy are changing all the time. You can’t ignore what is happening just outside the front door of your business. OK, new term alert, this is where a SWOT analysis comes in handy. A fancy term that means Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats involved in a business venture. It is always fun throwing terms like this around but it is nothing more than looking at the good, the bad and the ugly out there to determine how your business may be affected.
So now that you know what business you want, how you want to run it and you have your resources in place it is time to look outside the front door to see if you can predict how well the business will do. What is your competition, are there any new rules you need to be aware of, and where can you find your clients. Many times I have seen a law firm that had not considered the impact of technology or changes in the economy. Have you looked at the new social media out there and have you considered the impact of an online threat? What about the latest improvements in case management systems? At some point you realize that it is tough to do the business of law and at the same time manage the business of law.
Now, just looking at your business, have you looked at all the elements before you jump in and make changes? Before you buy that expensive software are you really going to use all those functions? I have seen many businesses implement a grand plan without thinking about all of this only to start bypassing steps over time. They start to realize they didn’t want what they got. Now it is too late to get a refund for all that time and money spent so you start with the Band-Aids. I visited one Firm a year after they implemented a plan that they all studied for many month and everything was back to what they had originally. Here is what you need to do! Sit down, take a deep breath and picture what your ideal future looks like. That is your starting point. Enjoy the journey.