Start with the end in mind

There’s nothing that I enjoy more than a road trip… grabbing a stack of maps and heading out to visit friends and family in Cleveland, Cincinnati, Charlotte, Asheville, St. Louis, Boston, and throughout Florida.

Well, that’s the way it used to be… because that stack of maps is gone. In fact, I rarely remember to put them in the car (and often regret that I don’t).

So now, instead of the maps, I have my trusty GPS that allows me to calculate and count down miles, minutes, and seconds remaining in any given trip.

Regardless of where we’re going (unless it’s for a ride for the sake of simply taking a ride and burning some fuel) in order to get somewhere, it’s important for us to know where we’re going. In other words, we need a destination. And the more specific that destination is, the better. (I don’t know about your GPS, but ours doesn’t like vague destination points like “Charlotte.” It needs a specific address.) Whether we’re conscious of it or not, pretty much everything we do somehow starts with the end in mind. If we want to learn how to play golf, bake a cake, go to a movie, finish that book we started three vacations ago… they all start with the end in mind.

So it’s curious to me how many business owners don’t think about this. They think long and hard about opening their business and growing their business. But they have no idea where they’re going – other than to make it bigger and better.

A business is often the single largest asset that any of us are ever able to accumulate. That business has value, tangible and intangible assets, and a successful track record. It’s not only worth something to us now, but it has the potential to be worth a lot to someone else at some point in the future. But since none of us ever knows what tomorrow will bring, we really can’t predict when we won’t be able to be there or want to be there to run that business.

So where’s “the end in mind” for you? Where’s your exit strategy? Where’s your succession plan? Where are all the documented systems, processes, and procedures that would allow just about anyone to sit in your chair and know what to do? And most importantly, what happens to the family that has no idea how to run that business?

Most likely, there is no end in mind. No plan. Nada.

I know this because I talk to dozens of business owners in any given month. Perhaps 10 or 20 percent max are able to look me in the eye and tell me that they have thought about the end and have a plan that, even if they can’t work tomorrow, the business would be able to continue without them.

That means 80 to 90 percent have no idea what the end of that business (or asset) will look like.

Someone starting a business knows they need a business plan or at least a very clear direction as to what they want to do and where they want to go.

I think that the most important part of that startup plan is to look at that business with the end in mind… and to build that business in such a way that almost every contingency is considered and that the business owner clearly knows where he or she is going.

It’s not necessarily an easy or fun part of anyone’s job as they’re working on it today. But it’s a lot of fun to be able to turn the keys over to the next owner and to walk out the door with a hefty check in your hand because you started with the end in mind.

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