Small businesses and the entrepreneurs that run them have long been considered the backbone of the American economy. Many financial analysts predict that the success of small business will be the vehicle that drives America out of our current financial downturn. Some key small business statistics, as reported by the SBA:
- There are 27+ Million Small Businesses in the US.
- Between 60% & 80% of all new jobs created in our country can be attributed to Small Business.
In his book EntreLeadership, Dave Ramsey lays out his “playbook” for how his small business went from a card table in the living room to a multi-million dollar national organization. The book lays out the basic essentials needed to have a successful business, which include: having a dream, creating a vision, maintaining a mission statement and setting goals. These are simple, but essential components to every successful business, project or life.
Most major businesses or projects started out as someone’s dream. But according to Ramsey, having a dream should not be a one-time phenomenon. He says that “Dreaming is the lifeblood of people and organizations that are alive and thriving,” and one must keep dreaming about ways to do things better, and though it always starts with a dream, it should never end there. Dreams are only dreams until you decide to do something to make them a reality. Ramsey says, “Dreams only become a reality when you pull them gently from the clouds and convert them to visions.”
Formulating a vision and sharing it with your team is the next step necessary to making your dream a reality. As you are formulating your vision, consult with other leaders and advisers in your organization. Take constructive criticism and feedback, as it will only help your vision to become stronger. Vision casting is an important role for any leader. Vision casters must sell their vision to the entire team. Present the vision in such a way that it makes team members really buy into it. This will take some creativity and a lot of repetition on the vision casters part. Remember to reexamine or restate your vision frequently. A company is organic, and as such, it should always be growing and changing. As it does, you should be constantly asking how the organization could be better aligned with its vision and great care must be taken to ensure that it reflects the vision at every point.
A company’s vision statement explains who they are and where they are going, while a mission statement begins the story of how they are going to get there. A good mission statement gives your vision clarity and definition just as a good vision statement gives your dream clarity and definition. Creating a mission statement can seem like a daunting task, as you must somehow condense the essence of your organization into a few carefully crafted sentences. A good example to look at would be Google. Their vision is “to create the perfect search engine.” If that sounds a bit vague, it’s because it is. They explain a little more how exactly they plan to go about doing that with their mission statement: “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” Google fulfills their mission statement in order to realize their company vision.
Once you have gotten your vision and mission statement hammered out, you should focus on setting goals which will help you achieve your mission. Goals cannot be nebulous or vague; they must be specific and measurable. They also should have time limits on them. Don’t make it a goal to “increase my customer base,” instead try to break your ultimate goal into several smaller, more attainable goals, such as: “network with 5 people this month,” or “make 10 phone calls each week.” You will be more motivated to accomplish them if they are actually attainable. This means that you should encourage your team members to make their own goals, as well. If they set them for themselves, they take ownership and are more motivated to accomplish their goals, instead of meeting your quota. Finally, put your goals down in writing. This helps make them more concrete, and serves as a reminder should you begin to stray.
Share your goals with your team. Shared goals create an environment of communication and team unity. Ramsey explains that having shared goals is like a sports team. Football teams know the goal is to move the ball down the field and cross the goal line. “When things go well we know the goal: put the ball over the line. When things blow up, we all still know the goal: put the ball over the line.” No matter the circumstances, everyone on the team knows and is aiming for the goal. With this sort of communication, there will be less frustration because everyone knows the play. Good communication increases goal ownership for all team members. “When there is a fumble, even one of the linemen…knows his job just changed; pick the ball up and do something your body was not designed to do, run across the line.” If you watch a football game, you won’t see team members just standing around when the ball is loose saying, “that’s not my job.” They will immediately rush to fall on the ball. Especially in a small business, there is too much work to be done for someone to stand off on the sidelines saying, “that’s not my job.”
Think of this section like a pyramid with a dream at the top and goals on the bottom. Accomplishing goals achieves the mission, achieving the mission realizes the vision, and realizing the vision makes the dream a reality. Each step of the pyramid is critical for the success of a business.