The Top Line in Business Performance

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Photo by Jason Goodman on Unsplash

If I was pressed to name the ONE item most difficult to manage in small businesses today, I believe I would settle on the people aspects of having a business. Without people involved, so many reasons for having a business vanish, such as having a market to sell to or having staff available to produce the services of goods you trade in. Without people involved, why bother having a business in the first place?

This is not to make light of so many other issues that arise, some of which can be traced back to people (such as the regulatory environment for example). The question arises as to how to form a cohesive team with so many people who are quite often following disparate agendas. This fundamental task awaits every organization, whether it be governmental, private business or non-profit.

Standard business planning templates have an initial section for the entity to use for developing an organizational mission, to outline a vision for where the organization wants to go, and to build a set of values to guide organizational development. All too often, this part of planning is forgotten, even planning itself can be overlooked in haste to put out a document to achieve a short-term goal. This failure right out of the gate can be a defining attribute of organizational failure later on.

Entrepreneurs are especially susceptible to overlook planning, as the trajectory of a business is so dependent on the strengths and stamina of the principal. The thought that through personal effort and an individual’s understanding of their business is adequate for it to operate and for employees and customers to ‘rally around’ the business to sustain it. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Why are you in business or why does your organization exist? Making the assumption everyone knows and ‘gets it’ is naïve at best. Much better to spell out why you are doing what you are doing. Make it clear and understandable. This should be in front of all eyes all the time, and is your mission.

Where are you taking your business? Have conditions so changed over the past couple years that you should re-think the opportunities and market potentials for your business? Are you and your partners or Board aiming in the same direction due to the upheavals in commerce and the competitive landscape? Have supply-chain issues consumed you lately when a year ago they were an afterthought? Establishing a clear vision that everyone can understand and have a sense of security that the current challenges will be met and overcome? Work with your team to build a vision to carry the company forward for the next decade.

What do you believe in? What does your customer base expect from you? Do you care what they want or think? After the reason for the organization’s existence is formed, and a vision for the future is built, spending some time to build a set of values to guide behaviors, customers, and for basic decision-making is the final step in setting a company or organization for success. This is the manner that great company culture is built.

In many cases this work is the hardest and most complicated part of business planning and operations. Failure of entrepreneurs to allocate adequate time and resources to properly setting-up their operations to be a smoothly functioning enterprise has caused untold numbers of organizations to flounder around looking for cohesion while opportunities and business passes the organization by. Most organizations that flounder around fail, with failure being costly and life-changing events. Allocate adequate time to structure your organization so that when you get to business planning, that task becomes much faster and easier.

When looking for advisers for your business, look for seasoned business owners who have experience in all aspects of business formation dynamics and can help steer you through the important aspects of business initiation and continuation you face. Don’t settle for someone who hands you a template they ripped off of the internet a few minutes before you met and declares themselves to be an expert in business formation and planning. It takes a person who has been tested through leading organizations on a real-time basis who understands these dynamics to help you reach higher levels of performance. If you are going to put effort into structuring or restructuring your business to remain current, take the time to find the assistance that will do you some good.

By Marshall Doak – SBDC

Marshall Doak is the Director of the Southern Oregon University Small Business Development Center and a huge supporter of innovation and the community that forms around innovation in the economy. In private practice, he works with businesses that plan to transition to new ownership within the next five years, assisting them to build value that can be converted to retirement income when the business sells. He can be reached through: or 541-646-4126.

Photo by Jason Goodman on Unsplash

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