Plan to Win

By: John Hotson,
Business Transition Alliance Co-Founder

In a recent meeting with a business owner, whose company we’ll call ChangeCo, the conversation quickly turned to his vision of significantly expanding his business over the next three years. This is not an unusual topic these days, as owners of a certain age decide they have one last big push in them to grow their business beyond its current boundaries.

Visions such as doubling or even tripling the size of the business; acquiring a competitor or complementary operation; or expanding their plant, bringing on an investor and buying the latest production equipment from Europe – these thoughts are more common than one might think with owners whose ‘big idea’ days would seem to be behind them.

What happened to selling the business or handing it off to their kids so they can sit back and enjoy the good life at the beach?

Instead we’re frequently using a word around our office that describes what business owners are really thinking about ……. Transformation.

As defined this means “a radical change that orients an organization in a new direction and takes it to an entirely different level of effectiveness.”

Radical? Really? When you could be sitting on the beach? ….. Apparently.

Plan to Win

Many of these seasoned business owners have been here before. They’ve seen the opportunity, taken the risk and made it happen. They understand the need to plan these big initiatives with military-like precision.

During WWII when the Allies were moving into Germany, they had to map their routes based on the demands of moving newly designed 70-Ton tanks over country roads – tanks that, because of their new design, were too heavy and too wide for the existing infrastructure. Making this happen required enlarging roads and building wider, stronger bridges. This had never been done before. It required a whole new range of skills – structural engineers, construction crews, and designers. But most importantly it required that leaders adopt a mindset that acknowledged that a change in thinking and the development of a whole new plan was the way they would win the war.

Infrastructure Before Action

Transformation in a business incorporates many factors – both inside and outside the organization. Before the offer to buy out a competitor is made, the new equipment purchased or the investor approached, a detailed plan needs to be developed for how to express the new vision and build out the infrastructure that will achieve that vision.

In the case of ChangeCo the owner recognized that changes were essential if the company was ever going to appeal to the next generation of owner, whether that owner was his son or an outside party. But what he hadn’t thought about was that the business transformation needed to consider all of the company’s stakeholders in order to adequately prepare for what lay ahead.

Our recommendations started with getting a detailed understanding of how his vision for ChangeCo would impact all of the company’s stakeholders.

Your Stakeholders’ Perspective

As an owner considering or going through a transition of some kind yourself, you too may want to give your various stakeholders’ perspective some consideration.

Customers: Do your clients completely understand how your new capabilities will benefit them? Will they support you?

Management: Will your team be able to handle this change or will the transformation defeat them – and in turn you?

Employees: Are your staff aware of where the company is going and what will be expected of them? Are they the right people for the new job?

Financial Partners: Does your banker fully understand and support your vision or do you need a financial partner or investor? If so what will they be looking for in an investment?

Setting off on the road that will transform your company to an “entirely different level of effectiveness” can definitely be an exhilarating and worthwhile experience. But owners need to be sure that the road is wide enough and the bridges strong enough to support the vision that they will be advancing down that road.

About John Hotson:

John is a seasoned marketing and communications professional and running addict. He has worked as both a business owner and advisor to owners who are committed to improving the value of their business. John is a principal of Clearwater Corporate Communications and a co-founder of The Business Transition Alliance.

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