Posts in Blog Post

Why Your Vision Statement Matters

March 21st, 2018 Posted by Blog Post, Strategy, Uncategorized, Vision 0 thoughts on “Why Your Vision Statement Matters”

A March 21, 2017 article at Entrepreneur entitled “How To Engage Employees Through Your Company Vision Statement” by Andre Lavoie sites a study that found “60% of employees didn’t know their company’s vision.”

Yet, an understanding of and appreciation for the Vision and Strategies is an integral part to both improving employee engagement (approximately 30%) and the successful implementation of Strategic Initiatives (also about 30%).

So it stands to reason that we should be doing a better job of defining and communicating Vision.

An excerpt from an up-coming white paper

The following is an excerpt from a white paper that we are publishing in early April on how to improve strategy execution and why it’s critical to business survival.

Strategy Execution Improvement

Critical Success Factors to Surviving and Thriving

Order a pre-release copy of our upcoming white paper on how to improve strategy execution.

Vision is how you see things in the ideal future. The Mission is often mistaken for or sometimes blended into the Vision Statement, but they are two separate things. While the Vision is how you see things, the Mission is what you do.

Amazon’s is as an example of a well-written, combined, Vision and Mission Statement, as follows:

“Our vision is to be Earth’s most customer-centric company; to build a place where people can come to find and discover anything they might want to buy online.”

The Vision is to be Earth’s most customer-centric company. The Mission is to build a place people can come to find and discover anything they might want to buy online.

Note that in neither the Vision nor the Mission Statement does Amazon mention how they will get there, nor what that “place” looks like. Amazon can change its business model, how it serves customers, and enabling technology at will – without changing the Vision and Mission.

Think of it as remodeling the house without replacing the foundation.

Compare that to Walmart’s Vision Statement

Compare that to Walmart’s Vision Statement, “To be the best retailer in the hearts and minds of consumers and employees,” and their Mission Statement, “Saving people money so they can live better.”

These statements aren’t inherently wrong, but they do generate perceptions that are not necessarily positive, such as:

  • Now a classic retailer, always a classic retailer
  • It might be the best, but I still don’t like it
  • I can only live better by saving money – and purchasing lower quality items

“A Walmart on every corner” is increasingly a losing proposition that may not be dying, but is not well positioned to thrive against an Amazon.

Perhaps some of the reason for that is rooted in their Vision and Mission statements.

10 Ways to Create Disengaged Employees

March 14th, 2018 Posted by Behavior, Blog Post, Engagement, Leadership 0 thoughts on “10 Ways to Create Disengaged Employees”

It’s easy to find advice on how to improve employee engagement, some good, some useless. Here are some ways to create DISENGAGED employees. Our advice? Don’t do the things listed here.

Employee Engagement Begins With You

March 7th, 2018 Posted by Behavior, Blog Post, Engagement 0 thoughts on “Employee Engagement Begins With You”

There is a lot of advice available to us on ways to improve employee engagement, but, the truth is, it begins with you. We often overlook that simple reality.

No matter where you are in your career, role, or position, while on the job, you are constantly on display. Your body language, facial expressions, tone of voice, and the words you choose matter – and they impact others around you.

To better make the point, the following is an excerpt from the book Business is ART.

An Excerpt from Business is ART, Chapter Five

One day, I came into the office after having a significant disagreement with a family member. I reacted poorly to the emotion of hurt and anger that I was feeling and let the disagreement influence my workplace behavior.

When I got into the office, instead of greeting people in my usual friendly way, I entered the break room with a scowl on my face, not looking at or engaging with anyone. I simply poured a cup of coffee and hurried back to my desk.

Later, one of the most trusted members of my leadership team knocked on my door and suggested that we needed to talk in private.

He closed the door and asked in a very concerned tone, “Are we going to announce layoffs?”

The question stunned me. We were growing. We were profitable. We had a couple of small layoffs early on in our path to $50 million, but that was part of the plan. I didn’t know where the concern was coming from.

“No. Why?”

“There’s a rumor going around.”

“How did that get started?”

“Some employees were in the break room this morning and said you wouldn’t even look them in the eye, so they started speculating about what was wrong. Then they concluded you couldn’t look them in the eye because you are going to lay some of them off.”

I started the rumor. Not knowingly or intentionally, but because I was not paying attention to my own behavior.

You are constantly on display

Employee engagement begins with you. At work, you are constantly on display.

Before taking on any new initiatives to boost employee engagement, take a good, hard look in the mirror and ask, “How can modifying my own behavior make a change for the better?”

Tell Me One Thing the REALLY Works in Business

February 23rd, 2018 Posted by Blog Post, Mastermind Group, Uncategorized 0 thoughts on “Tell Me One Thing the REALLY Works in Business”

What REALLY works in business? Everyone wants a magic pill. Unfortunately, there is none, but one thing that comes very close is a well run peer group / mastermind .

There are a multitude of peer group and mastermind options available to you. It is incumbent on you to find the one that works for you. But, by all means, find one, because they genuinely work

We kicked off an online mastermind group last night for small business owners and the initial results were pretty astounding.

An amazing launch

Members came ready to get to work. They immediately threw any inhibitions to the wind and presented some of their most pressing current issues and challenges. We did deep dives on what the issue really is and what the impact of not addressing it will be (or already has been). We identified numerous potential ways to address the issue. Ultimately, we identified and assigned action items for addressing the issue.

The issues we processed were specific to the individual presenting them, but common enough that nearly anyone can relate. They included:

  1. Cash flow management
  2. Prioritization of cash heavy initiatives
  3. Dealing with disruptive behavior of a particular employee

Group members left the meeting wit an average of 4 action items to address the issues presented. They were assigned 2 additional action items to address items outside of the issues presented.

We will now begin tracking progress against these action items and how well the specific issues are resolved. This stuff works because it provides input from peers on how to resolve your issue and promotes accountability to one another on doing something about it.

The value is immediate an on-going

The group is based on 2 main premises:

  1. It’s lonely at the top, and,
  2. None of us is as smart as all of us

One member summed it up best by saying, “It feels god just to be able to talk about it.”

Try it for free

Again, there are lots of options out there. If you want to check out ours, it is conducted online, so there are no geographical restrictions. Your first 3 months are at no fee so that you can experience for yourself how effective these groups are.

It’s not a magic pill, but it REALLY does work for you and your business.

Contact us for details.

Read This Before Joining a Mastermind Group

February 16th, 2018 Posted by Blog Post, Entrepreneur, Leadership, Mastermind Group, Owner, Peer Group 0 thoughts on “Read This Before Joining a Mastermind Group”

If you’ve ever thought of joining a mastermind group, please read this.

I’m Jon Umstead, author of Business is ART and founder of Plan Canvas. In this week’s post, I’d like to speak with you directly from my heart – then invite you to join me.

Several years ago, I became a believer in the power of mastermind groups. If you are unfamiliar with the term, a mastermind is effectively peer-to-peer mentoring in a facilitated group setting. Everyone comes together to help one another solve their problems.

The concept itself was coined nearly 100 years ago by author Napoleon Hill (The Law of Success and Think and Grow Rich).

There are all kinds of mastermind group options, methodologies, and platforms. I was trained in mastermind group facilitation by one of the most prestigious CEO coaching companies around. But while I became a fast and firm believer in the concept, some of the core practices promoted by this particular company were not in harmony with my own beliefs.

How can it be done differently?

So I sat things out for a year, thinking about. If I were to create and run my own version of a mastermind group, what would it look like, how would it function, and what would be some of the core characteristics of candidates to join the group?

I then began the task of recruiting candidates – something I will admit is not fun to me. It can be a hard sell. How do you show someone that it is worth their money and time away from work to sit in a room with a bunch of people from other industries, helping them solve their problems, when you’ve got enough of your own?

“My business is unique. I don’t need to talk to people from other industries. I need to talk to people with businesses just like mine.”

Heard that all the time as well.

But ultimately we assembled a group that ran for 2 years. It represented some of the greatest professional experiences I have ever had.

We met monthly at alternating locations and as I’d pack up food, beverages, laptop, projector, tripod and flip charts, and drive off to our meeting, I’d think to myself, “Is this going to be worth it today? What if no one gets any value out of it?”

After the meeting would adjourn, I’d pack up and start driving home, feeling completely good about the day.

There is no more rewarding professional feeling than knowing you were part of helping someone else get through a really tough issue. Occasionally, it would literally bring a tear to the eye.

The group had a lot of successes – here are a few

One of our group members had to figure out how to make massive personal life changes due to the failing health of a loved one. One wrestled with a decision to run for public office – something she had wanted to do for a long time – but how could she juggle the responsibilities of owning and operating a small business with several employees and clients to consider AND be a public servant?

In both cases, the group was challenged with helping these members determine solutions and a plan forward. In both cases, things worked out.

The following is a direct quote from another one of the former mastermind group members, who has given me permission to share it:

“Since joining Jon’s mastermind group, my revenue has increased 31.25% in 10 months. Employee morale and productivity has increased 50% by implementing new processes and incentive programs recommended through the group. As a direct result, our competitors do not even compare to the service we provide.”

Christina Walters, Founder/Owner Night Dispatch

If I could guarantee results like that for everyone, I’d be an occasional guest Shark on Shark Tank and have a private island next to Tony Robbins’

But I can guarantee this.

If you join a well-run mastermind group and show up – I mean REALLY show up – you will find it well worth your time and money. Most members find they actually save time by investing in a mastermind.

For the last 14 months, I’ve missed our group. We shut it down due to the retirement of members – one member actually ran for and won the election to the office she had considered. It was also time for me to focus on the development of Plan Canvas. In short, it had run its course.

And now, I am very pleased to say, it is time to start a new group

This time, I will be leading one electronically. We will meet online, monthly, in the evenings, beginning this month.

This revised format will make it possible to expand the group well beyond geographical boundaries, in multiple time zones, and at a time that does not encroach on normal business hours.

Start for free and let the experience speak for itself

The best way to experience it and start gaining benefit from it is to just jump in.

And I get it. You’re skeptical. You have enough demands on your hard earned cash. But if you have ever considered joining a mastermind group, give this one a shot.

I am offering a free introduction to it, so there is nothing to lose and so much to gain.

Contact me directly at to discuss it and get you started. There can only be 10 members to a group and some seats are already taken, so, there is no guarantee to fit you in.

This genuinely could be one of the best decisions you have ever made. I am THAT confident in it.

Looking forward to hearing from you.

36,900,000 Results When Searching for “How to Stay Inspired”

February 6th, 2018 Posted by Blog Post, Inspiration, Uncategorized, Vision 2 thoughts on “36,900,000 Results When Searching for “How to Stay Inspired””

If you enter “how to stay inspired” into your search engine, it will net about 36,900,000 results.

You’d think with so many people, organizations and articles out there to help us get or stay inspired, we’d find it much easier to do so. But the hard truth about inspiration is that while finding it is comparatively easy, keeping it is relatively difficult.

We gleefully make resolutions and promises to ourselves, saying things like, “This year, I am REALLY going to get in shape!”

We go to seminars with leading gurus, buy their books and courses, then run out with our arms raised, declaring, “I’m gonna do it!”

We watch TED videos, Shark Tank, and SuperSoul Sunday and exclaim, “I’m going to make a difference!

Aaaaannnnnndddd thennnnnnnn….we don’t

Why is it so hard to remain inspired (and motivated)?

An article at Care2 entitled 5 Reasons Why Motivation is Difficult to Sustain provides an interesting list of reasons it is hard to stay motivated. Even though inspiration and motivation are two different things, they are related, so we will list the 5 here as follows:

  1. No plan
  2. Distractions
  3. Drawbacks
  4. Negative motivation
  5. Extrinsic motivation (depend on outside world to reap rewards on you)

But here is what we think is the real reason it is hard to remain inspired

As discussed in a previous post, motivation is external and compels you to do something. Inspiration is internal – something you feel.

(see Where Do You Find Inspiration?).

The real reason that inspiration can be fleeting is because it’s a feeling – and feelings are naturally fleeting. Generally speaking, feelings can hit us with great intensity. Later the intensity fades – perhaps entirely, perhaps not, but it usually fades.

Maybe it isn’t important to remain inspired

If feelings are naturally fleeting, perhaps trying hard to hold on to inspiration is futile.

Perhaps, rather than spending hundreds and thousands of dollars and hours on the inspirational products of the inspirational gurus, we spend our resources REMEMBERING what inspired us, as opposed to PRESERVING the feeling.

It isn’t as difficult as you might think

When you feel inspired, remember, it is a feeling and it will fade. Before it has faded too deeply, write it down. Capture things like:

  • What were you inspired to do?
  • How did that feel?
  • What were you doing when it hit you?
  • Who were you with?
  • What were you thinking or thinking of?
  • What were some other circumstances surrounding you at the time?

Now use that to write a purpose statement. This isn’t WHAT you are going to do. This is WHY you are going to do it.

In business, it is foundational to have a Vision Statement, a Mission Statement, and a Purpose Statement. Vision is how you see things in the future, preferably as a result of what you do. Mission is in fact what you do. But purpose is why you do it.

The same types of statements can be useful in your personal life.

Once you have a vision, mission and purpose statement, put them in reverse order (purpose, mission, and vision). This becomes your elevator pitch for whatever you are doing – and it always starts with your purpose, which is founded in your inspiration.

Say it often. Start your day with it. Start your presentations with it. Start your meetings with it.

Don’t cheapen it or make it a rote statement, but use it often enough to remind yourself and others of what you felt in that moment of inspiration, even though the intensity of the feeling itself may have faded.

This will in turn help keep you motivated, even if no longer inspired.

Where Do You Find Inspiration?

January 30th, 2018 Posted by Blog Post, Inspiration, Uncategorized 1 thought on “Where Do You Find Inspiration?”

Where Do You Find Inspiration?

Before answering that question, it’s important to note that there is a difference between inspiration and motivation. Motivation is external and compels you to do something. Inspiration is internal – something you feel.

As an example, three deaths by suicide served as the motivation behind writing the book, Business is ART and development of Plan Canvas, the strategy execution management (SEM) software that is based on the book.

Motivation isn’t inspiration

Those deaths were external events that triggered a desire to help others. It is a horrible means of motivation, but, sometimes, tragedy, or hitting rock bottom, is needed to motivate us to do something positive.

But the inspiration for creating these particular tools came from somewhere else. The book was literally conjured in a dream. The software was first envisioned as the table of contents for the book was being written, particularly when business as ART was laid out as a 12-step process (defined processes lend themselves well to being systematized).

So a more appropriate question might be….

HOW do you find inspiration?

An article at Inc. provides 25 simple ways to find inspiration. We really like this list. In fact, many of these same notions are included in Business is ART.

Find inspiration

Watch this demo to see how Plan Canvas can help you find inspiration.

Our favorite 5 from the article are listed here, along with a brief explanation of how you can actually follow them in Plan Canvas:

  1. Write it down – Plan Canvas encourages you to record everything that is important about your business in the tool.
  2. Evaluate your goals – You then produce a Progress Report to review with others to track how you are doing with all of those critically important items.
  3. Simplify – Plan Canvas is built on this key principle. Planning your business and executing to that plan should be simple, not over-bearing.
  4. Question all assumptions – Within Plan Canvas, you document all major assumptions, the risk associated with the assumption, the impact if the risk occurs, the likelihood it will occur, and, importantly, how you will mitigate against that risk.
  5. Focus on yourself – Plan Canvas includes a Personal Plan for anyone to focus on themselves, regardless of whether they are an entrepreneur, business owner, organizational leader or not.

Everyone is different

Some people find inspiration while in hurry up mode. Others need quiet, uninterrupted time. Whatever the case may be for you, the most important thing is to have an open mind. Inspiration often comes in the most unexpected ways – but we have to be open to being inspired for it to happen.

Quit Calling Objectives “Goals” – Just Quit It

January 22nd, 2018 Posted by Behavior, Blog Post, Business is ART, Goal, Objective 0 thoughts on “Quit Calling Objectives “Goals” – Just Quit It”

This might be a little nit-picky, but, there is a difference between goals and objectives. Goals, by nature, are not particularly SMART…you know:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Realistic
  • Time-bound

These are actually the characteristics of well-defined objectives. You measure your progress toward achievement of goals through objectives. Objectives support goals.

We said that goals are not particularly SMART. That is more than just a cute play on words and acronyms. Goals are more of a destination – more like an “Are we there yet?”

SMART objectives invite you to be realistic and in a hurry. Goals invite you to dream big and be more concerned with the getting there than the speed with which you do.

That’s why we take a little bit of umbrage with this article at Entrepreneur entitled Set Goals for Your Employees. Don’t get us wrong, we completely agree with setting goals for employees.

And at the risk of sounding a little Sheldon Cooper-ish, we actually do agree with the content of the article – as long as you substitute the word “objective” in 95% of the instances the article actually uses the word “goal.”

With that in mind, here are a few comments on the main points/recommendations of the article:

  1. “Set goals with employees” – Yes! We love it. This is part of including your employees in developing the strategy. It adds buy-in and promotes an environment in which employees are engaged.
  2. “Reevaluate goals frequently” – No! Not unless you frequently change your mind about where you want to go (a goal is a destination). But do frequently evaluate objectives.
  3. “Make goals specific and measurable” – No! Goals are decidedly grandiose and not measurable in themselves. Make supporting objectives SMART which includes their being specific and measurable.
  4. “Goals don’t have to be tied to sales” – Correct! Nor profits. We like value-based goals as opposed to profit and sales driven goals. Focus on the types of goals that will really get employees engaged in the business on an emotional level.
  5. “Make sure employees goals are attainable” – No! Goals are big and lofty. Never measure an employee’s performance based on big, lofty goals. Rather, do it on objectives, which, yes, should be attainable.
  6. “Be consistent” – Absolutely. And you can start by consistently not misusing the word “goal” in place of the word “objective.”
  7. “Watch your timing” – Wrong! Not for goals. They are long term. Objectives are time-bound.
  8. “Avoid rivalry” – Ehhhh….this one feels a little like “everyone gets a participation trophy.” A little FRIENDLY rivalry in-house can be healthy. Just don’t allow it to create clicks and jerks.
  9. “Set goals that tie employees into the success of your company” – Correct! Set objectives that tie employees into the success of your company.

This might all sound a little nit-picky, but it is important to remember the distinction between goals and objectives. Know the difference and plan accordingly.


Reach Your Goals with Measurable Objectives

Now that you know the difference between “Goals” and “Objectives”, let’s put that knowledge to use! Plan Canvas helps you identify, communicate and track goals, objectives, initiatives, action items and more in one convenient, easy to access, easy to use tool.

Do Employees Really Need a Sense of Purpose?

January 18th, 2018 Posted by Blog Post, Goal, Objective, Strategic Planning, Strategy, Uncategorized 0 thoughts on “Do Employees Really Need a Sense of Purpose?”

“Executing a strategy without engaged people is impossible, and brilliant strategies without execution are meaningless.”

That’s how an article at Inc., entitled Why Strategy Without Execution Will Get You Nowhere begins.

It’s like we wrote that ourselves. In fact, we have written very similar statements on numerous occasions. Want to know why? Because it’s true.

It’s mid-January. By now, a large percentage of New Years resolutions have already been long forgotten. That’s true in business as well as personal life. Businesses often end the year giddy with the excitement about the new plans and strategies they’ve developed for the new year.

“We’re going to do great. We’re going to increase sales and profits. We’re going to hire new, fresh talent. We’re going to…”

Sometimes actual targets or objectives accompany those statements. Sometimes they’re followed by statements that start with “And here’s how we’re going to do it.”

But what’s often missing is, “Here’s why we’re going to do it,” or “Here’s why it’s imperative that we do.”

Let’s use the Plan Canvas purpose statement as an example

Simply put, we want businesses to increase their odds of success and do better. Why?

Because even a modest improvement in business performance will make a tremendously positive impact on the economy, create hundreds of thousands of jobs, and take us that much closer to improving lives and eliminating poverty.

Value-based vs. profit-driven goals

Setting value-based goals is one way to improve employee engagement. Watch our 2 brief videos on the topic.

Is it a coincidence that the reported percentage of disengaged employees is almost the same as the failure rate of strategic plans?

The American Management Association (AMA) reports more than 60% of strategies are not successfully executed. A Gallup poll indicated that only 32% of employees in the United States were engaged in their work in 2015, virtually flat over the 31.5% reported in 2014.

Let’s see – there’s a 60% failure rate in strategy execution, while the employee disengagement is rate is 68%.


There has to be SOME kind of purpose

Perhaps the answer to the high failure rate of strategies is to simply give employees a greater sense of purpose.

The purpose for any business doesn’t have to be big and lofty nor world changing. It can be almost anything. But it has to be SOMETHING because that sense of purpose is what you need in order to get your employees excited and engaged.

If the only sense of purpose they feel is “to put money in the pockets of someone other than myself”, they aren’t going to be very engaged. If they aren’t engaged, you are on your own and the strategy will fail.

If You Know Better Do Better

January 10th, 2018 Posted by Behavior, Blog Post, Goal, Objective 0 thoughts on “If You Know Better Do Better”

We recently heard the story of a hard-working retail cashier, stressed from the holidays, managing to keep her cool in the face of rude customers.

One particularly disrespectful customer reflected on his actions, returned to the store, and fell just short of an apology by saying, “That wasn’t your fault. I know better.”

A genuine apology for his behavior would have been better, and perhaps would not have resulted in this response from the cashier, “If you know better, do better.”

That’s really some great advice for all of us. If we know better, lets do better.

Not another list!

We don’t need to give you yet another list of the things you can be doing better on, be they professional, personal or societal things. There’s no shortage, so pick a few that are most important to you and run with them.

An article at the New York Times entitled How to Do Things Better in 2018 lists and describes 10 things you can focus on (and why), but then goes on to provide links to unique pieces that actually get in to HOW to do better on that particular item.

The article focuses mostly on personal, but also on a few professional areas, such as “How to Build a Successful team.”

Guess what the first step is?

If you guessed, “Make a Plan,” you guessed correctly.

More to the point, the article says, “You need a clear and measurable goal for what you want to accomplish.”

We agree with the intent of that statement, but we are also a little nerdy when it comes to using terminology. You really need clear and measurable OBJECTIVES that support your loftier GOALS. Goals in and of themselves are more of a destination, otherwise, not really measurable beyond “Are we there yet?’

But all nerdiness aside, make a plan and make things measurable. But to that point, make it actionable.

Keep it Simple…Seriously (we object to calling anyone “stupid” so “seriously” is a good substitute)

Meanwhile, Inc. has posted an article entitled 3 Simple Habits I’m Making in 2018 to Drive Better Results. In it, the author’s 3rd simple habit is “Discipline through simplicity,” and, again, we couldn’t agree more.

Plan Canvas is built on the “KISS” model – Keep it Simple, Seriously. So often we just make things too complicated. Take a look at the things you do and ask yourself how you can simplify. Challenge yourself and your team. Make a game of it. There is always a way.

As the new year gets going….

We all know we CAN do better. And as the cashier said, “If you know better, do better.”

That’s the kind of simplicity we can live with.

Plan Canvas is a community and a powerful software for improving your odds of business success and personal fulfillment.

© SeaSeven LLC 2017.
Developed with FRW Studios.