Posts in Strategy

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.

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.

What is SEM – Strategic Execution Management?

December 12th, 2017 Posted by Blog Post, Business is ART, Business Plan, Objective, Strategic Planning, Strategy, Vision 1 thought on “What is SEM – Strategic Execution Management?”

As we prepared to launch Plan Canvas, a bootstrapped passion project led by subject matter and technical experts, none of who had a clue about marketing and public relations, we began thinking about how to truly position ourselves in the market.

Plan Canvas’ origins are in the book Business is ART (Articulate, Revise, Track), which makes it clear that there is a distinction between strategic planning and strategic management.

See related post 2 Main Phases of Business – Planning it and Running it.

How to differentiate

So, from the start, Plan Canvas has never been about “develop a one-and-done business plan” even though the prevailing sentiment erroneously assumes that is exactly all a business plan is – one-and-done. Instead, Plan Canvas has always been about executing to and revising the plan as you move along. That is where the real benefit of planning is realized.

So rather than being a simpler business planning tool in a saturated market, we knew we had to position ourselves differently because we are genuinely different.

As an unknown startup with limited means to reach large numbers of potential customers, we were excited (and somewhat shocked) to accept an invitation to meet with representatives from technology research firm Gartner, who had come across Plan Canvas through our humble and limited content marketing efforts.

Should Gartner decide at some point to review Plan Canvas in greater detail, it would be a tremendous honor because Gartner is a major influencer.

A Eureka Moment

In the meantime, they provided us with the perfect answer to our question – how do we position ourselves in the market?

The answer is that Plan Canvas fits into an emerging market of Strategic Execution Management, or SEM, tools. At a very high level you can think of SEM as the bringing together of business/strategic planning and project portfolio management (PPM) – with a focus on communication and the achievement of measurable results.

From Gartner’s perspective, SEM tools support the process of ART-ful strategy execution in several ways, including, but not limited to:

  • Visualizing the organization’s strategies, goals, missions, objectives, plans, projects, etc – Articulate
  • Prioritizing any continuing, upcoming and in-flight investments relative to strategies – Articulate, Revise
  • Continuous planning and project investments – Articulate, Revise
  • Capturing actual metrics – Track

Plan Canvas does this and more, including the additional elements of Gartner’s definition of SEM.

We’re getting there

And so we carry on with our journey to put Plan Canvas in the hands of those who stand to benefit from its use – but now with a renewed sense of who we truly are.

Step 1: Build and validate the product – CHECK!

Step 2: Determine the market position – CHECK!

Step 3: Determine appropriate market messaging and introductions to influencers – WORKING ON IT!

2 Main Phases of Business – Planning It and Running It

December 5th, 2017 Posted by Blog Post, Business Plan, Objective, Strategic Planning, Strategy, Uncategorized 0 thoughts on “2 Main Phases of Business – Planning It and Running It”

There are two major phases to starting and maintaining any business or organization: planning it and running it. We refer to this as strategic planning and strategic management, and actually break things down a little further.

Strategic Planning is the formal development of plans (vision, goals, objectives, initiatives and action items). It includes:

  • Analysis & Assessment
  • Strategy Formulation & Documentation

Strategic Management is the on-going running of the business based on those plans. It includes:

  • Strategic Execution
  • Sustainment Management

“Planning” Isn’t “Set It and Forget It”

A common mistake made by entrepreneurs, owners and leaders is that planning is a one-time event, relatively unrelated to running the business. The American Management Association (AMA) reports that more than 60% of strategies are not implemented. That is particularly a disturbing stat when you consider a 2015 survey by Wells Fargo that found an even greater percentage of small businesses never develop strategies in the first place.

Meanwhile, a report by Cognizant states that organizations that don’t focus on strategic execution “are at risk of wasting 14 times more money” than those who put an emphasis on strategic execution.

An Unofficial Recognition

The Plan Canvas team recently spoke with representatives from the technology research firm Gartner, who informally stated that they see Plan Canvas as a Strategic Execution Management software (SEM).

This was music to our ears because since its inception, that is how we have viewed Plan Canvas. Yes, you can produce strategic plans, business plans, and personal plans from Plan Canvas, but, more importantly, you can strategically manage with it.

In fact, of the 8 major characteristics of an SEM solution, as defined by Gartner, Plan Canvas at least touches on all of them – some more deeply than others, but all are addressed.

This is a very important distinction for both the Plan Canvas team and the Plan Canvas user.

Contact us for a free 30-day trial of Plan Canvas.

We cover all phases

See a list of Plan Canvas features and an 8-minute demo

Learn more…

10 Tips for Your Business or Startup

September 5th, 2017 Posted by Blog Post, Strategy 0 thoughts on “10 Tips for Your Business or Startup”

It’s not enough to formally plan your business. Strategically managing it can make the difference between wild success and running your business into the ground. But it all may seem overwhelming at first brush. Here are a few tips for tackling it in chunks.

Strategize to Maximize

August 15th, 2017 Posted by Blog Post, Strategic Planning, Strategy 0 thoughts on “Strategize to Maximize”

Running a successful business means much more than having a product that customers want and are willing to pay for.

It is also about formulating actionable plans, being flexible enough to make changes to them as you go, having the discipline to measure progress, and, importantly, having the patience to think before taking action. It is about getting all your ducks in a row.

It is about maximizing your odds of success – and for that, you need to strategize.

Don’t run with your eyes closed

Even the best and brightest ideas are useless when there is no strategic planning process to support them. Without a documented, actionable strategy, your ideas are just thoughts – daydreams.

But what if your idea is positively a great one? Why is it necessary to go through the strategic planning process when you can just dive right into your business and hit the ground running?

The answer is simple: if you take off running with your eyes closed, you are bound to trip or run in to something. Even if you are lucky enough to stay upright for a while, you will eventually fall, hit a wall, or run out of energy to take another step.

Strategic Planning Minimizes your Risk of Failure

Strategic planning is the fundamental process by which you give your business or organization shape. It is how you prepare for and close the gap between your Vision and today’s reality.

In order to employ the strategic planning process, you must first set your goals and objectives, then determine the action steps necessary for achieving them.

Most importantly, you must put your plans in writing so that everyone involved in your organization can understand them. It is essential to communicate your plan effectively so that your employees, partners and stakeholder can “get on-board” – without them, you are truly all alone.

Focus on the Future, but Don’t Think Ahead Too Far

As with any plan, you need to have a set of short and long-term goals. Set realistic timeframes in which to achieve your goals. Ask yourself what you want to achieve in the next year, and in the next three.

It is difficult to plan much further into the future than that because there are too many unknowns. Everything around us changes so rapidly.

On the other hand, that is also exactly why you can’t just live in the present.

The strategic planning process requires you to be flexible, to expect and anticipate changes around every corner. Plans rarely go off without a hitch. Something unexpected will happen. Good strategic planners have the ability to adapt accordingly.

Plan Canvas is Here

The Strategic Planning Process is essential for any business. Even if your idea is flawless, you need to have the discipline, instinct, and ingenuity to make it happen.

Plan Canvas is a community, but it is also a software tool that simplifies the Strategic Planning Process. With it you can define and track your vision, goals, objectives, action items and much more. Yesterday, we announced the “soft opening” of Plan Canvas to several dozen of our initial Plan Canvas Community members.

Our “public grand opening” is imminent!

Stay tuned.

Using LinkedIn for Lead Generation

July 17th, 2017 Posted by Blog Post, Strategy 0 thoughts on “Using LinkedIn for Lead Generation”

who are youDo you use LinkedIn for lead generation?

I sat in on a free webinar by lead generation expert Doug McIsaac the other day and found it very informative. I’m not a paid spokesperson for Doug, but if you are considering a LinkedIn campaign or making it a part of your daily sales, marketing and PR strategy, you might want to check him out (

When to use LinkedIn

Doug began the webinar by talking a little bit about the various social media platforms available, and which makes the most sense under what circumstances. Of course, the first rule of thumb is use the platform your target audience is on.

But a couple of additional generic rules of thumb that Doug left us with include:

  • If you’re selling a consumer product for less than $1000, LinkedIn is not the place to be. Facebook, Pinterest or Instagram may be better choices depending on what “it” is.
  • If you are selling business to business (B2B), LinkedIn should be your primary social media platform – for a number of reasons.

The 5 Pillars of LinkedIn Lead Generation

The title of Doug’s webinar was the ‘5 Pillars of LinkedIn Lead Generation.” With his permission, they are listed here:

Pillar #1 – Know your customer

Pillar #2 – Have the right offer

Pillar #3 – Position yourself correctly (prove you are the authority)

Pillar #4 – Have a smart messaging strategy

Pillar #5 – Make it easy for them to work with you

All of these pillars make so much sense, and yet we are all prone to ignoring them from time-to-time (and some of us never catch on). Doug’s webinar really was excellent so check it out sometime for the details behind each of the pillars.

Meanwhile, let’s talk about one of them.

Know your customer

We see it all the time – good ideas, good products, good businesses – gone bad because there is no effort to really understand who the customer is. It’s not always easy.

We tend to want to think, “EVERYONE is a potential customer!”

We love what we have to offer so much that we falsely assume EVERYONE ought to love it.

But that’s just not the case. We have to take the time to really understand exactly who might be interested in what we have and – importantly – why. We have to empathize with and think like the customer.

But there is more to it

Consumers are looking for the experience as much as, if not more than, the product or service.

When you take the time to know your customer, you can tailor your message to him or her, making it much more personal than the “Hey…you….I know I got the goods you need” type of message that we see from so many businesses that are in love with their automated mass email marketing software.

Those things are an instant turn-off, even when they manage to correctly insert your name in the first sentence of the email, and use the same font as is used in the rest of the email.

But when you get to know the customer and tailor the message for that customer, their experience is already improved before they’ve ever spent a dime on your product or service. They feel like they know you because you know them.

Tell Us More

With that in mind, you’re invited to tell us about yourselves. What do you do? What makes you unique? What do you need and want? We’d love to hear your story, so please share it in the comments here or use the contact page to share it privately.



Should I Sell My Successful Business?

June 7th, 2017 Posted by Blog Post, Entrepreneur, Goal, Strategy 0 thoughts on “Should I Sell My Successful Business?”

If you choose not to decide…

Sell the business?

When an entrepreneur starts off, they’re often so concerned about whether or not their business will succeed that they don’t know what to do when it actually does succeed. So many authors and motivational business speakers focus solely on starting out and facing challenges and achieving success.

But what happens when you actually achieve that success?

You’re suddenly faced with brand new challenges and options.

How do you keep your business growing? Do you actually want it to grow more? Where do you go from here? Should you sell the company?

To some, that last question might seem crazy. You went through all of this work, you achieved your goals, all just to sell it? For others, that might be why you started the business in the first place.

Whether or not that was part of your original plan, the ability to sell your company for a nice profit is a new option for you to consider. To decide the right choice for you, there are a few things to consider.

Is There an Offer on the Table?

Shopping a business around isn’t easy. Even if it is successful. It takes work. According to studies, 60% of business owners who try to sell their business can’t make the deal happen (you have better odds by employing the services of a merger’s & acquisitions banker/expert).

It’s generally easier if you receive an offer from a party that sought you out. With an actual offer on the table, the question of selling your business becomes much more real (and perhaps more urgent).

Have You Lost Your Passion or Are You Simply Struggling with Motivation?

To get your business going, it’s likely you needed some serious passion and motivation. As the craziness of the startup life dissipates and your business becomes more of a regular job, it’s easy to begin to lose the passion, the motivation, or both.

If you’re just lacking the motivation, that’s an issue that goes beyond your current business. Motivation is needed to succeed in any aspect of life. If you’re missing passion, it might be time to sell your business.

Without passion, your heart isn’t in the business, which can seriously stunt its growth. Letting go of your current business may allow you to find something new that you’re passionate about.

Do You Know What Your Next Step Will Be?

As you might imagine, leaving your business behind is a huge transition. This is the thing you’ve lived and breathed every day for quite some time. With that gone, you can become directionless very quickly.

If you have no idea what you would do without your business, you may want to hold off on selling it.

Unless, of course, you make enough money from the sale that you can retire. Even then, making some plans and goals is a great idea.

Can Your Business Survive without You?

As mentioned in a recent post about Polaroid, many businesses struggle when their founder and key visionary leaves. The founder is often the spark that keeps the business burning. It’s not necessarily healthy to create a business that’s overly reliant on you, but it happens.

Before you consider leaving the business, you need to evaluate how it will go without you there.

Liquidate or Recapitalize?

Once you’ve decided to actually sell the business, you’ll still have some options to figure out. Of course, the buyer will have say in this as well. The most common forms of business sales are liquidation and recapitalization.

If you want to be completely gone from the company, you will liquidate any ownership in it. You may, however, want to stay on in some capacity or keep some shares to profit off future success. In this case, recapitalization is a common path.

Whatever you do….

Don’t Make a Sudden Decision

Selling a business is a very permanent choice. If there’s a hot offer on the table, take as much time as you’re need before you make a choice – even if the potential buyer is pressuring you. And remember these words to the classic Rush song “Freewill” – If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.

3 Musts for a Good Exit Strategy

March 14th, 2017 Posted by Entrepreneur, Strategy 0 thoughts on “3 Musts for a Good Exit Strategy”

exit strategySooner or later, one way or another, all business owners are going to exit the business – so why not have an exit strategy?

Last week, my guest on the Business is ART podcast at the TrueChat Network was Kate Vriner from Sunbelt Business Advisors of Southwest Ohio, and the topic of discussion was in fact Exit Strategy Planning.

A financial valuation is step 1

Kate advises that the very first step in preparing an exit strategy is to conduct a valuation of the business. Initially there are 2 or 3 parties whose opinions really matter here:

  1. The owner’s
  2. The broker/advisor’s
  3. The independent 3rd party analyst (when needed)

These are critically important because at the end of it all, there are one, two or more parties whose opinions really matter: the buyer’s and potentially the bank’s and the investors’.

Put together a strong team

In this case, your team consists of many external parties including, but not necessarily limited to:

  • Legal Advisor
  • Business Broker
  • CPA/Financial Advisor
  • Business Consultant/Coach

Once the team is together, you have to trust the team and trust the process. Your business was likely not built overnight and likely won’t be sold overnight. To get the most out of it, you have to do the things that your advisors suggest, which may not always be intuitive, and may not always be easy, which leads to this…

Get out of the weeds

When you are planning your exit strategy, if you haven’t already, now is the time to pull yourself out of the weeds. As Kate puts it, focus ON the business, not IN the business.

You may love being on the shop floor producing whatever it is you produce. Or you may feel you can’t afford to hire someone to produce whatever it is you produce. But the fact of the matter is, you have to in order to maximize the value of the business.

When a potential buyer is looking at your business, aside from wanting to see a clean set of financial books, he or she is going to want to see that the business is transferable. If the business relies on you to produce whatever it is you produce, clearly, the business is not transferable to someone else (or is less so).

In other words, if the business cannot function without you, there is no business that can be sold and transferred to someone else. There may be real estate or assets that can be sold, but there is no business. Hence, there is far less value.

Don’t miss out

You can listen to the podcast in its entirety by clicking here.

Never miss a podcast, blog post or newsletter by signing up here. I don’t spam and try very hard to bring you informative and entertaining content as well as useful tools to increase your odds of success.

Let’s Start a Movement in Business Success

January 17th, 2017 Posted by Business is ART, Business Plan, Strategy 0 thoughts on “Let’s Start a Movement in Business Success”

Business SuccessLet’s start a movement toward business success. Here is your opportunity to help yourself while helping others.

When I sat down to write Business is ART, the outline wasn’t even complete when it became clear it looked a lot like the high level requirements for a software.

As discussed in the January 5, 2017 blog post My Why – What’s Yours, my mission is to help others be successful. Doing the stuff Business is ART recommends can as much as double your odds of business success, so getting it right was priority number 1.

And it had to be simple.

The goal of Business is ART

The goal of Business is ART is to share lessons learned, particularly from my experience growing a business by more than 300%, and the process defined/followed that emerged from that experience – with a few after-the-fact tweaks.

But more than a story, it aims to leave readers with processes, suggestions and templates that can help them to feel less overwhelmed while increasing their odds of success.

What is ART?

“ART” is an acronym for “Articulate, Revise, and Track.” The book encourages the reader to articulate what it is they want, how they define success, and the actions they will take to achieve it. It encourages the reader to revise plans and actions along the way, adjusting for realities as or before they occur. Finally, it encourages the reader to track progress along the way, not the least of which is to provide better direction for making revisions.

But I don’t wanna!!! (Said with a whiney voice)

Doing this stuff is a little like going to the gym and eating a healthy diet. We know it’s good for us. We know we will feel better when we do it. We know if we do it we stand a better chance of living a longer, happier life.

But boy, oh boy. That couch sure looks good – and wouldn’t a pizza taste great right now?

So the challenge with Business is ART was to write it in a way that is interesting and enjoyable to the reader. It isn’t a rah-rah “be the best you that you know you are, you know?” kind of book that sells millions and fires people up about self-improvement – for a moment. It’s designed to be a learning tool, teaching readers something they can actually use to help themselves – for a lifetime.

We’re making it even easier for you

Since the book was written, a small team of us have been working on developing a software that allows the user to easily follow the Business is ART process. We are calling it “Plan Canvas”.

It has been an interesting journey and quite a challenge to remain focused on simplicity. We often catch ourselves saying, “You know what would be cool?” then stepping back, reminding ourselves that while whatever bell or whistle we just discussed would indeed be cool, it would also be unnecessary and potentially cumbersome.

As we’ve shown prototypes to industry experts, a common question begins with “Can it [fill in the blank]?”

Sometimes the answer is “Yes.” Sometimes “No, but it should/will.” Sometimes “No, and it never will.”

Often the suggestions are great and we work to implement them. But just as often, the suggestions are great and we have no intention of implementing them because they would move us toward a tool that, in trying to be everything to everyone, becomes burdensome and usable to few.

Test it before you let it go

We have now reached the point at which we have a small, controlled beta test user group – actual business owners – testing the tool and building their own plans within it. This is really where the rubber meets the road, as they say. This will be our first good indication as to whether we are on the right path or wasting our time.

Once this initial beta is complete, we will begin a second round of beta testing, beginning March 15, 2017, with a larger test group.

You are invited to join the movement

We are actively looking for participants in Beta Test 2.0 and can think of no one better than YOU to be a part of it. Please contact me through the CONTACT page, type “Plan Canvas Beta Test” in the subject line and we will get you signed up.

Join us. Improve your own odds of success while helping design a tool that many others can use to increase their odds of success. Let’s start a movement – together!

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.