Believe It to See It

The room has a cautious, yet optimistic energy as everyone settles into their seats. Family members and non-family members on the leadership team have gathered and are about to have a discussion that most have never been a part of before. 

What does the future of the company look like 10 years from now?
We start every ValuePoints family business engagement with a 2-day offsite strategy meeting with the leadership team.  This is a powerful, interactive, and thought-provoking two days where we establish a growth plan and direction for the business, all in concert with getting the team aligned.  
One of the turning points in the workshop is when we begin to discuss the company’s vision.  Also known as it’s BHAG – Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal, ala Jim Collins, and his classic book Good to Great – it’s a VIVID description of the future and target of where you want the business to be in 10 to 20 years.  While it will not be fully articulated in those first two days, the mere exercise brings life and clarity to the team.  
Why a BHAG is so important to a family business.
The BHAG is like the North Star, acting almost like a gravitational pull on the whole company, making it critically important to the family business. This vision can light the way for many who have never heard these aspirations put into words by leadership before. This BHAG provides direction and clarity in a system often shrouded in secrecy and brings an understanding of decisions that seemed to be made in a silo. 
The data is brutal and it shows that family businesses struggle to transition from one generation to the next: 

  • only 33% of family business survive to the second generation
  • 12% of those will make it to the third generation
  • and merely 4% to the fourth generation

The #1 reason for the struggle? Family dynamics and drama, often fueled by mistrust,  poor communications and confusion about where the company is heading.  
A well thought out – and clearly articulated – BHAG and vision, helps get everyone in the family and in the company on the same page, working together towards a common goal.  Trust and confidence follow, aligning family members and building harmony. 
How a BHAG brings impact.
A BHAG must become a part of your thinking. We become what we think about. “...Your thoughts become your words, your words become your actions…” moving us towards the destination (the company’s destiny and legacy) described in the BHAG.  No BHAG. No vision. And the company wanders aimlessly.    
A lesson on visualizing... from an unlikely source. 
If you play golf or have ever watched professional golf, you’ll see the power of vision at work.  The golfer will walk up and assess the lie of the ball on the grass ( if they're upslope, downslope, etc.) and then they look out to exactly the spot they want to hit.  They take a practice swing or two, step behind the ball, and close their eyes.  It’s in this moment that they are both relaxing and envisioning their shot, the arc of the ball, the spin of the ball, where it lands and how it rolls. 
They believe it to see it.
Then they walk back up to the ball, get themselves positioned, put a swing on it and hit these unbelievable shots that amaze us all.  But for them, it’s the shot they intended to make. It's what they envisioned. They believed it to see it.
This technique can guide your family business, too.

Once that vision is clear and communicated, it gets in your mind's eye and in the mind's eye of other people in the organization. THAT is incredibly powerful and will create momentum for the business.
Business owners... it's your job to evangelize this vision, to keep it alive with your team, and to connect them to the BIG picture and how they can impact it. Key executives... If you are on the leadership team and you don't know the BHAG, forward this article to your president and have a conversation.  Download this PDF of Muhatma Gandhi’s timeless quote that I mentioned above, and talk about it with your team at your next meeting. 
Develop your BHAG. Make it a BIG. HAIRY. AUDACIOUS. GOAL. Share it. Post it. Measure its progress. 
The beauty of a BHAG is that when people can see the destination, they help you chart the course to get there.

Tom Garrity is managing partner at Compass Point Consulting, based in Bethlehem, PA, a business consulting firm specializing in family-owned companies, primarily in the manufacturing, construction & professional service industries. Compass Point provides hands-on consulting & coaching to help businesses close performance gaps; give owners practical, actionable tools that drive growth; deliver training to develop leaders and position the business for successful ownership transition - all on their terms.
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