All the “How To Start A Business” books will tell you that you have to write a business plan to have a successful business.
These documents are, essentially, the Declaration of Independence and Constitution for your business—meaning they declare your intentions for your business through your vision and mission statements, written in language that will keep you inspired through the rough stuff.
The Constitution part of your business plans gives you the rules of your particular game of business.
And while these kinds of documents are inspirational in their way, what if your business plan could be reversed engineered and constructed like a treasure map?
That’s right—a treasure map.
Where you know what X marks your exit spot and what the guideposts are along the journey.
Here are 5 ways to map the success of a business—but design it like a treasure map:
- Start with the End in Mind
When planning to win in business or anything else, always start with the end in mind.
In your business plan, the big win will need a picture of what it looks like next to that great big X that marks the “you’ve made it” spot.
Check your vision boards for victorious images of success that you’ve been tearing out of magazines.
What does the happy ending you imagine for yourself look like to you? What are you wearing? What day is it? What can you see? Smell? Taste? Feel? Hear.
What are the sensory details of the moment when you know you’ve reached the treasure of your own success?
Now that the feeling lives in your body in a somatic way, let’s bring that awareness back to your business mind. What does your X mean to your business in terms of “exit plan”?
Will you sell your business to a buyer? Will a company claim you as a merger and acquisition target? Will you IPO? Will your children inherit the business? Will you sell it to your employees?
Is there a legacy plan that’s required to build right alongside the business plan?
There are advantages to really thinking through the twists and turns of the road you want to take that leads you where you want to end up.
- What Kind of Business Are You?
Are you building a lifestyle firm, where you can grow a team and expect to captain the ship for many years?
Where your person and personality is one of the assets of the business?
In that case, your income will be relatively consistent and you can save accordingly.
If you’re targeting an exit strategy that includes a buyout or IPO, it’s not like Field of Dreams—you have to do more than just build it and expect that “they” will come.
You have to keep in mind the kinds of businesses an expected buyer buys, and build accordingly. This is essential when to distinguish when prototyping your business model.
Are you making a business you intend to keep in the family over generations?
Do your kids now know of your intentions? Are they of an age to agree to build it with you? And carry it forward when you can’t or don’t want to anymore?
Really thinking through these kinds of distinctions are critical to designing your business with the end in mind.
It’s important, when you trade your time to head off to play the game of business that you design your treasure map to get you where you intend to go.
- Invest in Relationships
The captain is no one without her first mate, her crew.
Customers, Employees, Vendors, Investors—these are all relationships to be cultivated with individuals and firms that are interested in helping you win your game of business the way you want to play it.
It’s essential to seek out the ecosystem of people and businesses that are aligned with your mission, your vision, and can help you in significant ways as you travel your treasure map.
If you’re in business together, you share a fate and, as cliché as it might sound, you’re in the same boat.
As the Captain of your own business ship, knowing who survives the lifeboat exercise is essential. (link: http://thesalesblog.com/blog/2014/08/31/the-leadership-playbook-the-lifeboat-exercise/).
Not to say that you rank order your relationships all the time, but it is critical to know whose on your side, who makes it possible to be the best business owner you can be, who inspires you, who competes with you and who can help you win.
- Chart the Passage and Stay the Course
Make sure every member of your ecosystem shares your business treasure map. Regularly re-set the coordinates for each team member to track to, so that your company’s treasure can be earned, grown and protected over time.
The mission and vision, the inspiration and clarity—this will always come from you.
Your team will borrow your confidence when they’re unsure of how to spend their time or develop their responsibilities.
Make sure you build the right relationships that can help you bring value to your marketplace, and make doubly sure that you listen and respond to the desires of the customers in that marketplace, so that you can keep perfecting the passage and staying the course.
Be buoyed by the fact that you know your end game.
Let the power and clarity of what it looks like, smells like, tastes like, feels like, sounds like when you win.
Keep imagining where you land while you are braving the wide open ocean of finding your way.
Your employees, vendors, investors, affiliates and other promoters have to share your confidence in your vision and work together to create the same product and productivity success map in order to get to market.
This project plan that intersects and overlaps with each participant’s project plan has to stay flexible and adaptable to customization and customer needs.
This map gets you to market and keeps you relevant for all the days you’re doing business until that one day comes, and you hand your hard work and sweat equity to the buyer or heir you’ve imagined.
- Know What X Marks Your Spot
There are lots of ways, as a business owner, you might be tempted to believe that you can never retire or that you can work forever or that when the end you imagined comes, you aren’t somehow ready.
Make sure your trusted advisors know and understand what X marks your spot. Be ready—by visualizing, by talking, by planning for your financial future.
Know, that as your business generates the profit you’ve imagined for it, that you have put the processes and systems in place to take care of your own personal wealth.
Know this, too: All humanity stands in some kind of relay race, running toward their dreams and carefully stewarding the baton that you are to pass for the waiting hands that have prepared to receive it from you.
It matters that you find your treasure, that you reap your reward, that you end up in that space and state you envisioned when you started your treasure map journey.
Keep in mind, that if you’ve built your business with the end in mind, that you’ve built a business with good buyout prospects and that kind of business always has more sizzle for investment bankers.
Angels and others are always on the lookout for companies that will impact the marketplace in “blue chip” ways.
If this is part of your plan, keep your lifestyle expenses low.
Make sure you can whistle while you work until that buy out or IPO comes into view.
Keep inspired, and keep inspiring your team to get you to that spot where that the X marks.
In the comments below, tell me, what end do you have in mind? What are some key milestones on your treasure map?