The following owner value exercises may be used to answer the following questions:
- What drives you? Why do you own, or want to own a business?
- What do you want in return for being an owner of a business? This also could be expressed as; what do you expect in return for your investment (investment is defined as time, effort, money, knowledge or expertise)
- What potential strategic alliances or partnerships would be a smart investment for you to engage in, in order to achieve what you want?
Exercise I : Defining Owner’s Value
This exercise is the single most important professional consideration. We are afraid of it because carrying it through involves change and personal growth, which is potentially disruptive to the perceived comfort of the existing state of affairs.
Define & document individual owners’ value in order to:
- Prepare conscious & informed decisions about how you spend your life and earn your living.
- Refine existing businesses so that all owner partners have aligned interest, and so that all management decisions and policies can focus on achieving those interests.
- Eliminate expenditures and effort, including exiting existing businesses and or eliminating enterprises that are not achieving what you want.
- Identify potential investment partnerships that will achieve what you want.
- Identify sole proprietor opportunities; i.e. if no one else wants what you want, its time to exit the business relationship, buy out your partners or start-up a new business.
- Essay 1: Describe in writing what you want in return for your investment in any current business you own. 1a) Categorize/stratify/paraphrase your essay into bullets. (please see examples on the reverse side). 1.b) Rank them numerically with # 1 being your most valued pick.
- Essay 2: Describe in writing what you want in return for your investment in the most perfect business you can envision.2a) Categorize/stratify your essay into bullets.
- This exercise is most effectively performed during a retreat from the day to day normal activities. Get out of town, turn off the cell phone and focus on the exercise for at least 24 hours away from any operational duties, family or community responsibilities in a relaxing setting; two full days and three nights will achieve better results, three weeks in Hawaii would be best.
- Exercise 1 is performed as an individual, regardless of marital or parental status or current business engagements.
- Practice is required for competency. Don’t expect approximation to perfection without a lot of practice. Consider the 3 week retreat if you want to become competent fast and shave years off your learning curve.
- Make your own categories or use the provided examples.
Owner’s value example categories and sub-categories:
- Opportunities for children
- Provide a challenge
- Provide a component of ego (my business defines me, or brand recognition)
- Fulfill destiny (e.g. carry-on tradition)
- Personal training & leadership development
- Provide a job (e.g. for those of us that consider working for someone else out of the question)
- Work in a self-determined habitat (e.g. uncluttered, healthy and reverent)
- Fringe Benefits: (extras derived from black ink)
- Use of assets (e.g. camping & Hunting, capital pool, jet & pilot, retreat property)
- Participation in events, conferences, travel
- Produce & processed food
- Economies: (money)
- Retirement Benefits
- Health Benefits
- Cultural Contribution: (since of purpose or being part of or perpetuating an important community)
- Solve a problem
- Perpetuate family values
- Perpetuate business core values
- Perpetuate joyful neighbor relationships
- Contribute to the well being of Community(ies)
- Husbandries: What are the important high quality husbandries on/in your business that provide you with cultural satisfaction?
- Land environment
- What else?
- Ideology & Legacy Contribution:
- Business Sustainability & Continuity (keep the business going across generations for community stability)
- Product Leadership (for what benefit? (e.g. world peace))
- Ecology & Ecological Sustainability
- Provide entry level jobs & apprentice training
- Provide sound careers
- What Else?
Exercise II : Communicating Co-owner Perspectives
Often family co-owners and other close business partners have a more accurate perspective about what motivates us than we perceive about ourselves. Peer & team perspectives are one of the great benefits of being in relationships. Consequently, respectfully communicating perspectives & observations is the most important first step in normalizing co-owner relationships and identifying common ground for the purpose of focus of future business effort.
We are afraid of this too because it involves personal growth and self reflection, which is potentially disruptive to the perceived comfort of the existing state of affairs. This exercise is valuable and appropriate for highly functional, respectful and experienced participants in business relationships only.
Co-owners that fall short of these skills have two effective options: 1) exit the business relationship, or 2) engage in professional relationship therapy. This previous sentence is the perhaps the most valuable advise ever given. If co-owners have the necessary skill, then they may continue with the business plan, Exercise II.
Communicate perspectives of co-owners’ value in order to:
- Provide the subject co-owners with objective & informed perspective feedback for self reflection and re-visitation of their respective prioritized owner’s value list.
- Provide advisors with the co-owner perspectives for help in understanding relationships
- Identify potential conflicts, and where professional relationship help may be needed.
- Identify potentially missing necessary skill sets that will need to be hired.
- Essay : Describe in writing three paragraphs; what you perceive each co-owner’s top several owner’s value to be, where they are in common with yours and where there they may be in conflict.
- At a scheduled meeting recite your perspectives about your co-owners, and take notes about what your co-owners perceive your owner’s value to be.
- When the first round of recitals are finished, each co-owner in turn will read their notes about the perspectives of their co-owners of themselves.
- Revisit and revise your prioritized owner’s value list, and submit each revised list to the facilitator in preparation for exercise III.
- Again, this exercise is most effectively performed during a retreat from the day to day normal activities.
- Exercise 2 is also performed as an individual, regardless of marital or parental status or current business engagements.
- Schedule a deadline for submitted revised prioritized owner’s value lists.
- Schedule a designated facilitated recitals meeting between co-owners and available advisors.
- Rule 1: There is no feedback or comment during the recitals.
- Rule 2: There is no commentary during reading of notes by the reader, and commentary by the co-owner(s) is limited to where the note taker failed to note key perspectives.
Exercise III : Finding Common Ground (or not)
It’s not possible for small businesses to become resilient, productive and enjoyable without a commitment to pull together in the same direction during any particular generation. That kind of cooperation requires the clarity and integrity of identifying and reaching agreement on owners’ values and expectations.
Reaching agreement means finding enough common owner’s value to focus a company on, and if a company of co-owners have enough in common, the company can pull together with an alignment and clarity of purpose.
In any partnership, co-owners must choose to abandon their outliers; those values that have no commonality. The only other intelligent option is to exit the partnership.
Discover & document commonality of co-owners’ value in order to:
- Reach consensus on the focus of the purpose of the business, and the foundation of the Owner’s Vision (to be developed in exercise V)
- Provide co-owners with clarity about what the business will do for them, and allow them to decide whether the return on their investment is enough.
- Provide advisors and managers with mantle by which every business decision is held up against.
- Brainstorm Categorization:
- At a scheduled meeting, the facilitator places individual sticky notes containing the co-owners #1 value (all of the same color) on a dump board.
- Any common values are categorized onto a second board (to the right of the first) and categories named by the consensus of their authors.
- Outliers are left on the first board.
- The procedure is repeated for the co-owner’s #2 value (with a unique color or size for the #2s), placing any sticky not fitting an existing category with that category, and adding new categories on a third board (to the right of the #1 categories) as necessary.
- Repeat the procedure until the values are exhausted.
- Brainstorm Synthesis:
- Analyze the boards and discuss the priorities and categories.
- Record any agreement by consensus immediately, and post it on a board dedicated to listing decisions.
- Schedule the meeting and provide enough sticky pads and markers of the same type for each participant; pads should be consistently sized and colored for each priority value (e.g. #1 priorities are all red squares, etc)
- The space scheduled should be able to accommodate hanging at least six 36” x 48” foam boards in a row or continuous around a room corner.
- Snap digital images of all of the boards when completed, then scilicet a volunteer to take the images and replicate the notes and their organization into a digital chart to be distributed.
- The printed pdf will serve as the foundation for exercise IV.
Strategic Plan Continued:
Exercise IV : Reciting Common Owner’s Values
(recitals to be amended to the partnership agreement)
Exercise V : Defining Core Values
(what culture the company will embrace and qualities of the hire; to be amended to the partnership agreement )
Exercise VI : Developing the Company Vision
(what the business will look like in 25 years)
Exercise VII : Enterprise SWOT Analysis
(identifying dogs and champions for effort focus)
Exercise VIII : Developing a Straw Plan
(target financial metrics 5 & 10 years out)
Exercise IX : Designing Ownership Succession & Exit Procedures
(vehicles & procedures: chapters to be amended to the partnership agreement)
Exercise X : Re-defining the Org Chart
(People needed to achieve the straw plan)
Exercise XI : Designing Tier-one Production Metrics
(How effort and performance will be measured and compensated (which is the job description) for top row org chart people)
Exercise XII : Designing Management Succession
(Protecting continuity when managers change)
Exercise I : Developing Mission Statements
(simple marching orders that everyone knows and lives by)
Exercise II : Designing Tier-two Staff Metrics
(roles, expectations, metrics and salaries for each position)