Most would immediately doubt the wisdom of a plan to place a building on the top of an active volcano. Yet, a majority of businesses consisting of more than one owner are built on a base that will erupt like a volcano. As with the volcano, the exact time of eruption or how much lava will flow cannot be predicted, but a major disagreement among business owners is probable and can erupt to destroy a business. There are things that can be done to keep the eruption from occurring.
If you have built a business on the volcanic base of unexpressed assumptions and inadequate communication, all is not lost. Of course, if you do nothing, then the passage of time and the disruption from a major disagreement will determine your fate. But you can prevent a future disaster by starting to communicate with your fellow owners. This takes serious work from each owner, but that work will strengthen the base for the business. If after reading this you need help to start, guidance can be had for as little as $100 (https://btcllc.net/shop/).
The effectiveness of the decision-making procedure of a private business is dependent upon the ability of the owners to articulate their values. Many private businesses do not have specified decision-making procedures, and the idea of expressing values is not commonly recognized. Owners can develop the ability to articulate values, first to themselves and then to one another.
Where values are not defined or articulated, owners will still have a sense of what they are. Decisions (express or implied) that conflict with the owner’s values will not seem right and not be satisfying to the owner. Most owners are only vaguely aware of the standards and concerns that compose their personal value systems. Most unthinkingly embrace an array of normative standards to which they assume most people adhere. Few have consciously attempted to resolve the tension that inevitably arises when those standards and concerns conflict with the expressed or unexpressed decisions of the business. That tension can lead to unresolved business disputes that tear the business apart.
A value is a normative principle that informs and shapes thoughts, desires, feelings, choices, and behavior. A value is not a preference, but an enduring and essential attribute of character. Most owners are only vaguely aware of the standards and concerns that compose their personal value systems. Most unthinkingly embrace an array of normative standards to which they assume most caring and intelligent people adhere. Few have consciously attempted to resolve the tension that inevitably arises when those standards and concerns conflict with those of other owners.
If an owner’s value system is to serve effectively as the framework for the formulation of business planning, the owner must first clarify and prioritize its components. To bring clarity and order to the owner’s personal value system, the owner should reflect on the circumstances and experiences that have informed and shaped the owner’s hopes, fears, and perspectives. The product of this reflection should be memorialized in writing. The writing should be reviewed and altered from time to time to reflect changing circumstances and perspectives.
Each owner should understand his or her value system and be able to bring an articulation of that value system into conversations regarding the conduct and ownership of the business. Each owner should be aware of the principles of conducting a critical and difficult conversation so that those conversations result in increased understanding about the values and feelings of the other owners. With this competency in place, the group planning process is possible.
For the group effort of the owners to make decisions based on values, each owner must be able to articulate that owner’s values. To be clear, the owner is not enabling quality decision-making if the owner announces that the business should be conducted in an ethical manner. While this is a values statement, a values statement more relevant to strategic planning is: “I have made a commitment to my spouse to be out of the business in five years.” This is a complex and important value statement that must be articulated in the decision-making and planning process. If the business plan includes a provision to retain the present ownership for ten years, there will be a conflict for that owner, and there will be resulting tension between owners.
For each owner to agree with and support a strategic plan (express or implied), the goals of the plan should appear to that owner to enhance the owner’s sense of well-being, including a sense of self-fulfillment. This comes from the axiomatic observation that if one exercises personal choice in the management of resources in harmony with core values, one will likely experience a sense of self-fulfillment and personal well-being. For a plan to accomplish that sense of personal well-being and self-fulfillment for each owner, that owner must perceive that the plan has been formulated in accordance with that owner’s values.
Generally owners spend very little time discussing goals, instead, there are assumptions declared: “we all want to make as much money as we can” or “this is what we have always wanted.” Most owners, even if they develop a strategic plan, are not able to articulate values statements that will communicate what are acceptable goals. The formulation of effective goals comes only after a candid discussion between owners who are articulating their values with clear value statements and through that process accomplish the formulation of strategic goals acceptable to all owners.
By developing the ability to articulate values, use group decision making, set strategic goals, and communicate plans to reach those goals, owners of a business can remove the volcanic element from the base on which the business is built.