It’s that time of year again; planning time for a great 2008! The key to effective business planning is to know what the end point will be and to point in that direction.
Before any planning gets done the first question to ask is: “What is the ‘mission’ of your company?” In other words, why are you in business?
Are you in business just to make money? Or are you in business to help protect your client’s assets, including their homes and businesses? Either way is fine; however, knowing why you are in business will help you clarify why you do what you do. You spend a lot of your life working. It is therefore important to understand why you are doing what you are doing.
A great way to figure out your mission is to ask yourself: “How do I want to be remembered at my funeral?” What will the eulogy say about you and the impact your business has had on your employees, your customers, your family, the community? What was the legacy of your business?
So we ask again: Why are you in business?
Know Your Motivations
The things that motivate you help define why you are in business. Explore what gives you excitement as well as what makes you angry. It helps to really know what you are passionate about. It is what gives you the “juice” and the ability to keep on going when times are tough, such as now when pricing is soft, carriers are not cooperating, employees are ill, producers aren’t selling the way they should, etc.
Motivation defines why a company is in business. If the owners are clear on why they are motivated, it is much easier for the employees to follow the same path and stay motivated. It is somewhat like being a teacher. The teacher that is passionate about the subject will get the students excited too, and real learning begins.
What Makes You Unique?
Your mission should make your business stand out from the crowd. It should define your firm. What is it that you are offering to the world that is special? Why should anyone do business with you? What is your unique selling position? What value do you offer that is different than that of others?
Once you have discovered the key ingredients, it is time to write a mission statement for your firm.
An example of a mission statement might be: “Our mission is to offer quality insurance products to protect our client’s assets and serve their needs, at a fair price, in an efficient manner, while making a good living.”
A mission statement can be short or long. It should not be written by consensus. It needs to come from the agency owners. The owners are the people that give the business life, its mission and its vision.
It is OK to get input or guidance from employees or consultants when going through the process. However, the words chosen need to resonate the owners’ beliefs, otherwise the mission will end up being well-crafted word with no power.
Once the purpose of the business is clearly stated, then the owners should notify employees on its vision. When the employees have a better understanding of the purpose and direction, they will be able to see how their efforts will contribute to the success of the business.
The vision for the business should start off with an intermediate period, three to five years. It is OK to have a longer one, however the business climate changes so fast that it’s difficult to forecast beyond three to five years with any accuracy. A one year and three month vision can be defined.
Within the one year and three month vision should be action plans, or specific steps that should be done to reach the vision in a given time period. Assign a due date to the person carrying out each action step. This will help employees (and owners) know what they are responsible for and the work that needs to be done.
Have a code of honor
The firm’s core values or a code of honor should be established as part of this process. Core values are the firm’s ultimate guiding principles. Like a company’s mission, core values remain permanent. Visions and goals may change and are more temporary. The core values can be part of the mission statement and may include statements like the following:
“We will always operate with integrity and will be completely honest in dealing with our clients and insurance companies. We will show respect by returning phone calls within 24-hours. We will always treat our clients and employees fairly and equally.”
Take the time to clarify your mission, core values and visions for your business. Commit them to writing. Share them with employees, clients and carriers. Hang them up in the office as well as post them to your Web site.
This is not a “one-time” exercise. It is important to make sure that you live these words. If you do so, it will be clear to those you serve — your employees, clients, carriers, and your community — that you and your business will be a success.
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