Rather than think about what your company is today, do you ever dream about what it could be tomorrow?
As 1-800-GOTJUNK? founder Brian Scudamore writes in his regular column (page 13), developing a clear and detailed vision of the future state of your business is a powerful way to promote its growth into something bigger—if not better—than it is now. Coincidentally, we conceived this issue’s cover story (page 18) as a way to give our readers some helpful direction when creating their visions. In fact, it started life with the working headline “7 New Visions for Your Business.” But that sounded a little bit wimpy. And five turned out to be a better number.
Indeed, we didn’t want to provide a large assortment of ideas to choose from. Instead, we wanted to provide the best options for entrepreneurial companies. But our rationale is not as obvious as you might think.
We considered many things that a company could be and, based on the evidence provided by management experts and entrepreneurs who had realized their own dreams, we decided to focus on five things that a company should be: a super sales organization; a great innovator; an employer of choice; a lean, low-cost machine; or a wizard of “wow!” service. “Or” is the operative word in that list. To paraphrase a famous directive from Google’s playbook, great companies choose just one thing to do really well. The rationale for this is obvious: companies that try to be great at multiple things become masters of none.
The menu of one aging yet ever-popular pub in my neighbourhood reads, “Price, Quality, Service: Pick any two”—suggesting its owners know something Google and most management gurus don’t. Still, it’s hard to argue that companies will achieve long-term success if they stray from maintaining a singular point of operational excellence. Even in a mid-recession hiring market, it’s too difficult to find shapeshifters who can change their focus, mindset and habits in pursuit of a new goal. And, as anyone who has worked in a mid-sized or large organization before knows, it’s all but impossible to send teams off in different directions without engendering organizational conflict and battles for scarce resources.
Even so, I want to believe that companies can attain philanthropic excellence without sacrificing a sliver of their core operational competency. No one has more of the verve, common sense and determination required to effect social change than entrepreneurs. So, what a shame it would be if directing their attention to philanthropy weakened their businesses, thus diminishing their long-term ability to create the products people want and the employment people need.
I can only hope that Google’s wrong—and my local pub is right.