O'er the mountain top Featured

7:49am EDT February 27, 2003
Business owners and managers can learn a lot from early American pioneers.

Pioneers had a vision: Go West. They encountered mountains without highways, rivers without bridges, wild animals and extreme weather. Each represented a potential barrier that could stop them from achieving their vision. They had two choices -- turn around or develop strategies to overcome the barriers.

Like pioneers, business owners must set, then focus on their vision, no matter what the perceived barriers. The belief must hold that no barrier is insurmountable. With sufficient effort and creativity, the goals can be achieved. If one strategy doesn't work, try another.

Finding a way around or through barriers often requires eliminating some sacred cows. These may be people who have been with your company for years, but instead of growing and changing, they are focused on old barriers rather than new solutions.

Worse are those who represent an organization whose culture has always allowed the focus on barriers as an excuse for not setting and reaching a great vision. Unless you remove those who limit creativity and prevent new ideas from being generated, those visions may simply fade.

If past practices allowed the organization to focus on barriers rather than the vision, a major culture shift -- including new rules -- may be needed. And when setting goals and visions, comments that focus on barriers rather than on the vision must be removed from the conversation. As the mindset shifts,and the focus goes from barriers to vision, the barriers, not the vision, will fade.

Organizations that define their vision as they want it, without regard to perceived or real barriers, often find the resourcefulness and creativity of those within the organization becomes evident. Encouraging creativity can translate into the creation of an organization that not only achieves its vision but exceeds it.

Consider the companies that may never have reached the levels they reached, or the products that never would have been created, if barriers had been used as an excuse for not going for the vision. Think about how history would have been different if the pioneers had decided not to travel because of the mountains and rivers they had to cross.

Now think about your company ... and where you'd like it to go. Joel Strom (jstrom@jsagrowth.com) is director of Joel Strom Associates, LLC, the growth management practice of C&P Advisors LLC. The firm works exclusively with closely held businesses and their ownership, helping them set and achieve growth objectives while maximizing their profitability and value. Contact him at (216) 831-2663.