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  • John Reese

Make a Brutally Honest Assessment

Updated: Jul 4

In my previous two posts I spent a lot of time making the case for developing a concise vision document, seeking alignment with all stakeholders and living by it . Yes, I love to wax philosophical about the basics of running an integrated business. It’s true that it suits my personality, but beyond that, I have seen it work over and over!


The Case for a Vision, Redux

It floors me how often I meet with clients looking for fixes to specific issues plaguing their operation, when the root cause lies with lack of shared vision, which of course hurts alignment and engagement. This is often the case in family-run businesses where multiple, emotional opinions are being introduced at any given time. Of course, right now we are all feeling impatient. We want to make changes and get going again, but we must first take a step back and regroup around the bigger picture.


A shared vision provides a solid foundation. It includes your beliefs, purpose and intention, big picture marketing considerations along with medium- and long-term views and it's what allows you to center in the moment no matter what is happening around you.


We get into this crazy business because we are creative, innovative, impulsive dopamine junkies. The one-page vision document corrals this energy – it helps us stay grounded in the chaos and sift through the multitude of inputs. It reminds us to stick to what is real and true by keeping our eye on the prize! It is never a straight line, but neither is life. And now we have a great tool to keep us on course.


The COVID-19 Effect

Let’s face it, the pandemic has ripped the scab off a wound of an industry in which it has become increasingly difficult to survive let alone thrive. Where to from here? One thing is certain, we cannot stay where we were, doing exactly as before. Our inherent weaknesses have been brutally exposed. It is highly likely that where we were was not working anyway. We can go one way, or another but status quo is not coming back. The are new opportunities! This is where we need to re-direct our passion, energy, innovation and creativity.


Time to Look in the Mirror

With our vision newly-imagined, refreshed and reflecting a new direction, we now turn inward to take a serious audit of where we truly are. Looking in the mirror can be a painful process. But if we are open to it and are truly willing, there is much to learn. We need to be honest about where we are now, before we can gain clarity on where we are going and map out specifics on getting there.



Coming to grips with what it is that we can influence, attaching levels of importance and mapping out a meaningful plan of action is enormously empowering. It requires brutal honesty up-front and sharing with impunity. You are looking for healthy and respectful conflict with the outcome being unity of diverse opinions rather than uniformity of thought.


Simplicity works for me. I can easily drown in complexity. I don’t think I’m alone in confessing that complicated solution shut me down. But there is a way forward that is manageable. It’s so rewarding to see clients’ response when they realize that the most complex solutions are not always the best. As they say, you can only eat an elephant one chunk at a time.

The Six P’s

I like to break down a business into something I refer to as the Six P’sPeople, Product, Patron, Profit, Promotion, and Physical Place. Taking stock of where you stand in each of these areas then making a list of issues and opportunities is where our action plan takes shape.


1) Gather the team, get six pieces of flip chart paper adding one of the P’s as a title on each and start unpacking. How are we doing in each one of these areas? Simply start a list, share openly and honestly without any judgement. Just build out this list and later, we will focus that list and prioritize.


This is the type of exercise session benefits from having an experienced facilitator on hand to lead.

• People – Structure, roles, cultural alignment and health.

• Product – Innovation, quality, market leadership, uniqueness, pricing/position

• Profit – Measurement, income statement review, industry comparables

• Patron – Customer care and experience, building loyalty, service levels, deliverables

• Promotion – How effective are our current efforts in reaching our target market and selling our difference?

• Physical Place – State of repair, do our staff have the needed tools, do we need a refresh?


2) With your list of issues and opportunities taking shape, you now begin to whittle down the list. Choose your top three priorities in each area for finding solutions, and put any others in the “parking lot” to be dealt with later.

Coming up….

Our objective is not to come up with an overwhelming list of things that have to get done. On the contrary, we will the take results of our self-assessment exercise, prioritize further and finalize a manageable list of no more than five critical priorities for us to tackle.


With each bit of progress, the team will taste what success looks like and an infectious momentum will build. Positivity, clarity and hope will start to displace defeatism, fear and dread! Progress toward a goal is infectious; aiming for perfection is self-defeating.


In my next post, I’ll outline the planning cycle, how to establish the top critical priorities, and, most importantly, where we build in alignment and mutual accountability.

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