Although Melissa and I own a “mom and pop” business, one that is not large, we have always tried to think larger than we are! We’ve discussed some of the ways we think and act large – employee manuals, training schedules, etc. Another way we emulate larger entities is to take time, on an annual basis, to “stand down” for a day or two and have a corporate retreat. Most often, this has been the 2 of us having an all day meeting, at home sometimes, or at a more interesting location on other occasions. Perhaps our retreats are not as elaborate as some of our clients’ excursions to Vegas, but the point for us has been to block a period of uninterrupted time to think about the state of the business, evaluate marketing efforts, make new marketing plans, and the like. On a few occasions over the years we included other staff in these “retreats.” The input was sometimes useful, but often not. And, so, for the most part, retreats and planning remain our domain, as business partners. You might think that with all our togetherness already we would not need to do such things. Well, a few minutes a year are required to maintain corporate records. But, beyond that, there is a benefit to evaluating the business from a more strategic perspective. We spend every day doing a variety of routine things, some less routine than others. But, taking the time to review client lists, cases worked on, the state of the market and trying to figure out how to improve the business and the services we provide has always generated new ideas to work on in the following year. Whether we set goals or targets is not as much our focus as is just ensuring that we’re taking a step back to look at what we are doing, and, more important, what we need to do.
David and I rarely have an opportunity to discuss goals, plan for the future, or dream big dreams during the work day. Most of our days in the office are spent getting ready for the next case, preparing reports based on research findings obtained in the previous case, and marketing to clients regarding future cases. Mundane tasks, such as supervising employees, paying bills, working with the company that recruits our research participants, handling emails and other correspondence, and responding to the crises that seem to be an inevitable part of owning and operating a business (for example, the computer woes described in several recent posts) leave no time for strategic planning that is an integral part of owning a business. As David said, we have learned it is more effective for us to engage in strategic planning meetings as a duo, instead of including our employees. Although our employees’ suggestions are well intended, they usually fall somewhere short of the mark in that our employees do not share our vision of the business we founded many years ago. Taking stock of where we have been, where we are now, and where we want to go is crucial for David and me, as business owners. Regardless of whether the location of our corporate retreat is in our home or a scenic place, such as Sedona, Arizona, the most important aspect is ensuring we have uninterrupted time to think, create, and dream.