I often ask advisors I work with to describe their future company to me. With very few exceptions, the responses I get overwhelmingly revolve around incremental change. It’s understandable.
As business owners, we reflexively cling to the present when planning the future – falling back on the tried and true “well, we’ve always done it this way,” or “yes, I know technology has improved by leaps and bounds, but let’s first focus on improving things at the margins.” We quickly become stuck in a rut because we think small; looking for ways to add operational efficiency to processes and procedures that quite possibly should be blown up and completely restructured.
Destruction, Preservation and Creation
I just finished reading The Three Box Solution, and it just may be the best strategy book I’ve ever come across. While I highly recommend it as a worthwhile read, the essential lesson it imparts can be distilled into these three themes of destruction, preservation and creation: destroying the old traps of the past; preserving those elements of your business that work well; and innovating in a non-linear way for the future.
Rooted in Hindu spiritualism and represented by Vishnu, the god of preservation, Shiva, the god of destruction, and Brahma, the god of creation – the approach strives to impart a business philosophy where creation, preservation and destruction serve as a continuous cycle without a beginning or end. The book even references the firm Mu Sigma, a Chicago-based decision sciences and data analytics provider which has embraced this strategic structure so much so, that their management team members are segregated into these three clans and tasked with continually challenging each other to justify every decision to destruct, preserve or create. I don’t know about you, but even by my enthusiastic standards, that seems to be going a bit overboard!
Visionary but Pragmatic
You absolutely need to be doing things in the “now” to keep growing your firm. I know that sometimes it feels like you’re changing the tires on a car that’s traveling down the road at 100mph, but the truth of the matter is: that’s what it takes to be an entrepreneur. You’ve got to be constantly adjusting, but you also have to be willing to let go to grow – to allow certain things to destruct and go away. You also have to constantly focus on staying profitable so you can redeploy, innovate and plan for the future.
Many advisors who are phenomenal planners for their clients, fail to plan with the same rigor when it comes to their business and their team. Think about the things you need to preserve today – the things that drive EBITDA and profits; the things that drive your net promoter scores and builds advocates; and adapting quickly to new technologies. Don’t be afraid to toss out vestiges of the past that don’t deliver on those goals (no matter how entrenched they may be in your firm’s DNA).
And lastly, think about the systemic changes you can make that will help build-out your future company. Create a pro-forma for the next five years defining what growth will look like. Give serious thought to who will be a partner in your future firm, and what strategic partnerships you need to start building now for the future. Remember, relationship building takes time. I see so many advisors get stuck because they thought they could build relationships in a year or two when they really needed 5-10 years to solidify trust-based relationships.
This three box solution of destruction, preservation and creation can prove an invaluable tool in developing a much more strategic approach to designing your future company.
Coaching Questions from this article:
- What vestiges from your organizational past might be acting as an anchor in slowing your progress? How might you go about destroying them?
- Review your current processes, procedures and services. What are the elements and aspects that are most critical for you to preserve?
- Thinking of your future company, how might you replace some of those past and present ways of doing business with more revolutionary approaches?
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