Get a Grip on Your Family Business: Are you running your business or is it running you?

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

(Editor's Note: This is the 11th column in a series by family business leaders and advisors with information and ideas about topics unique to family businesses, developed in conjunction with the Conway Center for Family Business.)

By Alex Freytag

In many family businesses, entrepreneurial leadership teams have similar frustrations: lack of control, people issues (need we say more), lack of profit, nothing is working, or you've hit the ceiling and can't break through.

This is often caused by misalignment within the leadership team of a family business; that is, they're not all 100 percent on the same page with where they are going and how they are going to get there. In other words, they don't agree on their strategy or vision.

If this sounds familiar, a simple, practical tool called the Vision/Traction Organizer or V/TO will help you clarify and simplify your strategic planning process and at the same time, help you gain traction towards achieving that goal. Why is traction an important part of your strategic planning process? As we like to say, vision without traction is hallucination.

The V/TO simplifies the strategic planning process; it asks leadership teams to answer eight questions and to have complete alignment, clarity and agreement on the answers to those eight questions. As you read them, ask yourself if you truly and honestly have complete agreement and alignment throughout your organization.

  1. What are Your Core Values? To be clear, these are not permission-to-play values such as integrity or trust, nor, are they aspirational values such as accountability. Core values should embody who you are as a company; they are what makes you different, wacky-they are what you reek of.
  2. What is Your Core Focus? What is your passion and what is your niche? Disney's is "To make people happy." Your reason for being should be a short sentence or phrase using simple language.
  3. What is Your 10-Year Target? Are you all shooting for the same thing down the road? Ask a leadership team of five this question and you will often get six different answers. So how can an organization determine what priorities are important if it doesn't know where it is going?
  4. What is Your Marketing Strategy? What is your "list"-your ideal customer? What are your three uniques? What is your proven process? What is your guarantee?
  5. What is Your Three-Year Picture? Define 3-5 key measurements (e.g. revenue, profit, # customers) that you want to hit in three years. Then, describe what the organization looks like in 5-10 short, descriptive bullet points. You've just completed your three-year plan.
  6. What is Your One-Year Plan? Define 3-5 key measurements you want to hit in the next 12 months. Then add your 3-7 goals for the year. Note: the more goals you have, the fewer you will accomplish.
  7. What are Your Quarterly Rocks? A rock is just another term for a 90-day priority. The key here is to create a 90-day world. Why? People tend to lose focus after 90 days so every 90 days, review your rocks and set new ones.
  8. What is Your Issues List? Once you have your issues on a list, you can prioritize and start to solve those issues.

Once a leadership team has complete alignment and clarity on these simple eight questions, your organization will begin to identify and effectively solve all your issues. And your success at achieving your vision is directly proportional to your ability to solve issues.

Alex Freytag is co-founder and partner at ProfitWorks LLC. ProfitWorks helps organizations clarify, simplify and achieve their vision by implementing The Entrepreneurial Operating System, which can be downloaded for free at Alex can be reached at or 614-571-8826.