Business Plan Toolbox: Business Planning with Fresh Eyes

By Stephie Althouse | November 7 , 2018 | 0

Fresh eyes blog 11-7-18

We all have blind spots that can (and will!) rob us off the level of success we could be having. There are both opportunities and threats in our blind spots.  Bringing fresh eyes into our business planning is vital for our companies to grow and scale.

This article is the fifth one in a series of blogs about the Business Plan Toolbox. If you didn't see the first four, don't worry.  Here are the key takeaways:

  • Part 1: High-expertise companies struggle to transform their expertise into corresponding success. They face five common challenges:
  1. There is a significant skill gap between the company's core expertise and the ability to convert that expertise into money
  2. Many visionary founders find building and running a team challenging
  3. The core expertise lives only in the brain/s of one or a few key people
  4. High-expertise leaders often prefer to do the work themselves instead of delegating it to others
  5. Investment monies are difficult to impossible to get due to lack of scalability
  • Part 2: One of the five challenges is that the core expertise of the company lives only in the brain/s or computer/s of one or a few key people. Brilliance Extraction™ is a process for extracting expertise and ideas out of your key people (including yourself). That way this knowledge is available to others to grow the company. This process is crucial for scaling up your high-expertise company.
  • Part 3: The Business Power Plan™ is a tool for effective business planning that is fast. The resulting plan is also much easier to carry out than traditional plans. For optimal results and buy-in, it’s important to involve your team of experts in developing this plan. Doing so also begins the critical process of Brilliance Extraction™. You can download the Business Power Plan™ template
  • Part 4: Here I shared examples of building business plans (Business Power Plans™) for high-expertise companies.

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In part 5, I will discuss the importance of using “fresh eyes” while business planning. This conversation is about making sure you are not missing something important, whether that is an opportunity or a threat you are not aware of. Curious? Read on! 

What are “Fresh Eyes”?

Simply put, fresh eyes are eyes that see things you don’t because you are too familiar with your business, how things are done, what your industry is like, etc. fresh eyes bring new perspectives and give impetus to new thinking. fresh eyes unearth opportunities as well as threats that may be lurking around the corner.

Why are Fresh Eyes Important?

If you are planning your business without fresh eyes, you may miss out on new opportunities. You may overlook internal or external threats that could harm you and your business.  Not "seeing the forest for the trees" can be costly in both time and money.

The truth is, everyone has blind spots. Even the best business owner, CEO, or executive has them. It is simply physics and neuroscience. 

I’d like to share a couple of metaphors:

The first one is this: Imagine yourself as the driver of a big rig; 18-wheels towing a trailer behind you. Let’s say you are the best truck driver there is. Do you have blind spots? You bet. Multiple cars could be hidden from your view.

Alternatively, picture an object, such as a bottle of tabasco sauce. Imagine your team standing in a circle. Place the bottle of tabasco sauce in the middle of that circle. Now picture asking each person what their view is of that bottle. Some will see the front of the bottle and see the Tabasco label. Some will see the back with the nutrition label. Some will see the side where the can see the color of the sauce more clearly. Which view is right? Well, all of them – and none of them. All viewing angles give a partial view of the matter at hand, and none of them give the whole picture. For the person seeing the label on the front, the nutrition label is in the blind spot. For the person seeing the nutrition label, the front label is invisible and so on. Again, it is just physics and has nothing to do with how smart the person is.

What is in your blind spots? In a nutshell:

  • Opportunities - discover opportunities that will change your life. It could be a new market sector, a chance to get more efficient, a way to market better, an opportunity to work less and yet get more results, an invisible revenue stream, etc.
  • Threats – find out what they are before it is too late. Think of Polaroid. They went out of business because they didn’t see or believe the shift that was happening in the marketplace, same with Thomas Guide.

How Can You Get Fresh Eyes While Planning Your Business?

The first method is to bring internal fresh eyes into your business planning by involving  your whole team. Each team member has valuable and unique perspectives, thoughts and ideas to offer: hear them with an open mind. Brainstorming sessions are great for that. Write all of the ideas down on a board that everyone can see (or if you are meeting virtually, write them down electronically and share the screen with your team). There are several benefits to this: 

  • You get fresh perspectives and ideas
  • Your team members feel valued
  • You begin the process of Brilliance Extraction™ we talked about in Part 2 in this article series

During the brainstorming resist the urge to judge ideas or say things like: “this will never work” or “we already tried that” or “everyone knows that the way things are done in our industry.” Stay open-minded. Write it down. Let the ideas build on each other.

After that session it is time to review the ideas for a few days and then make decisions. Which ideas will you run with? Write it down in your Business Power Plan™. You can download the template for it here

The second method is to bring external fresh eyes into the discussion

I have grown and turned around a good number of businesses in several high-expertise industries such as technology, science, construction, insurance, real estate related businesses. What I have found over and over, is that external fresh eyes lead to breakthroughs. Here are some examples:

  • A science company wanted to create a marketing plan. Their goal was to increase sales of their high-tech detection instrument. fresh eyes revealed that the current structure of the company’s team would not support them in executing even the best marketing plan. We worked on that in conjunction with establishing the marketing plan. As a result, the company ran smoother and it was able to increase its sales.
  • A construction company needed a CEO as successor. The current CEO was very powerful and had led the company for over 20 years. He attempted to train a long-term employee who had worked their way up to take over the role. Yet, after a year or two he was still not confident the person was up to the task. fresh eyes revealed that the CEO was undermining his own efforts to train new leaders.  Whenever a situation occurred that needed leadership skills, he took care of it himself. Feeling a sense of urgency to resolve the matter at hand, he ignored the leadership structure they had put in place. As a result, his leaders did not get to grow.  When he became aware of the dynamic, things changed. Soon, the team was able to identify an internal person to take on the role. The success has been amazing to watch.
  • The sales team of a high-tech service company XYZ had a very limited view of who they could collaborate with. They believed that any company that offered any services that were similar to their own was a competitor. They saw no opportunities for collaboration with those companies. External fresh eyes questioned that belief. After all, there are companies whose services overlap only slightly.  Most of what these companies offered was complementary to XYZ's. As a result, we built some very powerful collaborations with other companies. Also, when a major piece equipment broke, they were able to get help from one of these collaborators. This support ended up being critical to XYZ company and its #1 customer.

In summary, fresh eyes are critical to your success. Involve your team in all of your planning and bring in external fresh eyes, too. The reward will be that you discover opportunities that will expand your business and your life. You will also see threats that you can address before it is too late. 

Let me know how it is going for you. I am happy to connect with you.

In the next installment (part 6), I will talk about how to move your business plan into action and get results. It includes accountability systems that work in high-expertise companies.

Have a top-notch day!

Dr. Stephie

Dr. Stephie Althouse is the founder of Top-Notch CEO and Top-Notch CEO Academy (TopNotchCEO.com). She has a Ph.D. in chemistry.  She has worked with many high-expertise companies, first as an award-winning innovator herself and then as executive, turnaround authority, growth expert and executive coach. Her success in helping high-expertise companies get more from their expertise is based on her ability to bridge the languages of their crafts with that of leadership and business.

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