In the BHAG

Features - Operations

Maintain a strong focus and commitment to strategic planning to grow your operations. Without it, it is easy to forget your goals with the ebb and flow of the winter season.

September 25, 2017

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If you are anything like me, you are an entrepreneur who dreams big, has the drive to make things happen and does not rest until you have found a way to make your goals a reality. At Callahan’s, we are striving to grow our snow business sales and bottom line profit in a very big way. Callahan’s is using a simple goal setting and execution approach which serves as our road map for success.

This success begins with a laser-like focus on a BHAG or Big Hairy Audacious Goal. In their book, “Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies,” James C. Collins & Jerry I. Porras state, “a true BHAG is clear and compelling, serves as a unifying focal point of effort, and acts as a clear catalyst for team spirit. It has a clear finish line, so the organization can know when it has achieved the goal …” Every step after is one taken in an effort to achieve this end. Planning follows this path: First, establish yearly priorities, then set quarterly goals that align to the year-end outcomes and finally develop and commit to “the big three” weekly executables which drive all stakeholders to meeting quarterly benchmarks.

The core leadership team meets off site on various occasions each year to address strategic planning. First, the team meets, typically for three days, to address long-range strategy by establishing several yearly priorities for the company. The yearly priorities are created to directly support the attainment of the BHAG and govern the work of the entire company. Next, the leadership team meets, typically for two days, to address short-range benchmarks that will drive progress. These quarterly Tactical Operating Priorities or TOPS are limited to three in total to ensure that we remain focused on the goals and are able to effectively manage continuous movement toward success. These TOPS are assigned to an individual on the leadership team who becomes solely responsible for the desired outcomes.

Transparency is key and therefore, once the leadership team finishes strategic planning, the work is presented to the entire company for further consideration and planning. At this point, TOP owners begin to share TOPS with members of the company who work collaboratively to establish SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, time-bound) goals that will encourage execution of the TOPs. These goals are divided up amongst the members of the TOP team and the final step includes creating the weekly “big three.” The weekly big three are executables that each individual is to engage in on a daily basis. A point system is used to ensure appropriate accountability and progress to meeting quarterly TOPs. An example of the big three for a member of the office team may include: weekly credit card processing on a specified day, weekly payroll processing and completing daily/weekly billing.

The work does not end with planning and goal setting. There is a cycle of continuous meetings that foster collaboration, accountability and further planning. Quarterly meetings allow for progress reporting by TOP leaders regarding the measurable progress for the TOPS they are responsible for. After this the majority of the time is spent performing a SWOT analysis for each division of the company including commercial and residential snow removal. During this analysis, we address the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats for each division. Weekly staff meetings allow for members of the team to review the week prior and discuss the current week through the lens of the following questions: What were the problems we faced last week? How can we help you perform better this week? What are we expecting for the current week?

The work does not end with planning and goal setting. There is a cycle of continuous meetings that foster collaboration, accountability and further planning.”

It is critical to maintain a strong focus and commitment to strategic planning in order to grow your company. Without this focused cycle of continuous improvement, it is easy to forget about our goals with the ebb and flow of the winter season.

Having both a strategic long-term view and laser-like focus on short-term executables has allowed us to grow and scale our snow operation with a clear road map for success.

Mike Callahan is owner of Callahan Lawn Care and Property Maintenance in New York. He has been in the snow business for 20 years.