In Alice in Wonder land, Alice asks the Cheshire Cat, “Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?” The Cat responds, “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.” Alice tells him, “I don’t much care where.” To which the cat responds, “Then it doesn’t much matter which way you go.”
That’s one smart cat, but his observation that we ought to have a destination in mind before we map our journey is just common sense. Common sense uncommonly applied.
To determine how to build a successful business you might think it’s enough to calculate gross margins, determine the capital requirements, and focus on other economic and financial indicators. It isn’t. While these things are important, they are irrelevant until we’ve defined what success means. This involves more than setting a profit target. We need to describe the results we want to create economically, ecologically and personally.
I recently had a conversation with a rancher looking for advice. He was debating whether he should lease more land, invest in fencing and water development to increase the capacity of what he already had, change enterprises, move to another region, or pursue any of a half dozen other strategies he’d been thinking about. When I asked him which option would move him toward his goals faster, he was stumped. It was an impossible question to answer because he hadn’t identified his goals.
In The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey’s second habit is Begin With The End In Mind. A valuable lesson from Stephen, or a really smart cat.