Treat your life like you treat your business

Article originally published on Business Alabama in July 2021. By: Duane Donner

An accomplished entrepreneur and business advisor with more than 20 years of experience, Duane Donner is founder and CEO of Founders Advisors, a Birmingham-based merger, acquisition and strategic advisory firm focused on serving middle-market companies across the nation in the technology, business services, consumer, energy, industrial and healthcare industries. He also hosts the two-day, Heritage Forum biannual event to help inspire, educate and equip high-capacity leaders to reach their full potential for life and succession planning in a holistic manner.

After several years running a business, many successful entrepreneurs find themselves reaching a time where they realize that they have prioritized work over almost everything else in their lives. Smart business owners that find themselves at this crossroads take the opportunity to reassess and begin treating their families and personal lives with the same level of strategic thinking that they apply to their business. You wouldn’t run your business without a clear vision, why should you run your life that way?

Here are three ways to create a vision for what could be, so the last decades can be the happiest and most fulfilling time of your life:

1. Process for clarity

Seek to be clear about your life purpose and values. It begins with defining what you want your personal legacy to be. How do you want to be remembered when you depart this earth? What will be the ongoing impact of your life on family, friends, communities and the world? Sounds heavy, but thinking long-term and with spirituality is the best way to get in the right mindset. Visualize with the end in mind.

Identify, categorize and create a vision statement and what you feel a calling towards for five of the most important things in life:

  • Marriage – Discuss the next phase of life with your spouse and share each other’s vision of your marriage. See what dreams you have in common and come to an agreement.
  • Family – What do your loved ones value? Figure out common themes and inspiring words, then narrow it down to something easy to remember that covers all the bases.
  • Business – Where do you aspire for your company to be? It should include where you want the community, industry or the world to be as a result of your company fulfilling its mission. This is not the same as a mission statement, which clarifies the what, the who and the why of the company. This is the statement of direction that helps keep your business on track.
  • Community – One meaning of community is simply caring for others. What can you do to help shape a better future for your community or communities? Think about philanthropic endeavors and what could most likely bring about a far-reaching or lasting benefit for the most people.
  • Ministry – A ministry statement clarifies how you intend to live in accordance with a higher power and foster a better relationship with God.

Next, work through your notes to clarify each vision and get started in the pursuit of it. What are the top categories where you desire to have the greatest impact?

2. Share and integrate your purpose and values with family

You must communicate and model your personal vision statements to your family in an intentional manner. Like companies, families perform better when common goals are clearly defined. By creating S.M.A.R.T goals — specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound — you encourage a sense of commitment and pride, as well as keep everyone focused. Getting buy-in provides a firm foundation for future decision making, behaviors, attitudes and achievements.

Establish a rhythm of meeting with your family at least once a year to share how everyone is living the family’s vision statement and evaluate what’s working. Ideally all adult children, spouses, as well grandchildren 18 years or older should be part of an intergenerational dialogue.

The most productive meetings have a detailed agenda. When shared beforehand, it also helps others prepare and manage expectations. A weekend family conference itinerary goes something like this:

Friday, review the agenda, enjoy dinner and an activity such as a game. Saturday, begin with breakfast and review of family purpose and values. As the day progresses, intersperse topics such as a vacation home purchase, retirement plans, succession planning, wills and trusts with meals and breaks. End by celebrating milestones, like viewing a wedding video. Sunday, review and discuss the calendar for the rest of the year, including the next meeting. Make any necessary adjustments to the goals and vision. As long as there continues to be consensus, there is more chance for success in the long-term.

3. Accountability

To stay on track, you need some form of regular accountability, delivering on promises and being proactive with intentional and strategic follow-through. Be willing to accept ownership and responsibility. Pick a close friend, family member or hire a life coach to hold you accountable. This is someone you will meet with at least quarterly who will guide you with specific advice and structure.

By committing to intentional daily decisions, we impart our choices on our centers of influence, producing eternal fruit. Great leaders are high capacity people who are excellent at time management, delegation, coaching and making time for elevated, strategic thinking. These same traits that helped grow your business will help you navigate your working end-game and establish your legacy.