Photo by Paul Flessland
The founder and executive advisor of ABS Fargo, Josh Hoper is a bit of a Jack-of-all-trades. Whether it’s shedding some lights on the nitty-gritty financials or providing practical advice to the newest of new business owners, his experience in a wide variety of roles and industries gives him a unique perspective that all types of Fargo INC! readers should find useful.
About Josh Hoper
It’s been an interesting personal and professional journey that has brought me to where I am today. I’ve seen a mix of big wins and colossal failures. I’ve been a part of giant corporations and have been a solopreneur. I’ve known the pain of being miscast in roles and the joy of finding the right fit. I’ve been very bored and very challenged. I’ve felt extremely isolated and very well connected. I’ve learned a lot about other people and a lot about myself along the way.
My current primary work is providing business consulting for small, commercial companies—up to about $20 million in annual revenue—local nonprofits, and, more recently, the public sector such as city government.
What will follow in both this article and future ones are lessons I’ve learned along the way. I’d like to share some fundamental things that reflect my overall business philosophy and some lessons that I think are worth repeating.
Let’s start with a high-level view of the way I see business. We’ll dive into some of the specifics down the road.
There are three stories that are generally part of every organization. Put together, they tell me everything I need to know.
The healthiest companies are those that deeply understand all three. They have a clear view of the picture these stories are painting. Healthy companies are led by people who understand why it’s important to have a clear understanding and ability to manage all three of these stories. History is littered with failed organizations that ignored one or more of these stories or didn’t have a clear view of any of them.
I think of these stories much like I think about the legs of a three-legged stool. No one leg is necessarily more important than the others, but it becomes quite noticeable when one of the legs doesn’t carry its share of the weight.
Story #1: What Your Organization Says About Itself
One of these stories comes from within an organization. It’s the message contained in every sales presentation, it’s included in every marketing piece you produce, and it’s the story that comes out of the mouths of every sales, marketing and service person in the organization.
It’s also the story that every employee is told about how the company works, what the company stands for and what is expected of them. This message includes the honest reflection of where a company is at on its journey and the aspirations of where it’s headed.
There are internal and external components, and I often refer to it as an orgnanization’s messaging.
Story #2: What Other People Are Saying
This story is authored by people outside your organization. It includes everything that is said about your company, products, services, people and the experiences your company provides to people who interact with it.
It’s not just your clients and customers who are telling this story. Prospects who have interacted with you and vendors and suppliers who work with you also have a story to tell about you. So do your neighbors and everyone in the communities you serve. And don’t forget all the former employees who have worked for you at one time or another. They have a story to tell, too.
The story is contained in the feedback they give you directly, but perhaps more importantly, this story is most often told to others out of your earshot.
I often refer to this story as your organization’s brand.
History is littered with failed organizations that ignored one or more of these stories or didn’t have a clear view of any of them.
Story #3: What Your Financial Statements Say
The first two stories I mentioned are subjective and can have many variations depending on who is telling it. The third story, if done properly, is completely objective.
Various parts of the financial statements tell different parts of the story. I don’t like to generally rank one particular report as “more important” than the rest. Each organization has its own unique circumstance that determines which of the reports are most important for the short-, medium- and long-term health of the enterprise.
You might’ve heard before that economics is the study of people’s decision-making patterns. Financial statements are written in a language that describes those patterns for a particular business. Once you read enough different financial statements, it becomes easier to see the story they tell.
Which of these stories is taking center stage in your business? Is there harmony between all three of these stories? I challenge my clients and I challenge you to get clear about which of these legs of the stool, if any, isn’t holding its share of the weight.
Most of what I’ve learned over the last couple decades fits somewhere in one of the three stories. I’ll write about a variety of things that relate to one or more of these stories. Next month, I’ll share some thoughts on why it’s important to understand values and purpose and how that understanding can translate into business success.