On episode 38 of Commerce and Chill, Jessica and Waleed discuss the topics of brainstorming, business planning, and developing strategies to help your team grow as your business grows. They also discuss new developments at Johnson Security Bureau and give a brief history of Jessica’s leadership at JSB. Read on for more.
It has been widely reported in recent years that between now and approximately 2061, somewhere in the area of $60 trillion in wealth and assets will be passed down from Baby Boomers to their Millennial heirs in what has been dubbed the “Great Wealth Transfer” by economists and wealth strategists. This is an era where we’re going to see the greatest transfer of wealth in recorded history. In addition to direct transfers of wealth, we will also see many business opportunities sprout up in relation to this great transfer, from estate planning to financial advising and more. As entrepreneurs, business owners, or recipients of wealth in any fashion, every step we take to strengthen our personal relationships and the functioning of our teams brings us closer to building and maintaining wealth for ourselves, our families, and our communities in the long term.
One of the most important aspects of wealth building is having a plan for yourself and your people — be that your family, your spouse, your employees, or all of the above. Simply put, “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” A solid business and financial plan are crucial to have, regardless of which end of the wealth transfer you’re on. As a Boomer or impending retiree, you may be concerned about properly passing your assets down to your loved ones and minimizing their taxation or losses along the way. As a millennial (or the presumed heir to a fortune of any size), it’s important to be prepared to receive assets in your name and to have a plan to maintain and grow those assets so that you don’t squander your good fortune. For those that are building their own path to wealth through business or entrepreneurship, a business plan that proactively prepares you and your team to achieve a shared vision will aid in your execution of that vision and will keep your team aligned along the way.
Johnson Security Bureau is a third generation family-owned private security firm based in New York State. As such, the Johnsons have seen and experienced transfers of wealth and control over the business two times over. As current President and CEO of JSB, Jessica has led Johnson Security for the past 12 years, taking over when the firm had only 16 employees and a handful of clients. JSB has since grown to have 15 employees on the internal staff alone and hundreds of guards and security professionals employed on projects throughout the city. Taking over at a time when Johnson Security had such a small team made hands-on management relatively easy and manageable for Jessica to handle, even considering her unexpected ascent into leadership. As the business grew, however, and as teams grew larger, proper management and execution required co-creating and sharing a vision for the company collectively, on top of simply executing on her vision individually.
Today, as a number of competitors in the security industry are merging and being acquired, and the entire industry is being impacted by the Covid pandemic, the landscape of the industry is changing rapidly. In order to deal with these changes with respect to JSB, Jessica hosted an all-hands brainstorming session with everyone in the office to discuss the changing landscape and to proactively seek team input on Johnson’s path forward. Importantly, while Jessica, as the CEO and leader of the company, has the power to independently identify opportunities and set a new business direction herself, she actively sought out the team’s contributions for several reasons. For one, even as a leader herself, Jess realizes that a CEO or leader is only one limb (or part) of the “body” that comprises a company, and while she may be great in her capacity, each department in the company specializes in their expertises for a reason. Seeking the team’s input reminds each member that their role is important and that they are valued for their contributions. Co-creating a plan forward also helps the team buy into the resulting vision and motivates them to execute with enthusiasm, knowing that their perspectives were considered and their ideas were incorporated where appropriate. Another benefit of involving the full team in business brainstorming is learning where the team sees the business going and growing, which has the potential to open Jessica and the rest of the company’s leadership up to the possibility of growth in potentially unexpected areas.
One of the high-level learnings from the JSB business brainstorming session was that over time a business goes through phases and the right people to execute one phase of growth may be wrong people to execute the next phase or following phases. It may be necessary as a business owner to reevaluate your position and to assess whether the team you have at that moment is the right team to get you where you want to be. We are lucky at Johnson Security to have several new team members who are aligned with the direction of the business and enthusiastic about being a part of it’s growth. The brainstorming session helped various members of our team get clarity on where we are now and where we want to be. It was also important to conduct our brainstorm with all the internal teams at once instead of meeting with each team separately. Meeting by department instead of in a company-wide setting can create silos of information and activity and can stifle the collaborative spirit or sharing of ideas across departments. Meeting as one full team generates enthusiasm and keeps the share of information and “news” across the company active.
As an entrepreneur or leader looking to tap into your team’s expertise to help your business grow, there are several things you can do before and after gathering your team and soliciting their input and feedback. It’s important that you capture your own vision first so that you can share it with others. Vision boarding is a great way to accomplish this, as are journaling and documenting your ideas. Before approaching your team, create a personal, corporate, and departmental vision board for every department or element of your business. Then, when you meet with your team, share your ideas in person and have your team share their ideas both vocally and in writing so that you can encourage conversation and also document the input. As you brainstorm, be prepared for the possibility that the brainstorming session fails, even if you yourself are prepared as the leader. This failure may occur due to a lack of shared vision, a disengaged team, or simply an unclear direction for the session itself. Be prepared to pivot and innovate with your team, just as you would with your business, and bounce back from failure with a new lesson for moving forward.
At The Soap Box, we have a smaller team with a less formal management structure, which means that much of our feedback comes in a constant, run-and-gun stream of information and the execution of that feedback comes much faster than in larger organizations like Johnson Security. Either way of achieving the goal of business and personal growth is fine, as long as your means of achieving your goals align with the team you have to execute those goals. Make sure you have the right people on your team for the phase of growth you’re in, constantly solicit feedback from your entire team, and execute on your visions for the company as a team.
Further, as a person with interests outside of business, you can and should employ “team” brainstorming in your personal life as well. If you are married or in a relationship, come together with your partner to determine what outcomes you want to achieve for your household. How much income do you want to earn? Where do you want to live? What is your collective budget? Get feedback from people that matter to you (your parents, friends, kids) and tap into the beautiful minds around you to make your dreams attainable.For more on this topic, check out the Commerce and Chill podcast and follow Jessica Johnson-Cope and Waleed Cope at the links below.
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