What is your Owner’s Intent? (I’ll come back to that in a moment.)

Speaking of intention, there’s a funny scene in Star Trek TNG where Data walks in on Riker kissing his daughter (yep), and says to him “Commander, what is your intention toward my daughter?”

Yeah, you can probably tell that I’ve had too much time on my hands recently. That’s because somehow, despite my hermit-like existance, I managed to contract The Plague a few weeks ago. I’m doing fine now, but it was an unpleasant couple of weeks.

But back on topic – and apart from watching Star Trek re-runs and starting to re-read a 4 million word, 14 book series for the third time – I also picked up a couple of business books I’d been meaning to read.

I haven’t heard the term “Owner’s Intent” before, but when I read about this in Casey Graham’s “The No B.S. Small Business Book”, I recognised the concept as something I had been thinking about a lot over the past few years. I think it’s a more practical, tangible (and less corporate) way of saying “vision statement”. I like this framing:

“Owner’s Intent: what is your intention as a business owner?”

If you’re like me, this might feel a little bit clunky because often as independents we think of ourselves as something other than a business owner.

We often think of ourselves as an expert, a consultant, sometimes a freelancer, but less often as a business, a brand, or a business owner.

Aside: I think one of the most important inflection points on our “independent expert business” journey is when you start to think of yourself as a business. “The E-Myth (Revisited)” is a great book to read on this topic.

Quoting from Casey Graham:

“I don’t care about your business. Until you know your Owner’s Intent, nothing else matters. Why do you own this business, and what is your intention with the business?”

Casey took two months and lots of conversations to figure it out, and for him, his owner’s intent statement looks like this:

“To build a company my adult kids would want to work at someday if they so choose”

Specifically, that’s a really interesting intention to dig into. And more generally it’s also easy to see how this can be useful as a filter or guide when decision making for your business.

For my own business, I don’t have a single polished owner’s intent – or “Vision” – Statement, and maybe I should. What I do have is a fairly clear picture in my head of what I’d like the business to look like: more in the line of a lifestyle business where I can afford to take days or weeks off without disrupting income, high margin, recurring income from IP, and a handful of employees at the largest. This isn’t as clear as Casey’s version, so I might work on refining that a bit.

Here are some very different options you could consider for your owner’s intent:

  • build a lifestyle business with high profits
  • build the next tech unicorn
  • build a business to grow and sell

Do you already have a clear owner’s intent? Or a vision statement?