Vision, Mission, Values. Personal Strategic Planning: Simply Stated

By Jake Kirpes

I’ve been thinking about this line from W. Edward Deming:

“It is not enough to do your best, you must know what to do, and then do your best.”

Ok, fine. But how do you figure out what to do in the first place, in order to do your best Hammockwith it? When you begin your daily separation from the comforts of sleep, are you driven by a larger goal or objective that really energizes you – that does propel you out of bed in the morning?

Strategic planning – something we tend to think of only for companies and nonprofit organizations – can help give us that clarity and drive. Specifically, 3 core pillars of strategic planning, Vision, Mission, and Values, can help answer the question of what to do, in order to know where to do our best.

Vision: Where do you want to go?

Vision provides direction and motivation for daily and more strategic decisions. It is a mental image of how you want your life to be. Think of your future – whether it’s 1 year, 5 years, or 25 years away. What kind of life do you want to be living? Where is it, who’s with you, what are you doing? Feel free to dream big – but it doesn’t have to include saving the world, being rich, or gaining fame. The most important thing is to feel it in your heart. Vision may be a mental image, but it truly is born and lives in the heart.

My personal Vision involves a full home of family, good food, and laughter. A house with a big back deck perfect for grilling on a Tuesday evening or hosting friends on a Friday night. Beyond the deck there is a garden teeming with life, warmth, and yes, even the humidity of an Iowa summer. Lastly – and crucially –  beside the garden a hammock under a shade tree, for lazy Sunday afternoons.

Your turn. What’s the Vision that feels right to you and your heart?

Mission: What do you want to achieve?

Where Vision comes from the heart, Mission is a product of the mind. For companies and other groups, mission is a response to the question, “Why do we as an organization exist?” For me (and you) as an individual, Mission is akin to what some might call “vocation.” What am I here on this earth to do?

Mission serves as a guidepost and sounding board for plans and decisions – both personal and professional.

I am still fine tuning my own Mission statement. What I currently have is best described as “directionally correct.” It includes solving systemic problems through systems engineering, thinking and design, and community engagement. The exact right words will come; for now, I’m clear on the direction – and that’s already helping me with planning and decision-making.

Your Mission in its purest form is unique to you. Can you write your personal Mission statement? It can often be a challenge to clearly state a personal mission. If you have trouble creating one or settling on the exact wording that fits you, that’s okay. Step back, give it some time and come back at it later. You can use every experience you have during that time to bring you closer to articulating your Mission. Every relationship you’re in, every organization you join, even every problem you encounter – all of these give you opportunities to “try on” and get clearer on the Mission that best fits you.

Values: How will we conduct ourselves along the way?

Values answer the question, “What are we willing or unwilling to do to reach our Vision and Mission?” They are beliefs that drive behavior; from one on one interactions behind closed doors to policies and practices at every level. Values distinguish individuals and organizations. In groups, aligned values create community, trust, and a deeper commitment to each other.  Misaligned values frustrate, distract, and dishearten.

To identify a rough draft of your Core Values, write down the names of 3-4 people you admire across the top of a blank page. Beneath each name write out the characteristics that you admire the most about each person. Look for commonalities or traits that jump out as significant to you and you’ll have a first draft of your personal Core Values.

Knowing What to Do: A 3 Way Test:

Once defined, the three-way test of your personal Vision, Mission, and Values offers a helpful, quick way to evaluate and determine where, what, and how you should apply your energy, focus, and time. When you have a clear answer to where you want to go, what you want to achieve, and how you will conduct yourself along the way, the question of what to do becomes as trivial as rolling out of bed to start your day.

And with that decision made, all that remains is to do your best.


Jake Kirpes is a Business Strategist & Engineer at TPG Companies. He’s a  team leader who excels at working with organizations and their leaders to identify, develop, and convert market opportunity to business success. TPG and Jake help a wide variety of businesses and organizations with their strategic planning. For this blog, Jake took some of the core concepts from that work and applied it to individuals at a more personal level. If you know of an organization or business that could benefit from strategic planning help, please share TPG’s name and info.


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Getting off the Rope

By Jake Kirpes

Sometimes no matter our personal skill, strength of our team, or knowledge of our current field, there’s just one way to overcome what’s challenging us.

Rope handsDuring an intensive leadership training camp in college my fellow Resident Assistants-in- training and I were progressing through a series of rope course challenges. By working together, rotating leadership roles to match strengths to each challenge, and growing as a team we had strung together a series of successful solutions. With confidence growing, we found ourselves blindfolded and marching along a wooded path.

Arriving at the next challenge, we remained blindfolded while our guide dispersed the group along a spider web maze of waist-high rope. Our guide presented the rules of the challenge: we were allowed to talk and ask each other questions but had to leave one hand on the rope until we found a way off the end of the rope.

Confident in our abilities, our group set about exploring the maze with our hands, calling out junctions of rope crossings, and working together to find the way off the rope. When the solution didn’t become apparent in the first 5 minutes team members began allocating themselves to junctions to help mark paths and find the exit. Five minutes later, the calm confidence began to erode, while tensions and volume began to rise.

In the next five minutes, all semblance of a unified team was fragmented with each member attempting to set their own direction and many questioning, loudly, if there even was a way off the rope at all. As my personal frustration and conviction no exit existed was reaching new heights, it was announced someone had found their way off the rope and sent onto the next challenge.

Renewing my search in earnest, I sought be to second off the rope. Ten minutes later, I was second to last still on. Feeling overwhelmed at the circumstance and convinced I had been over every inch many times, I stopped searching for a way off and, talking to myself, said loudly in frustration, “I need help”.  A second later I felt a touch on my shoulder and the guide spoke in my ear, “congratulations you’re off the rope”.

A powerful lesson. Sometimes the best way (and perhaps even the only way) to overcome a challenge is to ask for help.

Think through your own life and work. Is there something you’ve been putting off or been unable to resolve for far longer then you care to admit? Perhaps it’s time to ask for help.


Jake Kirpes is a Business Strategist & Engineer at TPG Companies. He’s a  team leader who excels at working with organizations and their leaders to identify, develop, and convert market opportunity to business success. And he’s learned to ask for help.

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A New Year’s Bowl – with Good Wishes from TPG Companies

As 2016 comes to a close, we at TPG Companies wish you peace, joy, and fulfillment throughout the coming year.
We appreciate all who work to enhance the lives of those around them – in business, in the community, and in the world around us.
We give you this symbolic bowl, with our best wishes for you and yours.bowl-poem-image
With warm regards from Paul Kirpes, Founder & President, and the TPG Team.
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Are You Ready to Scale Up?

Is now the right time to grow your company? growth-key-951783

TPG is excited to support the launch of ScaleUpU. Be a part of the first ScaleUpU initiative in the world beginning in Kansas City this November during Entrepreneurs week.

15 high-potential companies will be selected this year and in each of the next 10 years (150 firms in all), to spend 24 months in an education, coaching, and technology-supported process to address four key aspects of scaling a business: People, Strategy, Execution, and Cash.

There are big goals here, and your company could be a beneficiary. ScaleUpU expects these outcomes:

  1. Putting one of the selected firms on a strong trajectory to $1 billion in revenue – adding an important anchor firm to its city and broader business community.
  1. Helping five to 10 companies scale and then exit for a combined $1 billion to $3 billion – adding significant wealth to their communities.
  1. Assisting 70% – 80% of the remaining 140 firms to increase their size 3x to 10x

These goals aren’t manufactured, given the bona fides behind this program. TPG and I know the players and have applied their resources ourselves.

You may know the book Scaling Up: How a Few Companies Make it…and Why the Rest Don’t, by Verne Harnish, founder of the Entrepreneur’s Organization (EO), author of Mastering the Rockefeller Habits, founder/CEO of Gazelles, Inc. and co-founder and Principal of Gazelles Growth Institute.

Verne and other leaders of business growth are allied in creating ScaleUpU, as a way to craft “scaleup ecosystems” to complement the robust startup ecosystems developing in cities worldwide.

ScaleUpU will eventually be in cities nation- and world-wide. But it starts in Kansas City, this month – starting with joining Verne Harnish for dinner in KC on November 14.

Know an entrepreneur ready to take action? Want to learn more? Contact TPG at 515-270-2453 or for more information.


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Meet Carl & Jake Kirpes

I love those moments when, as a parent, one knows that The Kids Are All Right – and they’re being recognized for it.

carl-jakeIt hit me again when I saw Meet Carl & Jake Kirpes as the title of a blog post from the Institute of Industrial & Systems Engineers.

Carl and Jake are my two oldest – both young professionals in their own right, and actively engaged with careers, themselves, and with the world around them – that give them opportunities to Transform, Perform, and Grow. Happily, both are also contributors to the teams at TPG Companies, and Jake joined TPG full time this year.

Carl and Jake recently co-authored an article, How Industrial Engineering Saved a Company,” for Industrial Management magazine (find a link to it in this blog post about them). In the article, they describe key moves and steps grounded in industrial engineering strategies and methodologies, that helped to turn the business GENESYS around during the Great Recession.

I have three reasons for sharing this with you today:

  1. For businesses that are struggling (especially supply chain industries), Carl and Jake’s article is full of good examples of helpful tools.
  2. If you’ve read many of my prior blog posts, you may notice similarities in approach and tone, between what Carl and Jake describe in their article and how I tend to talk about transforming and growing companies and organizations. Beyond “apples not falling far from the tree”… it’s more like new apple trees taking root and providing more apples for everyone!
  3. What can I say – I’m proud of my kids (all four of them).


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YOU Can Change the World! What Five Books Have Most Influenced Your Success and Why?

See below to make a difference today.

Transforming the World, One Relationship at a Time

Paul w Evarist Kemsolbaye 160714-cropped

Evarist Kemsolbaye of Chad (right) with Paul Kirpes

Transform, Perform, and Grow isn’t just a business name or business model with me –it’s a calling. At TPG Companies, we’re drawn to opportunities to transform, perform, and grow ourselves, our relationships, businesses and organizations, and even countries and thus the world (at least the parts of the world we touch).

So I’m naturally drawn to others who embrace such a calling. What a privilege, then, to have a new and growing relationship with Evarist Kemsolbaye, an engineer from Chad working in the oil and gas industry and a Mandela Washington Fellow through the Young African Leaders Initiative.

Evarist visited my Rotary Club this past summer during a visit by 25 of the 2016 Mandela Fellows hosted by Drake University. Our connection was immediate, as I believe we sensed in one another similar values, beliefs, and desires. This highly motivated young man is not only growing as a leader in his business, but also deeply wants to make positive change in his community and country. He has a hunger to learn and apply as much as possible about leadership, business growth, organization development and strategy, business performance and management…in short, things I’m keenly interested in as well, and that TPG is known for.

Evarist and I are staying in touch. There’s plenty I can learn from him including about his country, global perspective, approach to helping others, and overcoming hunger and adversity. Plus I’m eager to partner in his growth and development as a leader and change.

Evarist asked for a list of books that have been beneficial to me as a leader, business owner, change agent, and encourager of others. I’ve shared an initial list with him, and he’s eagerly begun what he calls his “food for mind journey.”

You Can Help Change the World With Your Own Recommendations

What five books have most influenced your success and why? (Email your recommendations to ). I’ll share your suggestions with Evarist, and perhaps add them to TPG’s library as well.

If you’re one of the first 25 to share your book list, I’ll send you a copy of the annotated book list I sent to Evarist.

Be well friends!



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There’s Power in Mistakes

You can tell a lot about a leader – and a company’s culture – by how they respond to mistakes - statuemistakes. I appreciate the title of Dan McCarthy’s blog post, “Say Thank-you to Mistakes.”

My experience with mistakes is much like McCarthy says. Mistakes “can often be the by-products of and catalysts for innovation, empowerment, delegation, development, change, and continuous improvement.”

Innovation. Empowerment. Delegation. Development. Change. Continuous Improvement…most business owners and leaders WANT these in our companies!

We’ve seen business owners, leaders and even managers who strive to keep such tight control that they don’t allow for “mistakes” (learning, growth and solution opportunities!). They think they’re doing right, but more often than not, they’re impeding growth and crippling the business (progress, people, culture, ability to adapt, etc.). If you hold the business reins too tightly, you’ll keep control – but as with horses, the steps will be smaller and growth will be slower (or even stop).

Conversely, I encourage, celebrate and congratulate leaders who reduce the layers of restrictive rules (formal and informal) and increase the creative freedom they offer their employees. Such leaders tend to follow three guides:

  1. Determinedly HireA Players” – along the lines of the Netflix model of building a team of “ever more high performance people.”
  2. Ensure their A Players (and other team members) are aligned with a). the market, b). each other, and c). with the company’s vision, purpose (mission), values, and strategic direction.
  3. Enable – and nurture – their A Players to fulfill their roles and accountabilities – without tightly controlling every step nor decisions along the way. Guideposts are good – measures and indicators of success are good – regular communication is good. Not so good: requiring permission for actions or decisions that are reversible and not “harmful” to the business or its customers.

When A Players make mistakes, there’s huge opportunity for resulting benefits! McCarthy’s three open-ended questions to ask following each “mistake or unintended outcome” start the benefits in motion:

  1. What happened?
  2. What have you done / will you do to fix it?
  3. What did you learn?

Notice, what’s not beneficial are the questions or statements that follow most mistakes…the following are generally counter-productive: “How could you do that?” “You’ve ruined this for us!” “Whose fault is it?”— or even,  “I’ll fix it for you.”

A Players are continuous learners. They’ll respond to those three questions and turn them into innovation, empowerment, delegation, development, change, continuous improvement, solutions and growth!

The added bonus is that McCarthy’s three questions can help create more A Players! Getting B Players to clearly define the facts, be accountable and responsible, think for themselves, and turn the mistake into learning are key ingredients for developing them into A Players.

Embrace mistakes and the “mistake” makers: the results can be powerful.


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4 Themes at the Heart of “Transform, Perform, and Grow”

Volunteering, delivering papers, mowing lawns, and working in the family business as a youngster in Dubuque, Iowa, taught me a lot news deliveryabout helping others, and seeing what “success” looks like through their eyes.

Ever since, I’ve had a drive and a passion for helping people achieve what matters most to them – in their ventures as well as their adventures.

Somewhere along the way I put the words Transform, Perform, and Grow to this work. Because I find those powerful, interconnected ideas to be what does matter most to passionate and dedicated leaders, owners, and executives.

  • We need to Perform well in order to Grow.
  • When we Transform, we look for new ways to Perform.
  • When we experience Growth, our Performance needs often change.

And there we are: TPG Companies. Transform. Perform. Grow.

At TPG, we’ve found there are certain mindsets and actions – themes – that are at the heart of helping a business, person, or entity Transform, Perform, or Grow. For instance:

  1. Integrity is Paramount.
    My years as a member of Rotary International have ingrained in me the words of the Rotary Four-Way Test. It is a top notch way to describe an approach to operating with integrity, respect, and honesty:

    1. Is it the truth?
    2. Is it fair to all concerned?
    3. Will it build goodwill and better friendships?
    4. Will it be beneficial to all concerned?

The Four-Way Test is a standard we go back to time and again. I simply don’t believe we can truly be helpful to other entities unless we hold ourselves to a standard of high integrity.

  1. Tend to the Relationships.
    We care deeply about the people we work with, and the success of their companies and organizations. If you care deeply, you do your best to tend and nourish the relationship – by acts of care, being authentic in your communications, active listening, and by putting yourself in the other person’s shoes to see and experience from their perspective.  “We’re in this together”  – believing and making this true can build valued and valuable relationships.
  1. Words Matter.
    I veer away from using the term “customers,” or even “clients,” as those words imply a transaction rather than the deeper, longer-term, and more mutually beneficial transformative relationship we experience with many entities. Relationship language is so deeply valued at TPG Companies, we’re in a constant mode of re-training and reminding ourselves, because word choices matter.If we say we’re about Transform, Perform, Grow, but our words don’t reflect that, then somehow we’re not actually telling the truth (see #1 above!). I’ve written more about words here.
  2. Keep Learning. Filter and Integrate What’s Learned.
    I’m an information collector – just ask my colleagues. I’m drawn to knowledge that helps owners, leaders, and executives think and act in better ways – to achieve and grow results. Collecting and learning are strong values at TPG.Filtering and integrating that new knowledge is key, though. To truly tend to our relationship (see #2), I need to be highly discerning about when integrating the “new” is of value to you and your business, versus when it’s just overwhelming.

And it all started with volunteering, delivering papers, the family business, and mowing lawns…seeing the world through the eyes and the stories of PULMs (People Unlike Me).


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Words Matter: From Transactional to Transformative Language

Too easily, we fall into using the wrong words – and it’s costing us business.

“The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between Fireflylightning and the lightning bug.” –Mark Twain

Example: we fall back on transactional language, even when we believe the value we bring is transformative.

In our culture and in business, it’s common to deal in transactions on a daily basis. We’re surrounded by transactional language like:

  • Buying and selling.
  • Quotes and bids.
  • Rates and deliverables.
  • Products.
  • Customers.
  • Buyers.

For some businesses it’s the accurate terminology. Yet, I’m convinced that we’re so used to this transactional, vendor-supplier language that often it’s applied too broadly – to the disadvantage of all involved.

So many businesses offer much more than a transaction, but their language hasn’t evolved to indicate that. So there’s some “discord” between how they describe themselves and who they actually are as a business.

If the words I use are transactional, should I be surprised to be treated as the next vendor in line?

At TPG, we help owners, leaders, and executives Transform, Perform, and Grow their businesses, people, and corporations! We care deeply about their culture, vision, goals, and passions, and we’re in it with them.

We don’t view what we do as transactional, because with each entity, we build a greater connection and relationship between us than a transaction involves. It’s a transformative relationship.

Therefore, the words we use to do business need to reflect that transformative nature. We want our words and language to truthfully reflect the kind of relationship we’re in.

I’ve found we’re more accurate and in sync with who we are as we’ve trained ourselves to use a vocabulary more like this:

  • Instead of selling a job or tasks, we begin a project, relationship, venture or initiative together.
  • Instead of producing deliverables, we identify (together) the results or outcomes we seek through a mutually-developed Scope of Work.
  • Instead of quoting a fee, we define the investments appropriate to pursue or achieve desired results, outcomes, and impact.

This isn’t just word manipulation for marketing purposes. It’s about changing how people understand who we are and what we do by choosing the right words.

Because words matter.

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It’s Not Your Father’s SBA

Check your assumptions at the door.

If you think the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) is only there to make loans, and downloadrequires a deep dive into the land of bureaucracy, check again.

I have worked with an array of entities over the years who have benefited greatly from the SBA as they started up and established themselves in business. The SBA has much to offer in a range of areas, from startup and growth resources, to regional innovation clusters, to training & support for businesses led by veterans, immigrants, military spouses, and more.

And yes, funding. With dramatically less red tape these days.

National Small Business Week is May 1-7 this year. Here in my home state, there’s an Iowa Small Business Week Awards Reception coming up on Friday, May 6, and I plan to be there, to celebrate entrepreneurial businesses that are making an impact.

Will you join me? It’ll be a good opportunity to connect with one another and focus on what’s working for small businesses in our region.

Not an Iowan? Check with your state’s SBA office to see what they’re doing to celebrate National Small Business Week – and to discover the SBA of today.


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