Writing a Business Obituary Can Clarify Vision and Values

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Writing a Business Obituary Can Clarify Vision and Values


When people are doing a life plan, one thing psychologists and coaches ask people to do is write an obituary.

It sounds morbid but it isn’t. What it does is clears the driftwood. An obituary helps show you what’s important in life. It clarifies values and what you might like to have achieved.

Stephen Covey famously wrote in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People to “Begin with the end in mind.” 

It’s good advice for practically everything. You have to create something in your mind before you can actually make it real.

So that’s where we are going to start — at the end.


How to Write a Business Obituary

Imagine that your business is gone, but in its time, it achieved something meaningful. What is that?


What is the vision that drove your organisation?


What impact did it have?


What were the values it held?


How did it help people?


This is an exercise in thinking and reflecting on what you want to achieve. It works whether you’re starting out fresh or you’ve already been running for a long time. We all need to reflect and recalibrate every now and then.


After we have deeply considered these questions, we can identify the key themes. From that point, it is about creating examples where that theme (value) was delivered.

What are the values that emerge?


Take a few minutes to think about the legacy you want your organisation to have left. This will help inform the strategy going forward. 




Download the Obituary Template


 “People overestimate what they can do in one year, but underestimate what they can do in ten years.” Bill Gates



Your Organisation in Ten Years

Then we are going to think about the organisation in ten, five, and one year’s time.


Reflecting on the obituary, you can see the values and themes that emerge. Let’s think about how this translates into practical milestones.


In ten years, my organisation is:






This is the halfway point. Where should the organisation be at to achieve the ten-year goal. 


In five years, my organisation is:





In one year, my organisation is:







Having goals acts as a motivator and clarifies our focus.


Goals should be achievable, but a stretch. We need to maintain focus and discipline, but they should be within reach.


When we write goals down and focus our conscious and subconscious mind on them, we automatically move toward realising them.

SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound.


In other words, the goal should be very clear, relevant to our vision. It also needs to have a deadline.


For example:

The organisation has made $20 million dollars net profit by June 30th, 2030.


That’s a specific goal ($20 million). It’s measurable, and it is time-bound (June 30th, 2021).


It’s up to you to choose the goals. Ideally, they will have a component that is financial but also add a social or philanthropic goal. As it relates to your organisation.


Here’s another example.


The organisation has an early child-care facility operating at the head office for working parents by June 30th 2015.



The organisation donates 5 hours per week of X skill to charities in X area every month.


Goal Setting if You’re a Solo Service

Many people suffer because goals (targets) are simply not achievable in their organisation. Or they have set unrealistic goals for themselves. They may not have the time, money or skills for. Developing abilities may become a goal in itself.


Your vision might be for you to learn web development.


Let’s break that into chunks. What programming language do you want to learn?


WordPress? HTML 5? Ruby on Rails? Be specific.


How long will it take? You might not be sure. Your goals might be to dedicate 1 hour each week doing online WordPress training for six months. That’s a SMART goal.

If you’re a solopreneur, your SMART goals could also relate to the lifestyle you are creating. As a starting point, look at the money.


  1. How much money do you want to make?
  2. How many hours do you want to work?
  3. How much do you need to charge per hour?
  4. Is that realistic? Is it too much, too little? Have you considered the work required to run the business and market the business? Generally, it takes half the time to run and manage a business that you can bill for.
  5. What do I need to do to charge that amount?
  6. How else do you want to contribute?

To earn $2000 per week by working 25 hours per week.

From there you can see you need to make $80 per billable hour.


 Fill out your ten-year, 5-year and 1-year visions.  Define the SMART Goals to get you to the One-Year Vision.

Consider the three tasks you want to accomplish each week to stay on course.


visioning template



Parting Words

Writing an Obituary is a simple exercise that works for making Life plans as well as business planning and visioning.

We can see how certain themes and values emerge. These can feed directly into our statement of purpose.

Then we can create SMART goals to achieve milestones toward that vision.