Having an end goal in mind makes all the difference in the world.

As a business coach, one of the great opportunities I have is helping people every day from different companies across the country. Some of these companies are highly successful, some not so much. What do the successful companies and the struggling ones have in common? What are the successful companies doing that the struggling companies are not?

The key difference is leadership. Long-term successful companies have exceptional leadership at the top able to attract, train and retain top field talent. That is the No. 1 attribute top companies share.

Top companies also employ best practices learned through trial and errorand through associations with affinity organizations such as Nexstar or Quality Service Contractors. Top shops are not owned by rugged individualists who only believe in the “it has to be created here” mentality of business management. They have leaders who learn from the best, customize the processes and then make it work in their businesses.

However, many struggling companies have access to the same best-practice processes that top companies have. In fact, in many cases, struggling companies are doing the same things the top shops do, yet they get a very different result. Why?

Geez, I'm busy

While my primary job is a business coach, I also support six other coaches, as well as develop new programs and services for Nexstar. About a year ago, I was slammed with nonbusiness-coaching responsibilities for several months. When I would get on the phone with a client, my mindset was, “How can I get through this call as quickly as I can so I can get the rest of my work done?” Was I still available to members? You bet! Was I on time for my calls? Sure! Was I a highly effective business coach during this time period? Not mentally.

There was a very subtle but huge difference in the way I was approaching each client encounter. Myintentshould have been, “What are the possible things I could say or do to help this client as much as possible during our time together?”

Instead my intent was to answer some questions and figure out a way to get off the phone as quickly as possible. A member would ask a question or two and I would answer or help find an answer. I rarely asked any secondary questions or probed to make sure I found the “question behind the question.” The member got what he or she asked for, but I am not sure it was always what he or she really needed.

I was not consciously trying to be a mediocre coach. I was not even aware of what was going on. It was only when I really did my business coaching job the way it should be done that I realized what I had missed during that earlier time period.

Deep down my intent was wrong.

Results-focused intent

As an owner or manager, you wake up each day with intent - good, bad or indifferent. Your intent may be to figure out how to meet the daily revenue goal. Or it may be to truly help all employees you encounter become more successful in their role with your company. Or it may be to truly satisfy each customer you serve - not just mollify.

If those are truly your intentions, I would lay odds you run a successful company.

Here is where I think truly successful companies in our industry separate from the vast majority of companies. Great business owners focus on a result, typically an objective goal such as a budget. They spend a lot of time creating a goal (budget). Each day, every action they take is done with the intent to reach that goal. Activities that distract or move them away from the goal are eliminated. Employees are trained with the specific intention of helping to achieve those goals. Those unable or unwilling to move toward those goals are removed from the company.

There is no wandering through each day just working long hours, holding purposeless meetings, and mindlessly doing the same routine jobs without considering their value and purpose to greater goals. Rather, there is a real purpose to what they are doing.

As a result, when they implement a new system or procedure, their intention is not about just checking it off a list and getting it done. It is about creating the final result they want from that new system or procedure.

Here is a real secret: Everyone in these successful companies knows what the boss’ intent is. They know it is not about “going through the motions” and implementing a new procedure or system. It is about getting an improved result from that new system or procedure. The employees know what their intentions had better be. They know they can’t go through the motions either.

Now you have an entire company working with the right intentions.

Do you know your employees' intent?

I admit this whole "intent" thing seems like a mind game at times. I am a big believer that good things come to those who just work hard. Intentions alone are worthless. Without actions, they are just daydreams. However, I have seen many companies run by hard-working owners end up on the rocks. The owners of some of these companies almost took pride in working themselves into a coma 14 hours a day, seven days a week until their bodies finally gave out. If hard work was enough, they would be rich.

And there are many highly successful companies where the owners don’t even put in a full 40 hours, yet their companies flourish year after year. There is more to success than just hard work.

What is your intention as a business owner? Is it to wake up and use your efforts to intentionally achieve specific financial goals you have set? Or is it to own a company so you can be free to come and go as you please without having to answer to anyone?

Is the intention of your technicians and sales personnel to run each call with the specific intention of converting that prospect into a highly satisfied customer? Or is to run the call and accept the result?

Do your customer service representatives intend to convert every inbound call to a booked call? Or do they just want to answer the phones?

What about your managers? Is their intention to achieve specific financial goals you have set for their departments or functions? Or is it to answer questions from the guys in the field and run meetings?

If your business has its challenges and you are not sure what you need to do to turn things around, think hard about your intentions and the intentions of your employees. You may want to start there before you decide everyone just needs to work harder.