Last week I wrote about how all planning starts with a clear vision of where you want to go. I gave you three simple steps to create a vision for your business that also establishes clear measurements of how close you are getting to “success”.
And yet, some pragmatic small business owners are still concerned that spending time on this “vision-thing” is not really productive, They can’t see how a wild and woolly “vision” can really help them succeed amongst their daily grind.
Well, that may explain why they feel they are in a daily “grind” rather than feel that they are successfully building the business of their dreams.
Before I show you exactly how you can use your vision to create a reality in your business – one that ensures everyone in it knows exactly what to do without being told and where everyone is pulling toward the same targets of “success”, let me ask you something.
During the middle ages in England, a knight came upon a group of masons working amongst a pile of stones. They were clearly tired and sore, but one was working feverishly while another was slow and looked like he would rather be somewhere else.
The knight rode up to the slow worker and asked: “What are you doing here?”
The slow worker replied, “Building this wall right here.”
The knight rode on up to the mason working feverishly, and the knight noticed, with a smile on his face.
“You there,” he asked, “what are you doing here?”
The mason looked up at him: “Why sir, can you not see? I’m building the most beautiful, shining, tall cathedral in England.”
Working in your business, which mason would you rather be?
Which mason would you rather employ?
Which mason do you think will make your customers happy?
So, if you can see that an inspirational vision can help make everyone in your business aspire to it, and work effectively together toward attaining that state, let’s now turn to some practical steps you can take to turn the vision into reality.
Creating an inspiring and quantified, measurable vision is only the first step to obtain the benefits of this “vision thing”:
- It stops you getting “caught up” on a day-to-day basis and instead keeps you focused on the big game
- It informs your team to provide a consistent experience for your customer no matter who they deal with
- Knowing the final objective, your team don’t have to keep asking you what to do – they can figure it out for themselves
- Coupled with the right systems and rewards your team can be consistent and your business can scale
These are 7 steps you can take to create a self-running business where everyone knows what to do:
- Create an inspiring and measurable vision
- Communicate the practical implications of that vision
- Ensure your business systems reinforce the vision
- Design measurements and rewards that align with the vision
- Actively hire people who “get” the vision
- Actively remove people who do not subscribe to the vision
- Create a culture where failure is only an opportunity to get closer to the vision.
I have written a free guide on how to make your vision a day-to-day reality and create a self-running business where everyone pulls toward the same goals, and you can get a copy here, but let me take you through the steps.
The first thing you need to do is to create an inspiring vision that will motivate yourself and your people when the going gets tough.
Visions begin from a strong sense of purpose: driven to build a better mousetrap, or passionate about helping clients reach their fitness goals, or determined to help every child get an education, or devoted to designing the best furniture.
Through this sense of purpose, you should be able to describe your ideal business – the one being striven for, and be able to explain in your vision statement why this is the best state to be in.
But a vision, while it can be inspirational, must also be based on reality and therefore needs to be measurable.
To do this, you need to look at the vision from four perspectives and use what you see from those four perspectives to describe tangible results. Those four perspectives are:
- From the perspective of the customer: when you have attained your vision, what does the customer say about your business?
- From the perspective of finances: when you have attained your vision, what will your finances look like?
- From the perspective of your employees: when you have attained your vision, what will the employees say about working there?
- From the perspective of your business systems: when you have attained your vision, which key business perspectives must you excel at to keep you there?
Diving into these four perspectives will give you clues about what strategies you need to employ and how to measure your milestones toward attaining your vision.
For example, asking the question about customers may reveal that when you attain your vision, your customers should be praising you for innovation and product development.
In that case, you had better:
- Create a procedure to constantly seek what customers want
- Develop and train your employees in research and development
- Reward innovative behaviour
Diving deeper you can apply measurements to these characteristics and then check from time to time how you are progressing.
Once you have an inspiring and measurable vision, you need to make sure you communicate the vision widely so that everyone knows what it is.
Driven from your purpose, you need to walk the talk.
That means you need to be talking about what the vision means on a constant and consistent basis. People need to see you believe in it and that you follow it, so apart from talking about it, make sure you point out your faults and mist-steps as well as when you’ve got it right. Watch for others doing the right things and immediately praise them.
Then, create systems that reinforce the vision.
Take a good look at how you do things and take out processes and procedures that don’t align with the vision.
For example, your vision might include a no-questions-asked after-sales service yet your procedures mean that customers have to jump over hoops to get any after-sales service. Change your system so that getting after-sales service is seamless!
Write down these vision-related procedures so that people don’t make up their own way of doing things.
Make sure everyone on the team knows what the main role of their job is and how to do their jobs – make sure this is written down so that they can attach the job’s procedures to their own position description. Keep aligning descriptions and procedures to attaining the goal by asking: “Can we see this job description or work procedure existing in our ideal business at the heart of the vision? Does it create outcomes that are described in the vision?”
As your team do the work on these systems, they will get to see the detail of what driving for the vision means in the day-to-day work. They must see clearly why a procedure exists in relation to working toward the vision.
This will start to create a corporate culture that removes all the daily “how-to” questions from staff because they can see it in the procedures, and if they can’t they can work out what to do that is “in line with the vision”.
But your staff also need to be rewarded for doing the right things.
So, design performance measures and rewards that align people to the vision.
When you communicate the vision and praise people for doing the right things when you design aligned systems, you need to reinforce the right behaviour according to the vision and isolate bad behaviour.
Make sure that you have a system to reward people – for example, hold an “employee of the month” award or weekly announcements of praise. You’d be surprised how many people value recognition more than money.
Create KPI’s that are reflective of the objectives of people’s tasks. If someone is responsible for good customer service, reward them for the feedback from customers, not on the sales they made. If someone else’s main objective at work is to ensure that the product is delivered efficiently, reward them for how quickly the product is delivered, not for cutting cost. In both these examples, the financial benefit to the business will be outcomes of them doing the right thing, not the objective itself.
With a strong corporate culture, you can then hire the right people who get the vision and remove those who don’t.
It’s been said that getting the right team is about getting the right people to sit on a bus, in the right seats, facing the same way. This means that you need to know what roles are right for them, that they can see the direction you want to go, and they want to go in that direction.
Anybody who sits in the wrong seat and is constantly looking toward the back of the bus doesn’t need to be there. Not only can they drag your business performance back from optimal, they can be disruptive.
Finally, create a culture where failure is an opportunity to move closer to the vision.
With all the above implemented correctly, you will have built trust, specifically trust in the vision being rewarding.
However, mistakes will be made. People who are encouraged to make their own decisions as long as it is aligned to the vision will choose the wrong option or make the wrong decision.
If these mistakes are seen as negative, then people will pull back from making their own judgement and you will soon get back to being the arbitrator of every move people need to make.
However, if it can be seen that these mistakes are merely opportunities to learn and improve, then people will be encouraged to continue to make their own decisions and measure their success by whether or not it moves the business closer to the vision. They will be self-learning and self-correcting.
The key is to implement systems that pick up errors quickly, analyse them objectively, and come up with solutions quickly. Always the question is: “How do we improve on this next time?”
Ultimately, if you use your vision positively and consistently you will create a self-running business where everyone pulls together toward the same goals.
On that day, when anyone askes one of your team what they are doing, they will answer: “Why, can’t you see? We’re building a cathedral!”
I have written an informative guide on making your vision a day-to-day reality and you can get your free copy here.
Take the first step – and I’ll see you next week!