When asked, most business founders say something like “I try to stay true to the vision I had when I started the company.” Are you inclined to answer that question the same way? What if you ask a few of your employees that question? For bonus points: What if you ask your customers?!
The reality is that just about everyone stops thinking and communicating about their vision shortly after hiring the fifth employee. How do I know this? I’ve asked the employees in companies I’ve worked with, and the only ones who recall the vision being communicated clearly to the staff are employees 1-5.
But wait, does that mean that there is no vision? Or just that employees are not aware of it? Let me answer that question with a question. If employees are your most significant cost center, and you hire them to do the things that make the company grow and prosper, then how can they do their jobs while not knowing the vision of the CEO?
Clarifying and implementing the vision is one of the most significant areas I’ve seen leaders fail, in both companies large and small. Developing a vision is essential, and there have been countless books written on that topic. People who call themselves business coaches often focus on developing a business vision with the CEO. Marketing leadership usually has to weave the business vision into the branding and advertising of a company. Companies without vision fail at a much higher rate than ones who take the time and effort to define a vision. But that is just step one!
The follow up to having a well-developed vision is to be able to clarify that vision in a way that all your employees can move the company to closer alignment with that vision. Clarifying your vision is in a sense translating it for each department and then each role in the organization. If the vision is to sell the best titanium bolt at a reasonable price, then each person in the company from the executive assistant, to the HR manager, to the machinist needs to understand how their role can affect the company vision. They also need to understand what factors they need to be focused on while interacting with other workers in the company to best make the vision a reality. It may be about the cost to the accounting department, not the purity of the raw material to the Engineering team. In fact, it is about different things to different groups, and while long-term employees generally gain an understanding of their role in creating the best product, they do this without a formal process of clarification and validation.
Your employees (including contractors) are the people who will implement your vision. Leaving your employees without an understanding of company vision will reduce their chance of success and require more management interaction.
Sometimes employees only see a part of your vision. There are many companies I’ve worked with who have demonstrated the dangers of not correctly communicating their vision. One company I worked with, in particular, had a vision of creating millionaires out of users of their products. But it had no mechanism inside the company to make that happen consistently. The result was that customers felt unsupported after purchasing their products because they bought into the vision of the company as customers, but the company did not clarify that message to their employees. Employees heard the message but were not provided tools or a direction of how to accomplish that vision. Everyone just did what they thought was their job as well as they could. This created both frustrations for the customers and stress for the CEO at having frustrated customers.
The solution, in this case, was to create a new testing and certification department for the customers. People felt much better when they were being challenged to learn and then be tested on their knowledge of the skills they learned. Only when the company vision was clarified did it become apparent that to implement that vision the company needed to create a way to challenge and test their clients. Much like a personal trainer helps more than just an exercise program, so in this case were clients better able to achieve financial growth.
Of course, it didn’t hurt the company to create another revenue stream!
Excerpted From The Original
Foreword by Roy H. Williams
Gene isn’t a journalist, but he is most definitely an investigator.
I was talking to a friend who employs about 250 people in 3 different companies when he mentioned that he had hired a specialist to figure out what was wrong with a company that was underperforming.
“Who did you hire?”
“A fellow named Gene Naftulyev.”
“He’s going to figure out what’s holding you back?”
“Yeah. He’s famous for it.”
“Procter & Gamble. American Express. Kraft Foods. Target. They’re all clients of Gene’s.”
“What does he do, exactly?”
“He improves profits without spending money.”
“Process re-engineering, operational optimization, making business units autonomous, negotiating employee and consultant contracts and a hundred other things like that. It just depends on what you need. He refines the core of your business so that you become more efficient, have fewer frustrations and make more money. Naftulyev can always spot the problems and his fixes are famously quick and easy.”
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- Think your employees understand your vision? Think again. - November 1, 2023