Clarity Rolls Downhill: Cultivate a Vision-Driven Culture in Your Business

Clarity Rolls Downhill

It sounds so obvious when you say it out loud, yet this situation exists every day for so many companies.  If the owner isn’t clear on where they want to go as a business, how can they expect their employees and team members to know?  For a first-time business owner, establishing a clear and consistent vision can be one of the most difficult things to achieve.  For some entrepreneurs this can come naturally to them, but it didn’t for me, so I had to figure out how to do it.  When I was the GM, Middle East, for Energy Alloys I was a leader, but it wasn’t my company.  I wasn’t responsible for creating the company’s core values, the mission, and our purpose.  It was my job to build a team that shared the existing core values, identify growth opportunities, and execute strategies that would give us the best chance of achieving our targets and mission.  There is nothing easy about that necessarily, but I can assure you it is much easier than doing all that in addition to defining and communicating the vision, establishing core values, and building the roadmap for success.

In 2019, I was fortunate to meet Stephanie Hitchins and Brett Gilliland and make the decision to join the community of amazing group of people at Elite Entrepreneurs. They gave me an initial framework and exercises that guided me through the initial steps of identifying, creating, and implementing a clear vision for Client Chat Live.  Elite defined a “Vision” as the combination of the company’s purpose (why it exists), the mission (quantitative and time specific goal), and core values (who we are and how we work).  It took me a few weeks and I included members of my leadership team when we started to filter, wordsmith, and finalize our vision.  Here are a few interesting things we encountered while brainstorming and defining each section of our vision:

  • Core Values: After I made some suggestions when we were listing out potential core values, our VP of Operations, Aaron Hines told me, “some of these are more about what we want to be, but not what we really are right now.  I don’t think we are being honest with ourselves.”  Great point and helpful for sure!
  • Purpose: We started this business because we saw an opportunity to make money.  Now that we’ve reached high 6 figures in revenue, I can’t just hire people and tell them, “come on board and help me make money!”  It is extremely important to our long-term success that we figure this out….BUT…..we are a live chat service for law firms, not curing cancer or saving the ocean.  How do we identify a purpose that we and others would even care about?
  • Mission: I started sharing growth and revenue numbers we were going to strive for with the leadership team, but I wasn’t expecting to be questioned on “the why.” I just figured it was obvious for everyone to work hard to make the company more money and grow. That’s what I wanted at least….oh…. wait…. our incentives may be a little different! Got ya! “These numbers are all great, but why would we want to push so hard to achieve this? What will we get out of it as members of the team?” (note: they didn’t have equity or equity sharing in the business so this made sense to me, even though I hadn’t expected it.)

It Made Sense to Me at the Seminar….. Why Doesn’t My Team Get It?

It was clear as day to me during the 2-day workshop and all made sense when I was at the seminar, but now that I’m implementing it with my team, it’s harder than I thought. “Why don’t they get it? Why aren’t they as excited as I am about the future?” I bet no other entrepreneur or business owner has ever said things like this before!!!???

This is where leaders and business owners could go in the wrong direction with creating and implementing their vision. They can blame others for just “not getting it,” or they can look in the mirror and understand they need to be more effective in communicating the vision and inspiring action and shared excitement. The sooner you, as the business owner, realize that a lack of cohesion and focus is usually your fault, the sooner you gain the awareness needed to affect change and drive results. I’m not saying to go down a shame spiral all the time and take everything upon your shoulders, but you should regularly consider how you are affecting a situation and could fix or improve it. I found that it was often a factor of confusing directives and misaligned incentives between our employees or departments.

A good example of this is how an operations team can constantly battle with a sales team.

  • Sales:“I could sell so much more if they could just figure out how to ship product faster!”
  • Operations: “I could ship product so much faster if sales could figure out how to control customer expectations and enter their orders accurately from the start!”

Both departments have a shared goal, but they lost sight of it at some point. Now, instead of working together to understand and appreciate one another’s pain points and how they can adjust and improve to benefit both groups, they just accept it and point fingers. The job of a business owner and leader is to clearly communicate how each group contributes to the company’s mission and purpose. It’s about getting the buy-in and most importantly, gaining a clear understanding, from each department leader and their team members of the big picture purpose and mission. Our Purpose at CCL was to “Support Professionals’ Success” and Mission was to “Become an Integral Service Provider to 2,000 Growing Legal Businesses by 20XX.” Having that clearly defined, communicated, and agreed upon, here is how I would handle this situation between Ops and Sales (verbal communication is usually better, but email or Slack, if handled well can be used):

  • Dear Sales Leader: “You are doing a great job with generating new clients, but I need your help with how your team is managing client expectations and entering new orders. (give specific feedback related to the concerns from what Operations thinks is limiting their capability to deliver). We are going to chat about this as a group in our weekly staff meeting, so please prepare some thoughts and if possible, a plan to address these issues ahead of time. We can also talk through this in our weekly one on one later this week. We are on track, but I want to make sure you don’t lose momentum towards your target of 800 clients by year end.”
  • Dear Operations Leader: “To keep striving towards meeting our target of 800 growing legal businesses by the end of this year, I want to talk to you about how we can ship more product and faster with the resources we have right now. I have some ideas but would love to hear what you think our options are to increase throughput. In our next staff meeting, we’re going to be talking about how sales can be better at controlling client expectations and clean up their order entry, so if those aren’t a concern, what do you think your team is capable of achieving? Come ready with some thoughts and we can also discuss this more in our next one-on-one meeting.”

job well done

The best thing that I ever did for me and my business was to get clear on why we existed, who we served, and where we wanted to go and by when. Once I established that clarity, it was a huge weight off my shoulders when it came to making strategic decisions and guiding my team daily.

I often had questions about how to handle a certain situation and this was my typical response: “Does that violate any of our core values? Does that help us get closer to our mission? Will that action Support Professionals’ Success?”It was in these moments when my team gained clarity and was empowered to act. There is always going to be nuance and outliers in business, but if you can nail down 90% of it, handling 10% when it comes your way isn’t as daunting and stressful.

Confident business person with a clear roadmap

Get clear on what and where you want your business to be in 1, 3, or more years. Get clear on why your business exists and what you value most in terms of how you work. Get clear for your own benefit, but also for your employees and people you have decided to lead. Once you’re clear, communicate it consistently each day until it is burned into your brain and your employees’ brains.

It starts at the top….clarity rolls downhill.