Moving mountains: A compelling company vision

Illustration: ©istock.com/retrorocket

How a compelling company vision can help you attract the best team and achieve your goals.

Attracting, motivating, focusing and retaining great employees starts and ends with a compelling vision. To attract the very best team, you must create a compelling vision for the future, and to retain top talent you must develop a method and habit for communicating your vision. A powerful vision will help you hook and hire new employees. By continually reminding your employees of your progress on your vision, they eventually will buy into it, love it and live it.

On the other hand, if you ignore your vision—even if it was compelling when first written down—it will wither and die along with your company energy and focus.

Your company vision is like a big, green, welcoming front lawn. If you take care of it, it inspires everyone who sees it, drives by and comes into contact with it. But if you leave it alone—forget to mow it, never water it, never put down nutrients—then it turns into messy, weedy, overgrown dirty-brown shambles.

‘Do we have time for this?’

Reaching your company’s true potential takes more than just a few memorized words repeated once a year or so. Communicating the company vision is a vital leadership role. And if you’re the owner, CEO or a leader within your company, it’s the most important part of your job because of how it drives and focuses all the other employees.

Sometimes company owners buy into what I’m saying, but they wonder to themselves, “Do we really have time for all that touchy-feely stuff?”

And when it’s time to talk with their employees, they say things like: “You guys know what to do. Get to work.”

I used to make that same mistake when I ran my business. I was so focused on efficiency and getting more production that I didn’t make much time to think to create and refine my vision and I didn’t take the time to communicate my vision to the people who worked for my company. As a result, we didn’t grow as fast and effectively in those early years as we could have.

You must develop your vision to become a destination company—one that good people want to work for. If you don’t do so, you’re relegated to running a company that’s reactive in nature. In a reactive company that lacks vision, employees show up for work motivated to do two things: get a paycheck, and make it through the day. These are unhealthy motivations that become a tax to your clients, the owners and the remaining true believers in your employee ranks. Top performers won’t work for or stay with a company that is taxed excessively with a reactive attitude.

The idea that leaders don’t have time to create and share a vision is a myth. It takes much more time, effort and wasted energy to reactively run a company without a vision than it does to proactively run a company with a vision.

Whether we’re talking about hiring talent away from another company or holding on to the very best homegrown employees, I can’t stress enough that good people want a vision of the future they’re building for themselves and for the company.

There’s a saying in politics that “all politics is local,” which means people tend to care how politics will affect them personally, and they care less about the national agenda. For our purposes, keep in mind that “all company visions are local.” Your vision must answer the question “What’s in it for me?” (the employee). If your team members don’t buy into the company vision and can’t translate it into their professional growth and personal/family needs, they’ll eventually lose hope, vigor and interest in your company.

People have a better attitude, do better work and are more committed when they have a better sense of why they are doing something. It’s your job to supply that why.

Top performers are all about growth and improving the status quo—their company’s, their community’s, their clients’, their own. These people want to work in a company where they know they’re going somewhere and making an impact. By sharing a vision of the future, you’re telling your team what that future is likely to look like. If you give them a compelling enough why, they’ll help you develop the how-to.

The vision you repeatedly lay out allows top performers to gain and revisit a road map that shows them how they’re going to affect the future. Sharing the broad outlines of that plan for the company makes all the difference, because if your team members don’t have that road map, they can’t possibly be inspired to move in unison in the right direction.

Avoid common mistakes

Below are four common mistakes business owners and leaders make while they’re mastering the skill of communicating their vision. Learn them, so you can avoid making the same mistakes at your company.

1. “I already told them about this … once.”
Telling employees about your vision at the annual all-company meeting is not enough. It may remain in your head, but you can’t assume everyone else remembers it. I know a quiet leader who has an extremely high IQ yet makes the mistake of believing that just because he thinks of something, everyone else intuitively knows it. He doesn’t like to yell or be bossy—he wants his staff to be loyal and follow the program. The challenge is, his employees are not as focused as he is, and they can’t read his mind, so they don’t keep his vision “top of mind.” They’re distracted by their own lives, their own car payments, their own children and the work in front of them. This is why you have to say out loud what you’re thinking and be willing to repeat it. Make the implicit explicit.

2. Not specific enough.

Excerpted with permission from Scott’s book, “Destination Company,” due out  this spring.
Excerpted with permission from Scott’s book, “Destination Company,” due out
this spring.

I run into some companies whose vision is something simple like, “We’d like to grow.” But what does that mean? Break down what you want to achieve into concrete chunks that your team can grab onto. (For instance, “We want to double our client base and increase our density through our client referrals and neighbor walk-bys.”) If it’s not specific, people have trouble buying into it, engaging with it, executing it and even remembering it.

3. Playing “gotcha.”
Some leaders think they’re sharing the vision, but in fact they’re leading by exception, playing “gotcha” with their staff. Avoid the syndrome where you’re constantly telling people what they did wrong: “I caught you smoking.” “Quality on the Jones property is never high enough.” “You guys are over budget.” “There’s a dent in the truck.”

When people only hear this kind of feedback, their heads sink down and their vision grows cloudy. Eventually, they tell themselves they can’t win and the owner’s vision is no vision at all, so they learn to keep their head down and focus on the work at hand.

4. “Yeah, right.”
If the vision is completely unrealistic and everyone knows it, you’re going to have problems. There’s a balancing act here, of course. You do want to get people engaged in attaining an ambitious goal, a “stretch” goal—but it can’t be a goal that everyone quietly ridicules. The goal you set should be seen as attainable. The targets you set have to make both emotional and mathematical sense.

So if you tell people, “We’re going to grow from $3 million in revenue to $30 million within the next three to five years,” don’t expect everyone to believe it. Many of your people are going to be asking both “How?” and “Why?” In this case, you have to explain why growing to $30 million is beneficial for everyone involved, and how you envision getting there. If there are no compelling answers, you need to fine-tune the goal.

A good stretch goal is said to be one that has a 50/50 chance of being hit. Having said that, people like to know what their next steps are: What’s the short-term goal?

Focus on that and you’ll move mountains.

Take action now

Write down your vision for success. Start with a two-paragraph letter to yourself.

Paragraph one outlines an award your company has received 10 years from now based on achievements you’ve reached as a team. Paragraph two is a letter written to yourself a year from now, describing what a great job you and your team did over the past 12 months. It’s specific and highlights your achievements and how it makes you feel both professionally and personally.
Ask your management team to do the same. Get together and have each person share their letters with one another to develop a shared vision.

Click here to find out an effective way to develop and give a stump speech to your whole company.


Scott, who has a master’s degree in business administration, specializes in growth and profit maximization in the green industry. He’s an author, business coach and facilitator of the Leader’s Edge peer group for landscape business owners. Learn more at GetTheLeadersEdge.com.

Jeffrey Scott

Jeffrey Scott

Jeffrey Scott, MBA, author, specializes in growth and profit maximization in the Green Industry. His expertise is rooted in personal success, growing his own company into a $10 million enterprise. Now, he facilitates the Leader’s Edge peer group for landscape business owners. To learn more visit GetTheLeadersEdge.com

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