Sharing your company’s vision is essential, so says Matt Storey, partner at The White Storey
How’re your passion levels at this cheerless time of year? As low as a salamander’s scrotum? More importantly, how sparkly were the eyes of the people you walked past in the office corridor this morning? Leaden skies aside, chances are, the degree of bounce in their step will be directly correlated to the size of your business.
When you consider the thrilling, spectacular experiences we collectively create, it’s ironic that so many people in our industry feel they’re merely doing a job: Meeting a deadline and going home knackered each day.
This isn’t necessarily because they’ve got bad employers, or they made the wrong career choice – they just don’t see the big picture. The larger a company, the further its employees are likely to be from the original idea that sparked its creation.
Here’s how it works: Someone has a dream to start a business that will be different and better than anything that’s come before. They’re driven by a brilliant vision, which they will realise, no matter how much effort it’s going to take. And they’ll hand-pick a few trusted friends, who are equally enthused about their idea and want to be at the ground floor of this exciting new venture. (Interestingly, money is rarely one of the essential ingredients).
Then, assuming the business takes off, more people will be added, bringing specialist expertise in areas like IT, marketing and HR. At that point, skills take priority over any burning desire to fulfil the founders’ vision. But that’s OK – the business is still small, and enthusiasm is contagious.
The problems begin when the people hiring the next wave of incomers weren’t party to that original passion. Before you know it, there is a whole new raft of employees who have no knowledge of the founder’s dream.
Further down the line, the business owners, swimming in a sea of competitive sharks and tight-pursed clients, park their early ideals and become increasingly fixated on profit margins and growth targets. The original zeal to instil passion amongst the workforce fades.
Jumping off the baseline of our own business growth trajectory, we’re determined to avoid these pitfalls. And we’re watching those companies that are getting it right. Maintaining small family-style units within their businesses they seem to run their organisations like exclusive members’ clubs that people feel privileged to belong to.
They make time to hold regular meetings where they explain the business, its history, values and vision, as well as its place within the wider industry. That way newcomers get to understand context and direction.
Of course, there’ll always be people who consider a job to be just that. If you tell them what you want them to do and pay them a reasonable salary, they’ll turn up and do what’s expected of them. No more, no less.
But there are also people, especially from the younger generation, who are looking to make a positive contribution to a forward-thinking business. These are the fresh thinkers who want to know if a company is right for them; the very people who we should be helping to build a career, so that when their turn comes, they’ll be pushing the industry’s frontiers forward.
So, owners should give their people a vision to work towards and foster a sense of pride and personal responsibility. Without that shared vision there can’t be a constant drive to improve things, to be the best.
None of the above is revolutionary thinking, so why do so many bosses seem content to retain a large contingent of torpid lemmings? Maybe it’s because the high-fliers are likely to be asking for a share in the equity – and there’s only so much of that to go around.
Certainly, the wage-slaves can be relied upon to not push their heads in the trough. But they won’t be reaching for the stars either. And since when were life-changing events created by colourless people in carpet slippers?