Has Your Business Stayed True to Your Vision?
BY Scott Elser
Many small businesses stray from their original intent. How to get on track.
One of the hardest parts of growing quickly is staying true to your original intent and vision. New people, changing product sets and the inability to keep your hands off every aspect of business operations can all lead to a slow, dangerous shift away from what made your business special to begin with.
When we started Launchpad we essentially thought about a magic wand. We built the agency on a cultural foundation designed to be the centerpiece of how we work. Our mission statement was simple. We strove to build an agency that:
If we didn’t own it, we would want to work there
People looked forward to coming to every day
Delivered purpose-driven creativity that moved our clients’ businesses
Constantly pushed itself to get better
As we’ve grown, these core statements serve as a rudder that guide us to remain true what we set out to build. Whenever we find ourselves drifting, we go back to them and course-correct to ensure we remain the Launchpad we first intended to be.
Value your “Chief Culture Officers” who speak truth to power. No, it’s not an official title, but you know who they are: the people in your office who are magnets for everyone else. They know the pulse of your business long before you do, and their value is immeasurable. Countless times these people have come to me and explained exactly how what we were doing was being perceived, or even what people felt we were doing wrong. Look for them, build a relationship that enables the hard discussions to take place, and NEVER shoot the messenger when the news is something you don’t want to hear.
Always go back to why you started. Most of us at some point left the big company world for a reason, and it probably wasn’t financial. The idea of creating something different -- something special -- drove us to take the risks and to work the countless hours. Never forget why you did it and what you originally set out to build. Write it down and memorize it. Always use that as the yardstick of success.
Make the hard decisions. Often, the best decisions are the hardest to make. Tough personnel calls or resigning clients that simply don’t mesh with your vision or culture are not decisions to take lightly. But both are necessary at times. Only you can truly defend the ideals you hope to achieve, and failure to do so will take you off course toward something that looks very different than you set out to create. If you instead choose to lie down don’t be surprised if you get treated like a doormat.
Get away from the office. One of my clients says it best: In the office you are often paid not to do your job but to perform triage. It’s very hard to step back and see the big picture when you are stressed out and have a line of people waiting at your door. Once every few months my partners and I get offsite for a few days to talk about where we are and where we need to go. It’s hard to do, and gets harder every year, but it is also very important and remains a major priority for us. We agree on direction, vision and actions. We have the tough discussions and even argue sometimes, far from the inquiring ears of everyone who need to see us as a united group.
Most important, we always look back at our rudder statements to make sure we are still on track to build the agency we dreamed of. The magic wand we first waved all those years ago always needs to be pointed in the right direction.