Every business needs a vision statement that summarizes its purpose. Your vision statement should also neatly wrap up your strategy or what's special about you -- that is, your market differentiators. 

But a strategy by itself isn't necessarily all that memorable or engaging for your team. If you really want even your newbies or junior people to be enthusiastic and understand everything they can do for the organization, the best thing to do is take your strategy and turn it into an analogy for them. 

An example from Merchants Fleet

At my business, I give my team the analogy of Nascar versus Formula 1 (F1) racing. If you don't know much about these races, Nascar drivers have cars that resemble what you'd see on the average road. They go about 200 mph, and they only ever turn left in an oval. F1 drivers have pointy-nosed vehicles they design themselves. These cars go about 230 mph and race on looped tracks that allow both right or left turns and more speed variance. There are other differences, but the main thing is that F1 cars have more speed and need more complex strategies.

So how do I apply this comparison to our company? Lots of businesses just go around in circles and only ever turn left. But we didn't want to do what the rest of the industry is doing. So we asked ourselves, "How can we make this company into an F1 car? How can we go faster, turn in multiple ways better, and win an even more challenging kind of race?" Over time, we transformed our company -- the Nascar vehicle with an engine with four valves (income streams) -- into an F1 machine with five, six, seven, and finally 12 powerful income streams.

Newcomers to our team might not always be able to recite all 12 of our economic areas, but they can understand we're building something different and we don't want to go around in circles. 

Why the analogy is so important

Analogies that get your strategy across to everyone can align your team very quickly, even when you have people with very different roles, levels of seniority, or experience. The faster you can get your team aligned, the sooner you can start to collaborate well and get real results.

A strong analogy also empowers your people. If an employee doesn't know much about your business, they can usually only do what their boss tells them to do. But if they know more about the company, they can think differently about how to make the organization money and how to move up in their career. To use the car analogy again: If they're working on one part of the engine and they know another part is out there, they can go explore and see what that other part is all about. People often leave companies because they don't see this big picture and feel stuck, but with a good analogy to explain that big picture, you don't have to let that happen.

Relevancy is the key to a story that works

The race car analogy works here at Merchants Fleet largely because vehicles are what we're about. All our people know a little something about transportation and what drivers can use. Even if they're not huge racing fans, they're going to get the concept. It's relevant, and they can visualize the different tracks and engines. 

When you go in search of an analogy for your own team, think about what your people already know and personally connect to. Find something that you and your workers have some shared information or understanding about -- something that's easy for them to see in their head. It's that shared understanding that helps the light bulb go off and lets them say, "Yep, I know exactly what you're getting at." You shouldn't have to spend much time explaining the idea.

Once you have something people can easily relate to and visualize, it's all about creating awareness amongst the different areas of your business that need to see each other. In our case, we put everyone on a team -- the Ferrari team, the Alfa Romero team, etc. We had shirts and hats for each team to wear, so people could see who was who. This also added a little fun and built camaraderie. We made some more extravagant gestures to drive that analogy home as well, such as building a custom F1 car to display in our lobby. You can decide what fits your personal style and budget, but be sure to let your team see the analogy concept in multiple ways and places.

What analogy will you share today?

Strategy is critical for any organization, but it only serves you if people can remember and really apply it. Analogies let you quickly harness all the power of storytelling so people remember what you're about, understand their roles and opportunities, and can do more for you and themselves with greater autonomy. Find your analogy today in order to align your team.