Make Your Company Vision a KISS (As in “Keep it Simple, Sweetie”)

By Dr. David Vik

I always advise clients that the “Vision” of a company needs to be a short, simple, and repeatable slogan that doesn’t put boundaries around the company.

I’ve read a huge number of “mission statements” that were two or three paragraphs long, detailing how the company was going to do, what it was doing or make what it was making. But I never could remember even a bit of it five minutes later.

Perhaps the sentences were too long or wordy, but most likely — and more importantly — the mission statements had nothing to do with helping me out, whether I was an employee or a customer.

Two or three paragraphs is much too long. Just state what you are doing (Vision) and why (Purpose). The mission statement (the how) will follow with the creative genius of your employees.

My feeling is that you, as the leader, don’t have to state the how in a mission statement; let your employees figure out that piece on their own.

Keys to creating your vision

When creating your Vision — or updating or transforming the one you have — use the following as a guide:

  • Make it current, compelling, inspiring, and motivating.
  • Make it a KISS:
    • Short;
    • Easy to remember;
    • Repeatable.
  • Implement your “Vision” among your employees, so that everyone knows it and can say it quickly and easily. Over time, try to whittle it down to six words or less. You may not be able to, but the exercise will help your statement be as short, memorable, and repeatable as possible.
  • You also want to tie a “Purpose” with it. (We’ll discuss that in depth in the next main section.) But make sure your Vision is short enough to allow folks to remember it and the Purpose, too.

Why employees are unable to share a vision

As an advisor and coach, I have had many opportunities to talk to company employees about their company’s Vision. Most believe that their company has a Vision; generally, however, employees have been unable to share it with me for one of the following reasons:

  • They don’t know what it is.
  • They don’t understand it.
  • They are familiar with the Vision but cannot repeat it because it is too long or complicated to remember.
  • The Vision is muddled in a long-winded mission statement that makes little sense to them.

Luckily, these challenges can be remedied.

A Vision needs to be simple, repeatable, and well understood by the employees so they can be in alignment with it.

When employees don’t know what the company Vision is and only do what they are told, they become disengaged and disconnected, and their daily work becomes uninspiring and non-empowering. Imagine what that does for the business.

If employees cannot repeat the company’s Vision with respect and enthusiasm, they’re missing a guiding light to direct their thoughts, actions, and decisions.

When vision statements fall short

For example, in a recruiting company I worked with in San Francisco, as we worked to transform the company’s culture, we came up with several versions of a Vision statement. But, none of them seemed right, especially when we put them to the test to see if they would attract both employees and customers.

We knew we were headed in the right direction, but we were having a hard time coming up with a Vision that would stand out in the industry.

It’s a common challenge. Many of us create a Vision but soon realize it falls short in some regard. If you find yourself in that dilemma, don’t give up. I guarantee you will get it right; you just have to keep trying different things out until you do.

So we noodled some more and came up with other iterations of a Vision statement, but none of those came up to snuff either. Finally we hit on the solution, which was this: Sometimes you have to switch it up and come up with a Vision that is unique in your industry or in what you deliver, especially if you are in the services business or if you sell a commodity.

You need to be unique

Since a service or a commodity isn’t proprietary, you need to be Unique/WOW in your delivery. Think about how your product, service, or knowledge can be delivered differently and what you want your customers to experience. That’s what we did with our Vision, and it helped us rise above the rest.

We knew that the recruiting industry was considered somewhat antiquated, with not a lot of regard for service or the customers’ experience.

Of course, that industry is not alone. Just take a good look at any service business you know of, you’ll see that the service part has all but evaporated.

So we homed in on this Vision: “To Deliver the Best Service and Experience.” That Vision would color every aspect of our business in the future. We started by revamping our training to be top-notch and to deliver the best service and experience; we adhered to best practices in everything we did.

Every piece of text our customers saw or read became a visual work of art. After all, if the customer-facing part of our business was not the best experience, it wouldn’t be in alignment with our new Vision.

It didn’t happen overnight. We were figuring this out as we went along.

Engaging the entire company

Throughout the industry, recruiting methods were basically archaic. The tools everyone used to provide the service to clients and customers were sticks and rocks, so to speak. We decided to develop lasers and rocket launchers, in the form of innovative data, algorithms, and procedures to measure and predict success.

We engaged the entire company in naming our new internal, proprietary technology system, which is revolutionizing the way we do things and is poised to soon revolutionize the industry. We also incubated a start- up — Whitetruffle  — outside of the company that helps match candidates and clients and creates an inbound model (as opposed to our going out to find people).

After all, how could we deliver the best service and experience if we couldn’t expedite our offerings to our clients?

Listen, we all know that in a service company and a service industry you need to deliver service, but that concept has been all but lost. So our particular Vision was to reestablish what we are all about and what we should be all about — service and experience — and let that Vision become an overall guide when it comes to specific thoughts, decisions, and actions.

With a great Vision, we didn’t have to tell our employees what to do, because they knew what needed to be done (and delivered) with the Vision. And that meshes with the three things employees want most: Purpose, Autonomy, and Compensation.

The first one, Purpose, you will read about in greater detail later in this book. The third, Compensation, is obvious. But when it comes to the second want, Autonomy, a great Vision ensures that employees are free to do their creative part. They don’t need to be told what to do because they know what needs to be done.

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When your Vision is “delivering the best service and experience,” that’s what the employees create and deliver. If it’s not the best service and experience, they don’t create or deliver it. The Vision helps guide your creativity and delivery and becomes self-managing over time, once it’s in your DNA.

It’s the Vision; so it’s what everyone does

It didn’t take long before the recruiting company’s Vision attracted employees who didn’t want to work at other firms because we were doing

it differently, and better. They wanted to join a winner. And our customers and clients? They realized that they had better service and a better experi- ence with us, so they kept coming back. Our repeat business started to climb. We grew 300 percent the first year alone, and we haven’t stopped since. We made Inc.’s list of America’s fastest-growing companies two years in a row and climbing, and the firm’s two owners made the roster of the Silicon Valley 100.

So is the recruiting company there yet? Has it arrived? No way! The business is just at the beginning of the journey and still has a long way to go.

You need to stick with it

But you know what? The company is definitely going somewhere. And the cool thing is that everyone is on board. Not bad at all for a 9-year- old company whose growth was flat and whose employee turnover was 100 percent.

How did the company do it? It transformed and created its unique Culture by implementing the strategies that you are reading about now, in this book, beginning with a foundational Vision statement.

As I said, the company isn’t done or even close to reaching its peak. Its new empowering culture is driving its success. Oh, and by the way, the new internal motto is to keep taking it to the Next Level, and that’s exactly what they company does, because it is constantly enlarging the biggest room in the house — “The room for Improvement.”

So hang in there as you create your Vision. You may not get it on the first attempt. But the reason for doing it will be as clear as glass when you look at some of the great examples later on in this section.

?????Excerpted from The Culture Secret: How to Empower People and Companies No Matter What You Sell. By Dr. David Vik. Published by Greenleaf Book Group Press, Austin, TX. Copyright © 2013 David Vik. All rights reserved.

About the Author

Dr. David “Doc” Vik is the founder and CEO of The Culture King, through which he promotes his vision: “to empower people and companies.” His culture techniques and strategies yield net results in many different business sectors by attracting and retaining high-quality, engaged employees and loyal customers, while allowing companies to grow at unprecedented rates. Prior to founding The Culture King, Dr. Vik held the role of Coach at Zappos.com, where he helped drive the culture. During Dr. Vik’s tenure, Zappos received worldwide attention for their culture Contact jim at abares@alturaconsultinggroup.com.