Big Red Car here. Cool night and The Boss is up early this morning. He loves a Saturday morning. Pancakes and bacon, perhaps? Bit of fresh 10W30, please pass the clean air filter? Haha, Big Red Car, you crack yourself up.
So The Boss was musing about the “tapestry of business” — all the individual threads that must be woven together to make a coherent whole. It is a structural notion that requires a strong core, a stout wearing surface and a lovely pattern. It has to be strong, wear well and turn a pretty face to the public. Most importantly, it has to be real and authentic.
Bit of organized thought with that? Or not?
This organizing notion of weaving a tapestry is a great analogy for the structural approach to birthing or growing a business — remember we are talking about startups and small to medium sized businesses here — that flows from the following fundamental building blocks:
Vision — the founder’s or owner’s creative and imaginative concept of what the business will become as it rides the magical carpet of innovation, disruption or other intellectual driving force
Mission — the purpose of the business — the problem of humanity, or at least your clients, being solved — as it converts the founder’s vision into a defined outcome which can be managed and measured
Strategy — the big picture methodology by which the mission will be accomplished over a fairly long period of time
Tactics — the tightly focused methodology by which the strategy will be advanced in the near term
Objectives — the individual accomplishments (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, timely — SMART objectives) necessary to advance the tactics and which will be undertaken by specific members of the team
Values — the character traits of the organization which provide the guidance for execution of the strategy and tactics, and the attainment of individual objectives
Culture — the esprit de corps and character traits of the business together with the manner and rituals with which the business will conduct its affairs and live its values
Do the work, please
The Boss finds that many businesses do not have these basic building blocks in place. Or, the founder has them in his head. Or they are outdated and irrelevant. Or nobody can find them. And, thus, they are totally ineffective. An idea you do not share is called a secret. No secrets necessary or useful here.
So, entrepreneurs and founders and CEOs, please do the work to keep your fundamental building blocks in fine fettle and useful. Oh, yes, you will also need to communicate them and, more importantly, live them.
It is not necessary that each of your utterances on the above subjects be Pulitzer Prize candidates but it is important to get them done at least once and to periodically refine them thereafter. You will get better and better at it as you become more focused on the exact direction of our business.
Take a stab at them and get them in writing and look at them and think about them.
Oh, yes, I forgot to tell you this — LIVE THEM. OWN THEM. PROSELYTIZE THEM.
The product of your work, Mr CEO/founder/entrepreneur, should be a document or a booklet which can be published to the entire company and, in particular, to new employees.
Putting this on paper will save you countless hours of trying to resurrect and restate them. This document will allow you to communicate them to others and will ensure that they do not wander off the dance floor and take up with unsavory companions. They will remain pure, true and effective.
The Boss has previously shared a little booklet that he has used for decades which incorporates this notion. It is available under the Free Stuff tab here. <<< click here to go to Free Stuff
This little booklet can be used to communicate your Vision, Mission, Strategy, Values and can be distributed to each and every employee the first day of their employment thereby getting them on board with the program immediately. This bit of theater allows the culture to take root and grow from the first day.
Sweat it out and do it. In the long run, you will love yourself for doing this and more importantly so will your team members. This stuff really works.
Shelf life, sell by date
These concepts — which you should write down and publish to your company and Board — will require a bit of modification from time to time. The Boss encourages founders, entrepreneurs, CEOs and Boards to take a look at these documents on a regular frequency. Some twice a year. Some quarterly.
As The Boss often says — nobody has 25 years of experience any more, we all have one year of experience 25 times.
In much the same sentiment, visions do not have the same shelf life they used to have. The vision is no longer a 25 year vision. It is a vision which has not only a fairly short term shelf life but also a “sell by” date which must be affixed.
The Boss thinks that today with the speed of business in the Internet age, a vision has a shelf life of 4-5 years and must be tinkered with and modified annually.
Shelf life, sell by date — require periodic review and updating. Do it.
No plan or idea has any value if it is kept secret. If it is in your head. If it is not communicated, updated and repeated.
Like any training concept — spaced repetition training — it must be repeated to be absorbed. This is why having a booklet which incorporates these concepts and ideas is so powerful. Its very presence is the echo of the original communication.
It is also a realistic accommodation of the different learning styles of your people. Oral, written, presented in different media.
The Boss likes the notion of the CEO meeting each new employee on their first day of employment literally as they enter the building. He favors wearing a suit, tie and a shirt with French cuffs and cufflinks. [Are you telling me that your company does not have its own signature cuff links? Haha, Big Red Car, behave yourself.]
In the first minutes of their employment they will learn the Vision, Mission, Strategy, Values and they will take their first swallow of the company’s distinctive culture from the top. Pure, undiluted and authentic.
Armed with a copy of the booklet, the new employee is ready to get the company tattoo and to sign on for life.
The Boss would always tell them: “We are already a very good company but you are here to help us become a great company. Can you do it?”
Changing the oil
There is nothing a Big Red Car likes better than a damn good oil change. Out with the dirty hot oil and in with the clean cool oil. Ahh, the Big Red Car likes an oil change. It is a periodic ritual which allows the Big Red Car to perform at its best.
In much the same way, the leader of the company has to constantly preach the building blocks of the company. He has to go through it with the company twice a year. Every member of the company. Preferably en masse. But he has to preach it. Change the oil periodically with your company. It will make things run much smoother.
She has to take questions and put herself on the spot. Be prepared to talk the talk and walk the walk. Take those tough questions. Answer them with passion and vigor and honesty.
Report the results on the path toward accomplishing that vision. Give them the basic building blocks, the good news and the bad news. Give it to them straight and true — because that is part of your values and defines your culture.
So where does this all lead to, Big Red Car. Is it really just this easy? Glad you asked those questions, Grasshopper.
It is just that easy but it requires a bit of work and then it ties other aspects of your company together.
When you have the building blocks in place, the other threads in your tapestry become easy to identify, use and weave into the entire fabric.
1. If you have a well defined Vision, Mission, Strategy and Values — you can articulate and define a great tactical business plan and then subdivide it into SMART objectives which can be assigned to your team by discipline to accomplish.
It creates and drives your objectives.
2. Your objectives will ultimately drive your performance appraisal system whereby you grade and measure and manage individual performance. [What, you don’t have a formal performance appraisal system? Huh? Well we will help you with that later.]
3. This is how you will grow and develop the human capital in your company. Promote the folks who routinely accomplish their objectives and give them more and more to do. Pay them better than the others also.
4. The orderly development of these fundamental building blocks will set your culture on a sound footing and will ultimately rationalize and drive your company culture. When you hire today, you must have one eye on the company culture as you make important hires.
[Pro tip: Do not hire the guy with the Nazi tattoo on his forehead if you are a Christian ebook publishing business. I’ll explain this to you later. Haha, Big Red Car, get back on the road.]
Again — this structural and organizational process will allow you to define and promote your company culture. This is a real company culture not a “baggy shorts on Friday” and a quarterly Beer Bust culture. This is real, authentic and substantive.
5. The precise definition of your culture will inform your hiring process and decisions.
This list could go on for a bit more but you are seeing the linkages clearly now, aren’t you? Think it through and weave that tapestry. You, CEO, are the dream weaver of your business. Get everyone involved and make it a strong and attractive tapestry.
A note to the Board
If you are sitting on the Board of a startup or small/medium business or advising a CEO and he has not yet articulated in writing the fundamental building blocks we have laid out here then I have a question for you.
WTF are you doing?
If you and the CEO and the company do not know the Vision, Mission, Strategy, Tactics, Objectives, Values, Culture of the company — WTF are you doing?
The other day The Boss posed a question to a pretty smart MBA type CEO who had a very good MBA CFO and some damn smart MBA type executives and they did not have a written business plan for their company. A half a platoon of MBAs and no business plan. That is a poorly run company which is doomed to failure. We shall see. How good can any enterprise be if they do not have a plan?
The Boss says that is business negligence. And, he is right.
But, hey, what the Hell do I know anyway? I’m just a Big Red Car.
Be kind to yourselves and call you parents or loved one or some old pal of yours this weekend. See if you can astound someone and yourself with a random act of kindness. Kindness never goes out of fashion.