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Roadmapping Success

The long road to success is navigated by defining Values, Vision, and Mission.

A print shop’s maturing process-taking a company from a small business to a midsize or larger business-requires a shift in mentality, as well as a change in day-to-day practices. The most effective company leaders ready themselves for growth by striving to run their businesses as if they were large companies, in spite of the fact that they still might be smaller. One of the most valuable and practical ways to accomplish this mental shift in your own shop is to go through a process of defining exactly who you are as company, where you want to go, and how you want to get there.

Our company recently engaged the help of Dan Paxton, a business and organizational strategy consultant. He led us through a process whereby we established our values, our vision, and our mission as a company. This month, I'll share some of the insight we learned.

Defining values
Begin the process with your ownership group, whether that is one person or several people. It's important to get ownership on board before including the management team. As you begin the process with ownership, don’t be concerned about getting all the details nailed down immediately. In fact, the implementation will go much more smoothly if the ownership team lays out the basics and then invites the management team to get involved in working out and agreeing upon the specifics. Including the management team in the decision-making process creates buy-in, a critical part of this exercise.

While there is no magical order in this process, it works well to begin by discussing your values as a company. Remember, your values define "who you are." Decide which values are important to you and your team. Start by just brainstorming--not by critiquing or eliminating any values.

For example, at the end of our initial session, we had identified approximately 25 different values we would consider important to our company. Through the vetting process with our ownership and management teams, that initial values group was narrowed down to the 12 that we felt truly defined our company. To illustrate, a few of our values include excellence, integrity, respect, teamwork, innovation, and accountability.

Your values will certainly be different and unique to your company, but they should represent the principles from which you will not deviate as a company. In the face of critical business decisions, your stated values should be your guide to doing what you believe is right.

Vision and mission
Next up is your company vision. Your vision provides you the road map of "where you want to go." It could be for the next two to three years, the next five, or even the next 10 years. It may involve profitability goals, sales goals, market share, exit strategies, or anything that will define where you want to be in a specific period of time. Your vision should require you to stretch yourselves in your efforts as owners and managers, but at the same time, it should be achievable. For example, let’s assume your vision includes a goal to double your sales in five years, but you have no plan that will allow you to execute this. Your team will not believe in the vision, and as a result, they won’t work towards achieving it. On the other hand, if your vision creates a challenging opportunity for your employees, they will embrace it and work in concert with the ownership and management teams to accomplish the vision.

The last part of the process is your mission statement. Because the terms mission statement and vision statement are often used interchangeably, this can be confusing. For our purposes, your mission statement will define "how" you accomplish your vision. In our company, we defined elements of our mission statement and then developed a one-line description of what that particular element means to the mission. To illustrate, I will share two of the eight components to our own company's mission statement:

* Empowered team members - Attract and develop talented, driven individuals into an environment that provides clear expectations and fosters personal responsibility.

* Precise execution - Deliver exceptional value through accurate processes, optimized workflow, and consistent quality.

Your mission statement provides a guide whereby your company can accomplish your vision. It should also be congruent to your values. For example, one of our identified values is "Championing excellence in everything we do." That value goes hand in hand with one of our mission components: "Precise Execution," detailed above. Your final mission statement then becomes a call to action for your company and should inspire the employees of your company to consistently work toward accomplishing your vision.

Critical direction
While the end result of developing your company’s values, vision, and mission can be a great way to get your company’s leadership team and employees on the same page, perhaps the most important aspect is the actual experience of going through the effort to arrive at these definitions.

This will be a difficult and challenging process. There will be a lot of discussion, argument, disagreement, common ground, and ultimately consensus. But the time you will spend devoted to the process will be invaluable. Just forcing yourself to sit down and figure out what you want to do as an ownership group and a management team for the next five to 10 years can provide you with critical direction that you may have been missing in the past. Beginning this vision with a core set of values and a specific mission will pave the way for your future growth.

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