Whether your business is down or it is booming, one thing is for sure; It is necessary to set the direction for your company at the beginning of the year. If your business is slow, now is the time to think about your vision for your company and how you can turn your vision into reality. If you are busy, you must still plan for the new year because perhaps you have been blessed, and now you need to plan for expansion which is another type of vision.
When I owned my company I read the book “The New Gold Standard: 5 Leadership Principles for Creating a Legendary Customer Experience” by Joseph Michelli. I read this book, because I had stayed at a Ritz Carlton when attending a NARSA National Convention in Dearborn, Michigan. I waited too long to make my hotel reservation, and the host hotel was sold out. The overflow hotel was the Ritz Carlton, so I stayed there. It was an experience like I had never known before! Everything from the atmosphere, the food, the décor, the ambiance and especially the service was spot on. I left the hotel on the Sunday after the convention vowing to always stay at a Ritz Carlton hotel if one was available where I would be traveling. Over the course of a few years, I often wondered how they built such a great company. At some point I discovered the book “The New Gold Standard” and bought it. After reading the book, I told everyone how I wanted my company to be the Ritz Carlton of the radiator industry.
To accomplish this, I started to form a vision for my company. In my head, I pictured the great service, the most beautiful radiator shop, and the highest quality products. I no longer wanted every customer. My goal was to be like the Ritz Carlton. I wanted to only cater to the top 10 percent of the market who are willing to pay for the best service, best products, and the best workmanship.
There was one problem. Can you guess what it was? I couldn’t get my vision out of my head and into the heads of the people who worked with me. I had no idea how to implement this grand vision for my company. The book outlined all of the great principles that allowed the Ritz Carlton to achieve their legendary standard of service, but the road map on how to get there was missing. For many years, I was frustrated because the people who worked with me just didn’t get what I was wanting. However, they weren’t to blame. How could they know what was running around in my head? After all, we had no formal management team, no written vision for our company, and no road map to help our people know how we were going to achieve this vision. My people weren’t mind readers, so we missed the mark. I thought if I took everyone to a Ritz Carlton, they would be able to experience the same level of service I had experienced and then maybe they would get it.
I thought about this so much it gave me a headache, so I would just go and fix a radiator or weld an aluminum fuel tank. After all, I know that I can produce a great product and please the customer while doing so. It is easier to work with metal and form it to do what you want. I could lay out patterns for metal, cut the metal with a shear or plasma cutter. Take a grinder and prep the metal and weld it together with a row of dimes. It was instant gratification for me, and the customer was happy. Do you know what the huge problem is with this? I had 15 people working with me who needed direction and needed someone to layout the vision for the company and help them to implement that vision.
I wasn’t smart enough to develop a vision and implement that vision at my company. It is not like we didn’t have any successes or that we didn’t have any satisfied customers, but as you are working and going about your day, you know something is amiss. You know your company could be doing better and it would be advantageous for your people, your customers and you.
When I started in the radiator business in 1981, I thought becoming a great radiator technician and a great welder would be enough to succeed in business. However, what I discovered was the farthest thing from the truth. I realized that I was a jack of all trades and master of none. There is only one great victory that I have enjoyed in life besides my beautiful wife and son. That is the satisfaction of becoming a businessman who could help the people who worked with me achieve some greatness in their lives.
The most important lesson I learned and the vision I came to visualize for my company was a vision for the success of the people who worked with me. When your vision becomes about helping others, more particularly the people you work with, then you might realize you picked the right vision for your company.
Having a vision is great but having the knowledge and skills to implement that vision is even better. When you look at the start of this New Year and where you want your business to go and how you want it to grow, think more about the process it will take to help get you to your vision.
I will leave you with one last thought about your vision for your company. Everyone wants satisfied customers. Everyone wants customer referrals. Nearly everyone wants to grow their business, but do you get referrals from the people you work with? Maybe your vision for 2021 should include having happy and satisfied co-workers.
Happy New Year,
NARSA/IDEA Executive Director