Business Owners Should Improve Communications, Create Vision Statements

using a Vision Statement to guide all business decisions
Kodiak High School in Alaska is one of many educational institutions across the country that have chosen to use polished concrete in their facilities. This is because of its ease of maintenance and durability.

During the past year as I was firing up my independent consultant firm once again, I found myself wondering what would be “the” thing to make the biggest contribution for my clients, now that polishing concrete is well on its way?

Let me explain. There are now actual polished concrete brick-and-mortar supply houses (distributors) with inventory, training programs and helpful in-house sales staffs. We’ve come a long way!

Polishing contractors who are less than 10 years into this business may not realize that wasn’t always the case. Manufacturers are now ready and able to offer high-quality training and have technical departments that can field project and product questions and offer real-world suggestions and solutions. Today we have traveling surface prep specialists with vans full of an array of diamond choices, demo equipment and repair parts to meet a polishing contractor’s needs whether in person or by quick delivery.

Finally, in today’s industry, we have consultants and other professionals on the periphery whose knowledge and advice can be valuable assets for our polishing contractors. With so many resources available to us, again I asked myself what is “the” thing I can do to make a vital contribution to today’s polished concrete contractors and their business growth?

Decisions made on the fly

I’ve come to find out that this question was the answer. I learned that even the most successful, well-respected and profitable polishing contractors are still searching for a way to articulate their company’s goals. One of many things that stood out during my initial two-day assessments/meetings/conversations with new clients was a general lack of a true north, a vision statement that guides and informs their business decisions.

Mostly, their decisions are influenced by their recent thoughts — not a vision and a plan — and how full the job board and the bank account are. On-the-fly decisions are solely dependent upon who is available, how many days are left on the project and what will make them the most money.

Clearly, businesses are in business to make money, but that’s not a vision and certainly not a unique proposition. Now that concrete polishing is a proven type of flooring and an industry that can no longer be written off as a fad, it’s time we treat our businesses like the truly unique businesses they are and can become.

You need a vision statement

Without a vision statement, true leadership, inspiration, motivation and communication, businesses can lose their way amidst the constantly changing conditions. They can lack the focus, direction and passion to keep going. This is because the truth is nobody knows where they’re trying to get to.

If you’ve ever wondered why employees keep leaving even when they’re paid well, treated well or “fill in the blank,” it’s time to think about the bigger picture. Maybe they simply want to feel motivated/inspired to perform for something bigger than making another paycheck and another concrete floor shine.

Challenge team members to grow together and give them a clear direction (vision statement). Also give them a reason to dream big: they’ll want to be part of it! Having a singular team/company vision will become the motivation!

So, what is your vision? Make it an anchor point of your company’s strategic plan. State what your company wants to achieve and describe what specific “way of being” your company values. Give the communities around you — i.e., construction, architectural, engineering, general public and employees, to name a few — a clear understanding of why you want to do what you do. Let them know who they’ll be working with. This will help potential and existing team members and communities articulate a reason to work for or with your company.

Examples to emulate

These examples from corporations tell us the purpose/vision for their business.

Apple – “To produce high-quality, low-cost, easy-to-use products that incorporate high technology for the individual” (internal vision statement); “We believe that we are on the face of the Earth to make great products and that’s not changing” (public statement).

Disney – “To make people happy.”

Microsoft – “Empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.”

Nike – “Bring inspiration and inno­vation to every athlete* in the world.” (*If you have a body, you’re an athlete.)

W.R. Grace – “Strives to be a premier specialty chemical and materials company. We provide innovative technologies and value-added products and services around the world to enhance the quality of life.”

Your vision statement’s goal is to inspire and give a clear targeted direction. Beta test your vision statement with your key employees, the ones you want to retain.

Let them tell you if it inspires and gives direction. Listen to their questions and you’ll receive your answer. Ask yourself, “How do I become my vision?” Then start setting goals that’ll get you there. You may be surprised just how much your employees will help if you let them.

Communication … or lack of

This brings me to one of the other big obstacles I consistently find — lack of communication.

What does that mean? To dig in a bit deeper, I’ve asked many crew members, “Who is the person you talk with about an idea or when you have a problem?” Sadly, a frequent response is, “I keep it to myself. No one takes the time to listen or ever does anything about it anyway. All they care about is finishing the project on time and on budget.”

But when discussing project issues later, upper management is frustrated that their foreman didn’t tell them about the problems or ideas. Instead, the foreman just puts his or her head down and makes it happen. Both examples of lack of communication result in possible rework, uninspired people, unhappy customers and loss of job satisfaction.

To support your new vision, set up communication channels, rules, frequency and content. Assign each person a direct report and reinforce that he or she only reports to that person. The direct reports will now learn about everything going on. In turn, it won’t be second-guessed by their boss because someone on a break called him or her instead of them. Once people “in charge” experience feeling knowledgeable and in control, they’ll step up and start taking responsibility. They will also be proud of what they do. Team pride and community will blossom.

Next, meet with those who report to you and set up communication expectations.

Example 1

A foreman must hold a meeting at the start of each shift and assign crew members a specific area/task to work on and a goal for them to meet. At lunch, the foreman must communicate with all crew members to find out how they’re doing on meeting their goals. Find out if there are any issues and, if so, what you can do to resolve them. Address problems right then, not at the end of the shift. Done daily, this can have a large overall impact on productivity and quality.

As important or possibly more, when crew members are exceeding their goals, praise them and find out what made it go so well. Credit them and use that idea to help other team members. Let the team benefit and learn from this success! Cele­brate the successes, acknowledge great work and more great work will follow.

Example 2

Each day within 30 minutes of arrival, the foreman must call the boss and let him or her know the game plan for that shift. This includes discussing production goals, issues, personnel problems and job site problems. The foreman also must have a completion meeting each day and learn who accomplished what. They must also ask what the team needs for their next shift.

Afterward, the foreman must call the boss and report what happened that day. They will also indicate what support they need to be productive again tomorrow. You shouldn’t displace the crucial daily report with these phone calls. Rather, they’ll enhance understanding and allow for appreciation and creativity and ensure each person will be heard.

Sharpen big picture with small details

So many things in your business can be positively impacted when your business creates a vision statement and uses it to guide its decisions and adopts communication standards.

Understanding polished concrete inside and out gives me both a 50,000-foot view. However, at the same time lets me see the nuances that — when followed — will start a ripple in the water which can eventually create a tidal wave of change.

Most polishing contractors have the “big” items — equipment, chemicals, diamonds and employees — in place. Let’s shift the focus: I’m certain it will amaze you.

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