Taking the vision and values a company develops from the drawing board and into the workplace is easier said than done – but there are some proven strategies for communicating vision and making values stick.
For some business owners, the job of formulating their company’s vision and values is one to be tackled on the very first day: how can you launch a business, it could be argued, without first knowing what drives you?
Whether these are decided on right at the beginning or a little further down the line, the question then becomes one of communication: how to let people – both clients and employees – know about and buy into the DNA of the company.
For Vicky Lopez, co-founder of winter gritting and risk management specialists De-Ice, having a relatively small core team of 12 has made the challenge of communicating vision a little easier than it might be for others.
“Our values have always been about delivering a quality winter resilience service where and when needed, and they haven’t really changed in 20 years, even as our client base and workforce has grown,” she said. “The transition for me and my husband/co-founder Mark is going from working in the business to working on the business, and the vision now is very much focused on building a team that fully understands our values.”
The moral code and goals of the business are explained at the interview stage “and 100 per cent buy-in is expected from candidates,” said Lopez. Once hired, keeping people on-message is helped by the fact that all of the team’s main players are in one place. “It makes it much easier to communicate and be clear on not only what is required today, but our future goals,” said Lopez.
As for how the company’s vision and values are communicated to clients, Lopez feels it happens organically. “We’re committed to enhancing the professional and personal lives of those who work with us,” she said, “and that way they automatically communicate this to clients – who then feel their commitment and passion for the service we are providing. You have to believe – nothing works without belief.”
Having a more dispersed team – as is the case with The Marketing Centre, which offers flexible access to part-time marketing directors – could make things more difficult, but co-founder Clare Methven believes there are ways around this.
“The first communication anyone gets when they apply to join our team has our values on it – it’s a Q&A sheet that goes out to any enquiry about joining,” said Methven. “That sets the scene. We then reinforce that at the induction, and our vision and values are also in our brand book which everyone gets a copy of and which really solidifies what we do and what we stand for.”
Methven feels this means that everyone joins with a very good understanding of the company’s vision and values, but admitted they’re not emblazoned anywhere else or widely shouted about. “So it’s then about how you start making them real for people,” she added. “We don’t have a head office: everybody works remotely in clients’ offices – that’s the business model – and there’s a danger that left unattended, people will start to go native, as it were, and start inventing their own reality of what they think they heard.”
However, this doesn’t happen – thanks, Methven thinks, to the way the business was set up around a regional team structure, so that nobody is left isolated. Regional directors, Methven asserted, help to reinforce the vision and values. “Also, it almost becomes self-policing,” she explained. “If your values are really working hard for you, people who don’t adhere to them stand out like a sore thumb.”
On top of this, there are also touch-points like team meetings and conferences that take place twice a year where everyone in the business gets together.
“The values and the vision are reinforced there,” said Methven. On a day-to-day level the company has some very active WhatsApp groups – used by the whole team. These serve as daily, subtle reminders of what the business stands for. “It’s not massively sophisticated, but it seems to really work,” she commented.
Communicating vision and values to clients, she admitted, is a different story. “We just don’t,” Methven said. “We would if someone asked, but we don’t labour it. I do think, though, that it’s almost a trickle-down approach. A lot of the businesses we work with would probably have intuitively picked up on what our vision and values are.”
For the record, The Marketing Centre was actually built on its values. “They are ‘transparency’, ‘energy’ and ‘teamwork,'” said Methven, “and we felt so strongly about them that we established them before we formulated what the business was going to be.”
Geoff Oldham, founder of Preston-based business Suresite, has his company’s vision and values on small canvas prints that line the staircase leading to the boardroom – a route that many a client and supplier has walked. “We’ll also often take these to trade shows so people can see what we’re all about,” he said.
But these are just the icing on the cake. Communicating vision and values, said Oldham, starts with a commitment to being open with the team.
“Our vision is to deliver a one-stop shop for corporate card services and also outstanding health and safety training and related services,” he explained, “and our values include quality, value, trust, pride and keeping people involved. Transparency is a key part of how we operate.”
This, he said, begins with the way the whole office is set up: neither Oldham – the chairman – nor any of the other directors have offices, sitting instead within an open-plan office. “We’re very approachable and very, very open in the way we pass on information,” he said.
“During our induction process every new person will spend a day with the head of different departments so they know how the business works. We have a weekly briefing meeting where we have a summary of what’s happening in each department and do a presentation twice a year to all of our staff where they are free to ask questions. Alongside that, every three months there’s a one-to-one with the staff, informally, and their manager. Hopefully, people should know what’s going on.”
There is a similar level of commitment that goes into communicating Suresite’s vision and values to clients. “In terms of existing clients, these are passed on by the levels of our service we offer – it’s surprising how much business we get as a direct result of our reputation,” said Oldham. “People phone us rather than we go chasing them.”
New clients, meanwhile, can clearly see Suresite’s code and principles written in black and white on the company website. And if they’re ever invited up to the boardroom, Suresite’s vision and values are quite literally a work of art.
Have a look at our helpful business practices related to vision and values. They serve as succinct introductions to strategies such as engaging staff in the values of a company and regularly reviewing them.