AM Online

The Big Picture: 'The power of vision'

"Does your company have a vision? Most do, although few of their employees, when asked, know what that vision (or business objective) is. Many head offices have the company vision written on the wall; some dealerships also have plaques with the mission statement on: but it's not enough to have them framed – staff need to, first, be aware of them and, second, be committed to them.

So, does a vision make a difference, or is it just pointless management-speak? There's a fish seller in America – Seattle-based Pike Place Fish – which, a few years ago, was suffering from slumping sales and unhappy staff. Teetering on the brink of bankruptcy the owner underwent a management training course. He came away with a vision for the business: to become world famous.

Staff were infused with this vision and regular team meetings created a strategy to meet the goal: it included, believe it or not, more interaction with the fish. Sold portions are flung across the counter to be deftly caught by staff; customers are encouraged to have photos taken with the more unusual catches – and everyone does it with a whoop and a smile on their face. It's about energy, entertainment and special attention for customers.

It's a bit cheesy, I know, but it works – people come from across the world to visit the place. Staff turnover does not exist and profits have gone crazy.

So, yes, having a vision can make a difference, but only if your staff commit to it; the management must 'be it' and everyone on the team must 'coach it' – by encouraging each other to achieve the business objectives.

The benefit in having staff commit to the vision is multiplied for national groups. During the AM Awards judging last year, assessors Carter & Carter found that many plc head office values and vision did not filter down to their retail outlets, some of which were hundreds of miles apart. Mystery shopping found flaws and inconsistencies in the way business was conducted – but not at Large Retail Group winner Reg Vardy. It's head office values – “strive for excellence”, manifested in ensuring performance improves day to day, year to year – were clearly epitomised at each dealership assessed, helped, it must be said, by a committed regional management structure.

Getting buy-in spreads the responsibility for coaching these values to staff. Result – everyone is aware of, and is driving towards, the business objectives.

Think about where you want to be with your business; and develop a strategy to take you to there. Get buy-in from staff and be relentless in pushing towards your goal. And AM's vision? That's to be the most influential and valued media brand in the automotive industry."

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