As the best of mentors will tell you…”you can’t succeed and continue to grow without experiencing failure.” This post is both an account of success and the lessons that I learned along the way while using the vision statement to build my eCommerce company.
Taking the Vision Statement for a Roller Coaster Ride
The vision statement is a powerful tool that I toyed with while running Portlight. Utilizing the vision statement led to an amazing team of individuals all focused on the same outcome, but it also gave me scars that I didn’t expect when I initially built it.
When I assumed the CEO role at Portlight in early 2014, I was determined to fully embody my new role and expand upon the culture that we had started to build at the company. We had just closed 2013 with $4.9 million in revenue and we were preparing to hire more full time team members to join us in our new 1,200 square foot office.
Morale was high and we were all excited to see where we could take the company in the next year. After a few weeks of deep thought about the future of the company and my own passions for the business, I wrote and communicated a new vision that provided the team with an overarching purpose to our existence for the following two years.
Today marks the first official work day of 2014. We went through significant growth, innovation, and maturity over the past year and a half. We find ourselves at a place characterized by potential, by determination, by a dream much larger than ourselves. We’ve lost Portlighters along the way and continued to recruit the overachievers. We’re opening our first office where we will create a culture, a family. We will recruit and retain the best and the brightest with unique skill sets to join our team with the promise of the next big company in tech. We will all grow together, look for new ways to redefine e-commerce, and chase the vision that we have set forth for each other. We will function as one. We will find a way to make a positive impact on people around the world. We will disrupt underdeveloped, developing, and developed markets for the betterment of the people, the community, and the economy of the nation. We will challenge ourselves to explore new industries where we can make a positive impact on others and we believe to have potential. We will become a brand synonymous with loyalty, impact, trustworthiness, and adornment. We will, we will, we will.
How I Successfully Used the Vision
While utilizing the vision statement over the following two years, I found great success in areas where I will continue to use it as I build new companies.
1. Recruitment and Hiring
Building the Portlight team became an extremely important part of growing the company in early 2013 as our founding team ran out of time to maintain all of the operations and contribute to growth projects. We had a bucket full of ideas and we knew that we needed to recruit similar-minded individuals who we could trust with the operations of the business.
As we cast our net onto the surrounding Orlando area seeking young, passionate, and ambitious intellectuals with an itch for getting involved in a young company, we began to formulate our strategy for interviewing. As the person responsible for handling the final interview where we spoke with the applicant about their values, long term ambitions, and reason for wanting to join the team, I decided to make the vision of the company a staple in our conversation.
I found that using the vision statement to express the passion that we held for the long term existence of the company inspired top applicants and made them even more interested in becoming someone who could contribute to where we were headed. Through hundreds of interviews, I learned that most ambitious professionals are seeking an opportunity where they are not only enjoying their daily work, but they are also chasing after a vision that they are passionate about.
2. Storytelling while Networking
In early 2014, I was eager to learn more about web development as I saw it as one of the next steps that Portlight would have to take in order to further increase our competitive edge over other Amazon sellers. After a couple of months of research, I began networking with developers in the Orlando area by scheduling coffee meetings where we shared stories and discussed web development.
Through the many coffee conversations that I had, I found that having a vision statement made my ability to network much easier. When I first emailed individuals, I would hint at where Portlight was headed to garner interest in meeting with me. Once I had the meeting, I always concluded my personal story with the vision of Portlight.
Again, I discovered that people outside of the business want to know where the organization is headed to further understand how they can relate to what it is doing today.
3. Motivating and Pushing our Current Team
One of the most important aspects of building a company from the ground up is the team that you are able to assemble and how passionate you are able to make them about the vision of the company.
As we started hiring team members each month in 2014, I began to incorporate weekly team meetings that focused on the vision of the company giving the team a chance to contribute to where we were headed. Throughout the series of meetings, we worked our way through the upcoming five years and worked together to depict the reality of our efforts.
I found that by giving the team the ability to envision who they would become alongside who the organization would become gave them a greater sense of control over their future. This simple sense of ownership produced an increase in motivation and daily ambition because they knew where they were headed.
How I Could Have Better Crafted and Used the Vision
Entrepreneurs learn through failure and I am no stranger to the scars that accompany starting and growing a business. While I had great successes using the vision statement, I also realized that there were areas where I stretched its purpose a bit too far and distracted me from running the company to the best of my ability.
Here are two key lessons that I learned from my experiences.
Make the Vision More Achievable in the Short Term
Keep a greater focus on 1 to 3 years when communicating the vision to the team. Keep the far flung vision for the executive team and only release small glimpses to the team when extra motivation is needed. While it is important to instill key values within the company culture, projecting too much vision of the long term future can distract the team from staying focused on what is happening today.
Stay Focused on What the Company Does Best
Because of my commitment and passion for the ultimate vision, I lost site of what our company did best: sell on Amazon.com. The vision statement distracted me from becoming the best seller on the Amazon Marketplace because I was focused on a reality 20 to 30 years out. That lack of laser focus along with a number of other factors led to the company hitting walls throughout the growth of the business.
Advice for the Vision Statement
A company’s vision statement is an extremely powerful and motivating tool when used in the proper manner. It provides the team with a future to rally around and the Chief Executive Officer with a future to constantly create a strategy for.
Whether you are a business owner, a professional, or a college student getting ready for your first professional experience, take note of the vision statement of a company and ask when it’s not clear. Understanding the vision of a company can let you into the psyche of the executive team and explain where they want to be in the future.
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