When a small business experiences difficulty, owners, business consultants, and advisors usually have a readymade list of culprits to point at: lagging sales, rising expenses, employee challenges, and technology problems. These are usually the top five and you can add customer relations into the mix whenever you want.
However, after more than 20 years of helping business owners succeed, and after some recent intense training by the Organization for Entrepreneurial Development, I believe there is another culprit that may be the cause of all the above listed symptoms: poor communications.
The acronym CRISP will help us examine this problem.
C stands for clarity and consistency. We all know from children’s gossip games how a message can become degraded over time and distance. This is a natural occurrence. As a business owner, we have to have a very strong vision of what we want to accomplish in our business. That vision fuels our passion and in turn gives energy and excitement to our employees. If there is any confusion at all in the vision you pass along to your employees, they will not make decisions on your behalf in a timely, efficient manner. And many of the decisions they do make will not be in the best interests of the company.
Your vision statement has to be clear enough to help generate a company mission statement, and strong enough to generate goals and objectives (which in turn lead to policy, procedure, and job descriptions). This is the consistency part. Nothing confuses people, or ties up resources like an inconsistent message. Stay true to your vision throughout your entire company.
R stands for relevance. Don’t get me wrong, the people that work for you do care; they care about their jobs, they care about their paychecks, they care about their co workers. But do they care about whether or not the rude customer who just walked out at the end of their shift got three too few French fries on their plate? One of your challenges as a business owner is to make your vision relevant to your employees. To do this, your vision has to be imbued with passion and tied to emotions your employees can relate to. It has to have an element of responsibility to both your customers and your employees. In short, it has to have qualities that they can identify with and believe in.
I stands for interpretation. This is often taken for granted. If a vision statement is clear, concise and relevant, then it will be interpreted correctly, right? Unfortunately this is not always the case. Interpretation can depend a great deal on an individual’s background, immediate circumstances, cultural differences, mood, education and more. It can be influenced by peer groups, social spin and the actions that follow the words. The only way to really determine how your vision is being interpreted is to do a company ‘walk about’ and take samples of how your vision is being portrayed amongst your employees. Unfortunately, as the business owner, in most cases you are the wrong person to do this. Your very presence will change the way the employees are acting, even if subtly. And your own interpretation of the results may be faulty. As the business owner, you might strongly consider hiring a competent third party to do this type of research for you.
S stands for style. How is your message conveyed? When you speak to people about your vision or your mission, do you sound more like Lincoln or Hitler? Do you use communication methods that empower one type of person and alienate another? We all communicate according to our personality style and unfortunately, our co-workers and employees have their own styles of listening and communicating. In the corporate world, more problems and miscommunications have happened because of conflicting personality styles than for any other reason. Knowing the personality and communication style of your audience is a key to getting an accurate message out. As this fact becomes more evident in the corporate world, many companies are turning to some type of personality and communication testing to help revamp the way they communicate within the building walls and between offices. One great resource for helping do this is: www.TheCoachAcademy.org combined with an OED certified advisor to help you interpret your results.
P stands for penetration. How powerfully has your vision penetrated into your company’s daily culture? Is it on a plaque on the wall that hasn’t been dusted in five years? Is the spirit of it shown on company letterhead and in email signatures? Is it on your business cards, plastered on your phones, talked about at company functions? Do your employees quote parts of it in their Google plus chats? Do they use it as a decision making tool? Is it a basis for performance reviews? Is it a measuring stick for company effectiveness?
We all experience difficulties in running our businesses. For the more optimistic (or less jaded) of us, we term those difficulties ‘challenges’. I fundamentally disagree with this habit. A difficulty is something going wrong in a business that has to be fixed. A challenge is reaching an objective or goal that is consistent with the company vision. In either case, to be a more passionate, profitable, effective and fun business, make sure your vision statement is CRISP.
Dave Kaster has been a financial and business consultant for more than two decades. He is a Chartered Financial Consultant and Certified OED Advisor. His firm, Fidelis, LLC is located in Green Bay, WI