As the CEO of StringCan one of my main goals is to ensure we have the right people in the right seat on the bus. If you are not familiar with that business philosophy from Jim Collins book "Good To Great" I strongly recommend you give it a read or at least listen to this short audio clip where he explains the concept. I love how simple but powerful it is because I often have felt in our insanely fast moving Interactive marketing space that if our organization does not have the right people doing the right things we are going to fail. And to me that is not an option. I care too much about my family, my team members and our clients who need our help navigating this digital space.
Since our launch in 2010 I have taken the annual planning process upon myself to determine our company goals, organizational changes and opportunities to improve how we generate results for our clients. With hard work, long hours and amazing trust from my beyond awesome team we have had year over year exciting growth in exceeding each of our goals. However, not including all my team members in the annual planning process just does not sit right with me.
For 2013 I wanted a banner year for StringCan and now that our organization was stable enough and had the right people in the right seats it was time to involve all team members in crafting our annual plan. A team that works smarter not harder. One that naturally loves what we do. One that has an amazing culture that bounces back fast when things go the wrong way (which it will). One that understands the value of balance between work vs. personal life. A company that we each would be proud to say we were part of.
To kick off the planning process we held an all day company retreat where we closed down the office and those team members that were available met offsite in a beautiful board room in DC Ranch Country Club. I recommend for smaller organizations that all team members attend this process but if your organization is larger (e.g. 20+ employees) it might be more effective to have the key management team only attend. Regardless who you decide should attend, I strongly recommend meeting outside the office away from distractions as it proved to be very effective for my team. At the end of the day we celebrated the day with champagne and food at a local favorite restaurant Armitage Bistro.
About 2 months prior to the company retreat I met with each team member to review individual goals, their role, responsibilities, and process issues. My goal here was to create a S.W.O.T. (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) assessment on our company and on each team member. Contrary to a typical SWOT analysis process to determine how to work on weaknesses I instead focus on the strengths. I have found that it is not effective trying to improve weaknesses but instead to identify partners and other ways to address those opportunities and instead leverage strengths. Strengths not only with each individual team member but our company as well.
Typical of other entrepreneurs I have met over my career I have found myself often reacting to daily business needs versus focusing each and every day on the right priorities. I am definitely a roll up my sleeves and jump into the trenches kind of leader and this can often add to my already full plate of work to accomplish. There are days where I feel like a pinball bouncing around and I knew there had to be a better and less painful way. Focus has not naturally been one of my strengths, so this year I decided to get some help and rely on an amazing business coach to hold me accountable.
This has been a therapeutic process working with the very talented Vanessa Shaw. One of the best takeaways from her is what we call chunking the goals. Instead of crafting out an annual plan that gets reviewed maybe 1 time a year we break down our goals into shorter and more realistic 30, 60 and 90 day goals. These goals do map out to the overall annual plan but a clear path on how to get there is now visible. Our team even took this further and now are chunking our 30 day goals into weekly and daily goals that every Monday we are sharing our accomplishments from prior week, where we need support on those goals we did not and then our plan for the coming week.
About 2 weeks prior to our retreat I asked each team member to accomplish 3 goals to get them ready for a productive day:
- Read Five Disfunctions of a Team - addresses why teams, even the best ones, often struggle. The author outlines a powerful model and actionable steps that can be used to overcome common hurdles and build a cohesive, effective team.
- Take an online MindScan Assessment - goal was to help each team member understand how they think and to share with each team member how we could work better together. Vanessa than presented details to each team member and we went through a great process talking through how to work better together.
- Create a 2 Year Vision Board - this was extremely fun and insightful. I provided each team member with very little direction. They were each given a 20" x 30" foam board and asked to create their vision of StringCan in 2 years. We selected 2 years so it asked them to stretch a little but still be realistic of what we needed to accomplish in 2013 to learn from and complete in 2014 to hit their vision board ideas. Somewhat hard to see below the creativity and presentation from each team member blew both Vanessa and myself away.
Over the 2 months prior to the retreat I invested a lot of my time crafting a presentation for my team members. I felt it was important to share with the team a reminder why we created StringCan, where we have had amazing success, where we have had issues, our financials, questions I did not have answers to and my vision for 2013. The team appreciated my openness and honesty and it set the stage for a very trusting and productive day.
With Vanessa facilitating the day so I could be part of the process, we spent the day talking about our strengths, 2013 goals and we all got on the same page exactly what our focus was going to be for 2013. A few topics came up that generated some healthy conflict but we got through it together. We ended up agreeing that our primary goal for 2013 is to be the authority in Arizona for small to medium size businesses that value strategic digital marketing consulting. That's it - plan and simple! Once that was decided we then narrowed down our goals to 6 key areas:
- Leave 5% or less on the table - often in our busy world opportunities fall through the cracks either with our team, clients and or partners.
- Our Brand - there are over 800 agencies in Arizona and differentiating ourselves is not an easy task. Understanding what makes us special and the value we provide helped us craft our story, goals for a new website, etc.
- Consistency - as fast as things are moving in our industry being consistent with our processes, how we define our services and client deliverables has been a challenge and one we are going to improve in 2013.
- Team Traditions - this was a BIG one for our team. We have built an amazing culture and as fast as we are growing many team members had concerns about losing our culture and traditions.
- Motivation / Incentives - after many years of mentoring team members and recently watching The Surprising Truth What Motivates Us I knew that just throwing money at my team would only be a band-aid and not create the company I wanted to be part of. We had to be motivated by more than just cash but understanding that each of us have personal financial goals was important too.
- Validation - as my team knows one of my biggest pet peeves in the marketing space is the insane amount of energy invested in "winning" awards. I understand that unfortunately this is a necessary evil to increase brand awareness and credibility. We spent time talking about what kind of validation / awards we desire that would not make my skin crawl.
Divide and Conquer
After we had our 6 focus areas agreed upon we needed to chunk down our tasks to accomplish over the next 90 days. As shown below, each team member was given a pad of sticky notes and we spent about 1 hour at the white board each brainstorming and putting up our ideas. Each team member (excluding myself decided by the team) took ownership over each goal to organize the tasks into 30, 60 and 90 days goals. All the details were captured and has set the stage for our weekly goal discussions.
We had a lot of fun ideas come out of this process such as in our motivation category one of our team members had a FunCan recommendation. With our FunCan it was suggested to fill it with small fun prizes such as headphones, portable speakers, etc. and one of our team members will create fun contests such as the team member that grows X client Pinterest followers the most this week gets to visit the FunCan. The FunCan was decorated by my daughters and is already proving to be a great idea.
Another great idea that came out of the planning retreat was to celebrate our successes. Last year we earned 21 new clients and realized that we did not take some time to celebrate that with our team and or the client. Recently we started working with a new client and definitely celebrated that as you can see in this Facebook post. We also decided that rather than wait till end of the year to celebrate the holidays we are going to have each team member responsible for a quarterly celebration.
All Team Members Focused On The Same Goals :: Priceless
I am beyond excited to see what 2013 has in store for our team. Mainly because it all seems so realistic now. In prior years I have felt like a ship captain navigating our way through an often rocky ocean. Now that we have our goals clearly outlined that each and every team member has agreed to we are definitely all on the right bus, in the right seat and all doing the right things TOGETHER. Definitely priceless! And less painful.
Would love to hear any of your thoughts in the comments below. What do you do with your team and or yourself in planning your business goals?
Featured Photo, Phoenix. StringCan Interactive. 2013.