Defining core values helps mold company direction

A few years ago we took a long, hard look at our company and knew that we could no longer operate as a small entrepreneurial business; we needed to grow and put clear systems in place, and needed a road map to take us to the next level. We were tired of hiring the wrong people and wasting our time trying to get them to perform. We had been beaten down with no clear measurements in place, and our vision was starting to waver.

We decided to hire a business coach, Bill Wagner, who introduced us to the book and business operating system Traction by Gino Wickman.

This operating system has transformed our business and brought clarity and a sense of purpose back to our livelihood. It has given us clear goals and measurements, which has led to renewed passion and strength that we believe is going to move our business by leaps and bounds in the upcoming years.

Gaining Traction

I’d like to share a few highlights from the book and program, especially if you’re looking for new ways to grow your business.

We started with an offsite retreat that included our department heads. We thoughtfully selected Napa Valley’s Solage Calistoga resort and spa, which was a perfect setting to sequester ourselves, gain inspiration and focus on where we wanted to go and what we wanted our business to be in the next five, 10 and 20 years.

We started by coming up with the core values of our company. This was a very interesting process where we all put the names of staff members on the board and then narrowed them down to one by each voting for our favorite. Then we discussed which qualities about this team player stood out. Once again we voted and wrote those key traits on the board. Then we went around and checked the ones that we felt were the most important, and the top five became our company values.

These core values are what we now use to measure everything, including hiring, performance and company progress. They have become the words that we say out loud, and if the idea we are mulling doesn’t match our core values, then it’s not right for our company. As Wickman writes, “Successful business owners not only have compelling visions for their organizations, but also know how to communicate those visions to the people around them.”

Our core values are:

Customer centric
Company before self

Once our vision became clear, we proceeded to the next step: the people component. As it’s always said, we must have the right people on our bus to get us to where we want to go the fastest, and they must share our vision and work ethic. We found we can have the right person in the wrong seat or the wrong person in the right seat. We learned how to analyze people better and institute a three-strike rule implementing strong accountability.

Every successful company must have a visionary and an implementer, and we set about putting the right people in these roles and empowering them to do what they do best. This has helped us streamline our roles and make us all more effective.

Data-Based Accountability

These days everything is becoming data driven and we understand that we must be able to use our data to create accountability. Thus, we created a scorecard for every department to use as a measuring tool. This gives us a pulse and ability to predict our business, making us more agile and quick to respond.

This also led to an issues and process component that determined the structure of our weekly manager meetings and gave us all an ability to be transparent about challenges each department faces. We then put our heads together to solve them as a company. This has created much more synergy between departments and allowed us to tap into fresh ideas from each team—and that is where we get the most traction!

We have been using this system for almost a year and it is just beginning to move us by leaps and bounds. Our coach told us that this will be a long process, and once we hit our stride, our company will be in a place that is unstoppable. It has been exciting to see the changes we are implementing and exciting to collaborate with many great minds here at Smart Meetings.

If you are looking for a way to increase the quantity and quality of your business, Traction may be the ticket for you, too.

marin-bright-ico-1Marin Bright is CEO and founder of Bright Business Media, LLC, which publishes Smart Meetings magazine. She was honored in June during Folio’s Top Women in Media Awards as a corporate visionary. Her monthly leadership column appears online and in print.