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Bill Blades, CMC, CPS
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Vision: Help Your Organization See It

by William Blades, CMC, CPS

        Many people regard the oak tree as one of the strongest. Actually, the oak tree began as a little nut that would not go away. As business people, we need to take a lesson from the oak tree and be a little "nuts" ourselves in order to grow. Being "nuts" means that we must be willing "to go out there" once in a while. Why? Because very few organizational leaders have the vision to do so, which causes their teams to become boring and stale. Such a lack of vision is what ruins many companies.

        Instilling vision in your group starts with the mind. After all, if you don't use it, you lose it. Stretch the way your people think and their minds will not go back to their original dimensions. If you don't stretch it, you'll wind up with premature dementia and the "death" of many managers and salespeople.

        Consider the following vision questions:

What new value-added service will you add that no one else in your industry dispenses?

What personal services are your salespeople delivering, in a customized manner, to each major client?

As the CEO or sales chief, are you too caught up in the day-to-day routine of mundane administration, or are you leading a group of professional change agents?

Do you teach and then expect enhanced creativity from every manager and salesperson?

Are you flooded with resumes from top sales professionals because of your reputation for creativity, leadership, and fun?

Do your employees and prospective employees fully understand your vision?

There is only one correct answer for each of the questions above, and "I don't know" is not an answer. In general, only one to two sales groups out of every hundred truly have a belief in greatness. They can clearly answer the six questions above. The other 98 - 99 organizations only have a casual interest in greatness. Their thoughts and actions simply do not overlap.

        All business leaders must take time to think - even daydream. If not, you may not see the opportunities that are too good to resist. Why daydream? Because what you see will be determined by what your are seeking. Daydream what your management/sales groups and revenues will look like in one, two, and three years. You won't hit the big picture if it is not clearly in sight.

        As you set forth with your vision, consider how you can improve some critical areas, including:


All company CEOs must be strong-willed. One person with a belief in greatness equals 99 who only have an interest in it.

        In order to see the vision through, the CEO's initial mission is to obtain the right people and remove/reassign the wrong people. So, it's not a matter of what the CEO is going to do; it's a matter of who the CEO is going to get to do it. After all, a great vision without great people is irrelevant.  

        The CEO can delegate and empower the right people the absolutes they must accomplish. This removes the big list of "maybes" that are uttered daily in many businesses. CEOs must effectively communicate their vision throughout the organization and expect (and demand) buy-in. When the CEO's expectations are high, he or she builds trust and respect. As a result, the people follow the CEO's lead.

The V.P. Team  

The CEO must have the best group of V.P.s to see the vision through. If any individual in this group does not have the respect and trust of his or her people, the CEO must act. Why? You can't be the best at what you do without great V.P.s. And you will never have the best sales team without a great V.P. of Sales. The CEO must have the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of the company's current reality and know how to change that reality for the better.

        At times, the CEO may need the assistance of an outside coach to facilitate a V.P.'s understanding of what he/she must do better. Often, people simply don't know what they don't know yet. That is not a crime, because they usually got the promotion without the prior education of how to be a great V.P. Instead, they got a desk with the usual instructions to "go get after it." Without the necessary training investment to provide them with needed knowledge, your V.P.s will never accomplish physical speed or the ability to execute faster than your competition. Eliminate the gap that exists between "what" and "how."  

        You need leaders - not managers - in the V.P. role. Many V.P.s have ingrained habits that are unhealthy to the team and to your results. Are your V.P.s scoring a 10 with vision, discipline, communication, greatness, and results? The true enemy is always the ordinary. Attack the enemy.


Most firms have a culture (of whatever) and some have discipline, but very few

have a culture of discipline.

        Discipline means you develop a list of things you will stop doing (e.g.: being the low-ball vendor) before you develop a list of things to do. Hiring and educating well-disciplined people who do not have to be managed frees you to stay focused on the big picture.

        You need people who will go to extreme measures to get things done right and fast. You need people who will pay attention to their part of the business. And, you need people who have a passion for self-improvement. It's that simple - and that challenging. Hard work has a future pay off, while laziness pays off now.

        Ask yourself: For your vision to become a reality, does your group look like it should? What will it look like in two years? In three years?

Don't be lazy in designing your future.

Self Improvement

Benchmark against the best in your industry and decide you will be better than the

best. Then, invest in the training and education necessary to accomplish the task. The biggest obstacle for your sales improvements will be to stop your managers and salespeople from teaching and acting on Sales 101. That teaching mode is five decades old. It's time for Sales 501.

        A study conducted by Proudfoot Consulting revealed the following:

Of 225 (85% of capacity) work days in the U.S., 137 were "productive work days" while 88 were "wasted work days."

Causes of lost productivity were:

37% - insufficient planning and control.

28% - inadequate management.

15% - poor working morale.

 8% - IT-related problems.

 8% - ineffective communication

 4% - other.

        The results show that leaders need to focus on proactive management, delegation, processes, achievements, and communication both internally and externally. "U.S. productivity levels will rise dramatically if steps are taken to improve the management and supervisory roles, ensuring that managers tackle problems before they occur, spend their time on "managerial" activity rather than administrative and manual tasks, and communicate effectively to employees." (Source: Consulting, February 2002)

        As we have heard many times before, it starts at the top. We can only regain productivity when the top level of the organization becomes more effective. The fact is that the average sales person in North America loses 3½ hours daily due to a variety of issues. They might look busy, but are they productive? Working on the right things will help their new-found knowledge work more effectively. Do the right things and then teach your team to do the same.

Innovation and Creativity

Organizations fail when they do not manage effectively - and when they don't innovate. Fall in love with innovation, not just with products, but with the ways you think, act, and do. The last frontier, other than searching further into outer space, is the human brain. So to be super successful, we must think until it hurts. And that's our challenge, because most people get in the habit of just doing and not thinking. With that posture comes same-o, same-o, and in many cases same-o energy and same-o results.

        To ramp up sales, an organization needs to be famous for something - and then something else. Salespeople also need to be famous for something - and then something else. If not, you are in the proverbial box. Fortunately, you can teach creativity. That's a good thing, as studies prove that only one out of one hundred people are creative. Start hiring creative, even eccentric people. Then, challenge these people to help bring new-found sparks to complement your vision.

        What is creativity? It's linking two seemingly unrelated things. It's seeing an empty, transparent flower vase in a potential client's lobby.  Fill it with exotic fish and decorations. And it comes with a year's supply of fish food - with your private label on it, of course. (At least tape your business card to the food container.)

        Expose your people to creative and inspirational people. Get them to read more business books and novels (and even poetry). Encourage them to enjoy art and music that can't be found at Joe's Bar & Fun Joint. In a recent Businessweek article written by Robert Barker, the recently retired CEO and Chairman of Honeywell International, Inc., Lawrence Bossidy, said, "You've got to promote people who want to be creative and innovate. Drones don't have good ideas." He further says that we should resist the tyranny of the drones.

        Is creativity in your organization? Ask yourself: What did each member of my  management team do last week that they had not done before? How about the salespeople?

The bottom line is that you must recruit, select, train, and motivate better than anyone else. This is one rule you cannot break, as your successors will come from this commitment. And remember to look for - and teach - creativity. Being boring is out, if it was ever in. Even accountants can be creative. They could add this note to past due notices: "We've done more for you than your own mother. We've carried you 10 months."

Know Your Business

Rule number one is to keep it simple. Make it challenging and fun internally, and

valuable and fun externally. Don't stray from your vision or your values.

        Work smarter, not cheaper. Improve sales and profits through innovation and creativity. It's called "delivering joy and value." What are you doing to own the marketplace and at greater margins than all or most of your competitors? If you are caught in price wars, the value your team is bringing is woefully weak at best.

        Focus on value. Realize that this doesn't mean just shipping on time. You're supposed to do that. What is the value you bring that no one else does? While it may not be easy to figure out, it is doable 100% of the time. So if one of your salespeople says your 2x4 piece of lumber is "just a commodity item," hit him on the backside with it. Ask your salespeople what they have done for their clients to bring joy and value to the transaction.

        Are your salespeople targeting the right clients? Are they (and you) building loyalty? Are they making the same "pitch" at other places? Great leadership and education will keep everyone focused on the right things and right clients.. with the right margins.

Find Your Vision Today

        Finding your company's vision is a lot like an old water pump. You have to put a little water in it and then pump it. For a little while, nothing comes out. Then a little comes out.and then a lot.

        You cannot look for one single defining moment or action, not one single innovation, not one lucky break. Finding and maintaining your vision is a process like the pump. What you put in will determine what comes out. Prime and pump it every day.

        Much of your vision starts with surrounding yourself with people who have vision. The right people will help you with strategy and tactics so you can put the vision in place and see it through. Great vision from the CEO, without great people, is just another visionary thing.

        Vision - The good news is that many competitors just don't see it.

Bill Blades, CMC, CPS, is a professional speaker and consultant specializing in sales and leadership issues. He is based in Scottsdale, Arizona. He can be reached at (480) 563-5355; fax: (480)563-0515. E-mail: bill@williamblades.com

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