Steering Your VisionDonald HadleyDonald Hadley, Fidelity Financial Group Inc., Communication When I was a child, my grandfather once told me a story about how his father, an engineer who built bridges throughout Indiana, was forced to take a job in California during a particularly severe depression. Consequently, he bought a train ticket and left his family in Indiana, until he could raise enough money to permanently relocate them to the west coast. However, the economy only grew worse, and after about six months, his job in California was terminated. With his last two dollars, my great-grandfather bought two thingsa ticket back to Indiana and a seven-inch ivory statue of Buddha, whose inscription read, The Billikin: God of Things as They Ought to be. When you began your career, you likely had a visiona picture of where you wanted to be, or a picture of things as they ought to have been. As your business grew, your vision probably adjusted, but hopefully, little by little, you made progress towards your original goal, regardless of what it was. No matter what happens, the one common attribute that successful people share is that, along the way, others who had a similar vision offered their help. However, in modern times, the sheer amount of information, coupled with a limited amount of time, often makes it seem as if communication is muddled, leaving the people around you less focused. To rectify this problem, it is critical that you ask yourself the following questions: *Do you know what your vision is? *Is it being clearly communicated? *Is it regularly reinforced, redirected and clarified? *Does your staff understand and share your vision with each other, as well as your customers and suppliers? *Are your compensation packages efficiently motivating your employees directly towards this vision? *Are you differentiating between your business and your competitors, via your vision and compensation package? In order to determine whether you are doing an adequate job of handling the aforementioned issues, you should follow these simple guidelines: *Take a survey of all clients, suppliers and employees, with the intent of learning their opinions and beliefs. *Develop improved communication skills with your employees through regular meetings, employee dinners and payroll stuffers. *Provide your people with tools they can use to communicate your vision with others. *Develop specific, tangible programs for base pay, bonuses and benefits, which will be directly tied to your vision and financial ratios. *Request regular updates from your employees regarding their respective performances and dedication. While these exercises can sometimes become esoteric and wordy, most businesses who discuss these issues will soon develop a better grasp of their vision. It will become a means of steering your ship, so to speak, and as you make adjustments along the way, your performance will inevitably become better managed, discussed and focused. Donald Hadley is president of Fidelity Financial Group Inc. He can be reached by phone at (800) 786-4332 or e-mail [email protected].