When Ken Weber joined Goodwill Industries of Greater Cleveland and East Central Ohio Inc. six years ago, he had to find a way to grow the organization.
“I came into an organization whose growth had become stagnant, and they were stuck at the same point for three or four years,” says the president and CEO, who arrived at the Cleveland Goodwill from one in Wisconsin.
Weber had to create and implement a successful vision for the organization to change and start growing, but it was not a simple process.
“Creating a vision is not a paint-by-the-numbers process that automatically gives you the vision,” he says.
Weber began by doing an honest assessment of where the organization was to determine what it could become in the future. The first step in an assessment is research, and he spent time learning about the local organization and looking at other Goodwill organizations across the country to scout best practices and get a baseline to begin the visioning process.
After assessing your organization, you need to determine whether others agree with your assessment and what the consequences of acting on the vision will be versus doing nothing. Then you need to review all of the information you’ve received and the ideas you’ve come up with, and test the ideas with others to reach an agreement on your assessment.
After reaching an agreement, you need to take that information and begin putting together a vision. Weber worked extensively with his leadership team and board of directors to get input on the new vision, and while ideally you should try to get feedback from everyone, often it’s not possible.
“You have to look at your key audiences and staff because trying to get everyone’s opinion would take forever,” Weber says.
He solicited Goodwill’s key audiences its board and leadership of various departments for feedback, then communicated extensively with other employees regarding the vision.
“We keep it simple and deliver the message often and passionately,” Weber says. “Sometimes, you get so tired of saying the same thing over and over, but it needs to be constant.”
The next step is to take a vision that to some may seem unattainable and break it down into smaller, measurable goals. One of Goodwill’s goals was to become a financially independent, self-supporting nonprofit organization, and Weber set up steps to reach this goal, including having a state-of-the-art facility with good technology, educating the public on what exactly Goodwill does, and growing its number of retail stores.
Once those goals are established and work on them has begun, it’s important to evaluate whether you are achieving them.
“Each year, when we put our budget together, we look at where we said we would be in the next year, the next two years, the next five years, and are we continually taking chunks of those strategic initiatives and integrating them into this year’s budget, next year’s budget, and before you know it, you’ve accomplished your strategic goals,” Weber says.
Since Weber took over, creating a new vision has helped Goodwill nearly triple in size, from 650 individuals served per year in 2002 to 9,000 served today. Achieving its goals has also helped the organization establish its next vision of establishing community campuses in Cleveland and Canton.
“Our vision has kept us focused, and the organization’s energy is directed in a particular direction, which allows us to accomplish so much more in a lot less time,” Weber says. “People know where we are going, and it continues to get more exciting as we get further along the journey.”
Be an involved leader
A vision cannot come to life unless the leader passionately lives it, says Ken Weber of Goodwill Industries of Greater Cleveland and East Central Ohio Inc.
Weber recalls his being the first car in the parking lot in the morning and the last one out at night, and even working on Saturdays during his first year to show how committed he was to the vision.
“It’s those kinds of practical, down-to-earth, nongrandiose things that make a difference,” he says.
Weber says that while doing those things, you need to be consistent and humble and put in the time and effort to make things happen. And if you make a mistake, say so.
“If you make an oops, make sure to say, ‘I think I went down a wrong path here,’” Weber says.
Living the vision also means celebrating successes, something Weber did not do until an employee pointed out how much the organization had accomplished.
“We try to constantly point out all of our successes, and we now do quarterly reports, where we do a ‘how we’re doing, this is what we did, congratulations to this group,’” he says. “In many ways, it’s getting easier and easier, and it’s because we’re taking the time to celebrate these little wins, and those add up into big wins.”
Weber says that living the vision and celebrating successes spreads enthusiasm across the company.
“It’s contagious,” Weber says.
HOW TO REACH: Goodwill Industries of Greater Cleveland and East Central Ohio Inc., (800) 942-3577 or www.goodwillclevecanton.org