Spreading the message Featured

7:00pm EDT January 26, 2009

As important as it is to communicate the vision of your company to your employees, Michael Ferzacca says there’s also information that some employees don’t need or want to hear.

“They need to be aware — as much as practical — they need to be aware of what’s going on,” says the CEO of Ignite Media Solutions LLC. “Not the ins and outs of every day, but the headline results, as we say, they should know.”

Ferzacca keeps his more than 60 employees in the loop by communicating about how the direct response marketing services firm is doing every quarter and what the plan is for next year.

Smart Business spoke with Ferzacca about how communication plays a role in getting buy-in for your vision.

Q. What’s the first step in creating a vision?

It’s an intersection of a few circles that you come up with that vision. For me, at least, it’s as an entrepreneur, you have what your dream is and how you envision the painting looking at the end of the day.

Then you have to realize all the resources that you’re going to need to get that done and what are practical and what are impractical, Then, last is, who are you delivering your company’s product to? Will they buy your vision as you see it?

I can want to sell something to somebody all day long, but if they don’t want to buy it, and it’s my vision, then it’s not going to go anywhere.

Q. What advice would you give another leader about how to create a vision?

A consistent message, passion about what you want to do. Not emotion, passion. Everybody says you have to have fun at your job, but you have to have fun at your job. Because, if you are a start-up, it’s a different answer than if you are leading a $2 billion company.

But, as a start-up, everybody is going to work their tail off a lot of odd hours, and everyone has to be in there together, and you have to be shoulder to shoulder with everybody that’s getting things done. I think that passion and a consistent message is the key.

You can’t go changing your model every other week because something didn’t work.

Q. How do you get buy-in for your vision?

Nothing happens until something gets sold, right? So, the No. 1 sales guy in the company is probably the CEO.

He’s always selling his idea, his process, his vision or her vision to the people that are around him. And you end up with a team of people that believe in you. So, you’ve got to sell the idea before you’ve got to sell the product. People trust you up to that level, and you go from there.

Q. How do you sell the employees on the fact that your company is worth working hard for?

You have to share with them, back to the vision statement of, ‘Here’s how I see it in the long run. Here’s where the short term is.’ (It’s) no different than you buying stock as a consumer.

I’m going to buy company stock, and the reason I’m going to buy that company’s stock is because I look at their (price-earnings) ratio, or I look at what the product is or I look at what their sales proposition is, and I place a bet. That bet is my money spent on that stock is a better bet than any place I’m going to invest in stock.

Well, employees coming on board are really investing in your stock. It’s your job as the owner of the company to make their stock more valuable. So they sit, they listen to the story.

They’ve worked with you in the past, or they like where you’re positioned in the market, and they buy that stock and invest their time. You’ve got X amount of months before they start to say, ‘Hey, this is really starting to appreciate,’ or, ‘You know what, I made an investment and I need to leave because it’s not really showing signs of life.’

The next job is to keep people informed of how the company’s progress is doing. Be straight. ‘Are we growing?’ ‘We grew, we doubled, we tripled. We went up by 10 percent. Your investment is doing well. It does well for you to stay here.’

Q. How do you determine how much information to share with employees?

People tend to do what you pay them to do and not a lot of what you don’t pay them to do. So, you could pay them to wash windows, but if you are expecting them to sweep the floors when you pay them to wash windows, your floors are going to be dirty.

So the same applies, and for me in this role, which is you’ve got a quarterly revenue goal, you’ve got an annual profit goal, you’ve got individual metrics that make both those things go, how are we doing against that?

HOW TO REACH: Ignite Media Solutions LLC, (877) 292-8900 or www.ignitemedia.com