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Start with something Featured

8:00pm EDT June 25, 2008
A blank sheet of paper can be transformed into an endless array of possibilities, but Rick Pleczko has found that starting with a clean slate is not the most effective way to flesh out a corporate vision.

“Most people are infinitely more productive when they are critics than when they are creatives,” Pleczko says. “If you give them some rough ideas, they can tell you what’s good and bad about them and give you some alternatives very quickly.”

By always seeking to engage his employees in his efforts to grow BBS Technologies Inc., the president and CEO oversees a culture in which everyone feels part of the team. By getting all of his 150 employees involved, Pleczko has led the computer infrastructure service provider to $17 million in revenue for 2007.

Smart Business spoke with Pleczko about how to take a vision from the drawing board to reality.

Q. How do you get your vision straight in your own head?

The first time you’ll write a lot of stuff and you’ll think about it. Then what you need to do is sleep on it. You might have two or three sessions on this before you come out nodding your head. You can use an outside facilitator to help you.

The team we have here are very forthcoming with ideas and opinionated. If you don’t have that team, it helps to have a facilitator that will draw that out of you.

People talk to each other extremely freely in the company. There isn’t a hierarchy or chain of command, per se. I have product managers and engineers walk into my office and chat with me about things, and vice versa.

I wander down there if I have an idea that might be cool and validate it with them. People are used to a process where we communicate what needs to happen. We have quarterly kickoff meetings where we review what happened last quarter and recap what we need to do next quarter.

Q. Where do you start in formalizing your vision?

Clarity of vision and purpose is important. Every year, when we go through our annual planning, we basically set out our overall business goals — this is what we want to achieve in terms of revenue growth and profitability growth.

Then we sit down and say, ‘If we’re going to achieve that, what are the top seven initiatives that we have to roll out for the company?’

We look at our whole business and say, ‘In order to meet those targets, we need to do these seven things very well. What are the objectives that we have to achieve with that initiative? What are the tactics that we have to do for that initiative?’

Each of those objectives is a tangible goal that can be measured. We put together a presentation that outlines the overall strategy of the company and gives context to these seven initiatives.

Q. How do you share the vision with your people?

We do that in a series of fireside chats. We have 150 people in the company. I and my CFO break it up into about 12 different groups by sales teams, by engineering teams, etc. Over a period of three days, you do a 60- to 90-minute fireside chat with these smaller groups where you basically articulate, ‘Here is the vision, here is the overall strategy, and here are the objectives and tactics we want to get to.’

Those smaller meetings are absolutely essential to the process. You get a lot of communication, feedback and buyin. In a larger audience, if we got all of our company together and I presented it, I would just be presenting.

We wouldn’t be iterating and discussing and refining and getting a lot of people on board with it. We have a company kickoff meeting after that. It’s the old, ‘Tell people what you’re going to tell them, tell them and then tell them what you told them.’

Q. What’s the key to getting buy-in?

Put yourself in their shoes. The three most important things in a real estate transaction are location, location and location. In effecting a change or communicating a new idea, it’s, ‘What does it mean to me, what does it mean to me and what does it mean to me?’

What you have to do is put yourself in the position of the person you are communicating to and think, ‘If I say this, what does it mean to them?’

Q. How do you respond to criticism?

We just validate it, whether it’s right or wrong. If we believe the concern is valid, we refine the idea. Rule No. 1 is to leave your ego on the table. It’s the idea that matters and not the ego.

I don’t have to have the right answers. I just have to make sure that the right answers are implemented. I don’t care where they come from or how they come, what I care about is that they exist.

Getting the right answers is more important than having all of the right answers.

HOW TO REACH: BBS Technologies Inc., (713) 862-5250 or www.bbstek.com