A core purpose Featured

7:00pm EDT December 26, 2008

Jason Levin says that to be successful in business, you first have to figure out what your purpose is. Working in the flower business he founded as Gringo Ventures LLC — which does business as Dos Gringos — Levin says that his purpose is to sell products that make a difference in the lives of his customers.

Understanding your purpose can help you create a vision and mission that your employees can achieve.

“The vision gives your team something to strive for,” he says of his 150-employee, $20 million company. “Ideas are cheap; it’s teams that win. So when the whole team is working together toward that vision, great things can happen.”

Smart Business spoke with the president and owner of Dos Gringos about how to create a successful vision and mission that give your employees something to work toward.

Q. How do you create a vision?

Your vision is what you see for the company down the road. You get the team involved in the whole process. And from there, it’s making sure that everyone is making decisions consistent with that every day. That’s where the importance of the mission comes in — is what we’re doing right now getting us closer to the mission, is it consistent with our mission?

It stems from the core culture that you have — open-door policy and making sure that you’re open to ideas from everyone. It drills down from me with my leadership team to the management team to all the way through having an open-door policy.

At one point, we had a mission that was four paragraphs long. We realized there’s no way that we can get all of us to know a four-paragraph mission, so we needed to narrow it down to what’s that key thing that we do.

It doesn’t have to be big and formal, it’s just one sentence ... and narrowing it down and getting everybody’s idea for what do we do to make this world a better place.

Q. How do you narrow your mission statement?

What do you do that makes the world a better place was how we approached it. It’s just that one or two sentences that are key to driving your business forward that you can lean to when you have to make difficult decisions — what is it, and to ask that question over and over again.

If this was our mission and we were faced with this difficult situation, could we go back to our mission and ask ourselves, ‘Is this consistent?’

Q. How do you create an open culture?

If you want an open culture, you have to be open yourself. This means communicating relentlessly with your company.

I start my day by walking through the plant entrance ... and saying good morning to all of my teammates. If you want to find out what’s happening at your company, go to the front line and just listen. The more you listen and follow up with action items, the more open your team becomes to communicating ideas with you on how to make the organization better.

You always want to be sharing. For me, it could be a quick e-mail to the entire staff, it could be just out on the sales or plant floors talking to people. There are lots of ways, but I’m rarely sitting behind my desk, I’m always out communicating, talking and finding out what’s going on in each department, and just keeping the team informed.

It’s the personal connection. You’re learning about them as an individual and key things that are going on with them that help you connect. As I’m walking around or communicating, I’m trying to see, are there any roadblocks getting in the team’s way, and what can I do to eliminate those for them?

Q. How do you encourage teamwork so that employees are working toward the vision and mission?

You’ve got to have great people ... and then it’s making sure someone’s doing what it is that they do best. Then always communicate to them what’s going on in each department so that they can feel the momentum.

We look for solid character and a history of success in life at some point. ... It could be from having raised great children to captains of their college sports teams to loyalty to past companies. I always say the coach of the San Diego Chargers doesn’t hire a field goal kicker without watching them kick field goals under pressure situations time and time again. So you’re looking for something in the past that is a leading indicator to what type of person they’re going to be for you on the team. You’re looking for examples and verification of that example.

You either hire smart or manage tough, and it’s far too time-consuming to manage tough. The benefit is you don’t have to manage tough, yet if you hire smart, you can give people rope, let them flourish, support them and spend time leading the team without having to be a tough manager.

HOW TO REACH: Gringo Ventures LLC dba Dos Gringos, (760) 477-7999 or www.dosgringos.com