Envisioning success Featured

8:00pm EDT October 26, 2007

David Iwinski Jr. starts every meeting at Acusis by restating the company’s vision, mission and values to make sure that his 840 employees understand them and live them each day. This helps them to understand the company, where it’s going and what it is trying to do, Iwinski says.

As president and CEO, Iwinski says it is also critical that he understand these areas. If leaders do not completely understand their company’s vision and mission, they won’t be able to execute it well, he says.

“It’s sort of like going on vacation without a map,” Iwinski says. “You’re almost always not likely to go anywhere interesting.”

Having clarity about mission and vision has helped Iwinski grow the medical transcription company into the dominant player in its industry since it opened in 2001. The company, which has operations in India and the U.S., has grown revenue nearly 96 percent since 2004 and anticipates 2007 revenue of about $16 million.

Smart Business spoke with Iwinski about how narrowing in on vision, mission and values can help you grow a company.

Q: How do you create vision, mission and values at a company?

It needs to be a consensus. The senior leadership and the board of directors need to jointly sit down and talk about what they’re committed to. Examine what’s the company’s long-term commitment, what part it plays in the market space and what’s the best way to get there.

If there is not agreement, it’s important to figure out which of the visions is going to dominate and see if everyone who disagreed can be brought over to approach that new vision.

Write it down and talk about the problem until you believe that you have clarity. Ask people who were originally in a different direction if they can clearly, forcefully and passionately articulate the new view. When they can, there’s a pretty good chance they get it.

Q: How do you incorporate vision, mission and values into the company?

It’s like a waterfall. Organizations will come up with a vision, develop a mission that will express how they intend to accomplish it, and then start to develop a set of values to reinforce the mission and vision.

But if you stop there, these statements won’t be put into practice and will become nothing more than a public relations exercise. The day-to-day task is never tied back. The team needs to develop the next step and the next step of corresponding direct actions. Make sure that the tasks you tackle are directly connected to the dreams.

Q: How do you share the vision, mission and values of the company with your employees?

The main thing is communication. All of the subordinate means — e-mails, phone calls, etc. — are enhanced after face-to-face communication. Executives have to spend time with their team and get that face-to-face contact.

If the CEO and team are not crystal clear about what they want to accomplish, there is no way they can effectively communicate it. Reconnect with the message so that you understand it and believe in it deep down. Only when you believe something can you speak with clarity, passion and precision.

Craft a strategy that communicates the message, reinforces it and updates it. Start with getting everybody on the same page, but you can’t assume people will remember it, so you have to recommunicate.

Q: How could other leaders bring these values into their company?

Simply say them out loud. Just brutal, nonstop repetition and always putting them front and center.

Be a model of them, and create opportunities to show that you live them and just not say them. If your own model of behavior is not consistent with your expectations, there’s no way you’re going to get what you’re asking. If you want your team to be creative, you have to be creative. If you want them to be hardworking, you’ve got to be the same way.

Hire people intentionally to bring those values into the organization, sort of like planting seeds. Values are better if they are inherently strong in the person, and skills and talents and experience are very learnable and can often be assimilated quickly.

Promote and speak the message, live and demonstrate the message, and bring in new talent to advocate the message.

Q: How does focusing on the mission, vision and values benefit employees and the company?

It helps them have a clear guideline to measure, evaluate and prioritize their daily tasks. If you want an organization that has good alignment, what you’d like is that when everyone sits down in the morning, they all understand that it’s all in service of a very singular core vision. What’s more valuable than people’s time, attention and intelligence?

It also keeps the organization from straying. Having this clear vision helps filter what not to do and keeps leaders from being tempted by something that looks fun and short-term but doesn’t apply.

HOW TO REACH: Acusis, (412) 209-1300 or www.acusis.com