Rick Arpin

The Importance of a Company’s Vision

I was fortunate to attend a conference earlier this year where leaders in sports and business shared their perspectives, lessons learned and leadership advice. Before I get into the specific content around a company’s vision, I wanted to emphasize a point about conferences that I think is missed.

Attending a conference is a great privilege. A chance to learn valuable information about your field of study, industry or specialized topic. A chance to meet a diverse group of new contacts and build further relationships with colleagues from your company or folks you may have worked with in the past. A chance to learn, hearing how others think – how others are tackling issues.

But attending a conference is not a right. You should be focused, have a plan and ensure you get the most out of attending the conference, including bringing back the information you learned to share with your colleagues.

Okay, now on to the topic at hand, the importance of a company’s vision.

One of the folks I was lucky to see speak was Dan Cathy, CEO of Chick-fil-A. He did a “fireside chat” and used the time to discuss several key perspectives on himself and his company. One of them was:

“The bigger the vision the easier to sell to your team. Small dreams don’t inspire others.”

Mr. Cathy discussed how leaders can create a vision. He mentioned that every year during the holiday period he travels to somewhere distant and exotic, where he can have his senses engaged and reflect on the past year and plan for the next year. This year, he traveled to Tokyo, to think about how he could improve personally in 2018. I thought it was a great lesson for all leaders – if someone with as much on his plate as he must have still takes the time each year for this sort of personal reflection and development, then surely, we should as well. It’s during these times that Mr. Cathy gets himself engaged with the vision for the coming year.

“Good business leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision, and relentlessly drive it to completion.” – Jack Welch

“Good business leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision, and relentlessly drive it to completion.” – Jack Welch

After that, it is important for everyone to understand the vision. Moreover, everyone must buy in to the vision. What does that mean? It means that every employee will act in a way that holds up under the lens of the vision. It doesn’t mean they will deliver perfect service to guests or make perfect decisions, but on the whole the company’s culture will continue to strengthen through the collective actions and decisions of the team.

What I know and have experienced about Chick-fil-A and its service culture leads me to believe that Mr. Cathy wants every employee to feel passionately about their customers and go the extra mile for them. And I’d say he’s doing a good job of communicating the vision based on their results.

Getting everyone to understand the vision is certainly consistent with many – or the majority of – leadership and business writings today. Simon Sinek built a foundation for it with his book “Start with Why.” Articles and books about transformation point out how a leader can make the transformation successful if they are relentless about speaking to their teams about the vision and modeling the expected behaviors. And we know the most successful companies are the ones where employees are empowered to act on the customer’s behalf, with the trust that they know the vision and will therefore make decisions in line with that vision.

It’s so hard though. There is so much noise. At least a couple of times a week my team gets frustrated that someone hasn’t heard a message – only to realize after discussion that the well-crafted and clear message was only delivered once, via email. And of course, we then start to develop a more robust communication plan. Communicating vision effectively requires relentless, maniacal repetition to as many people in as many ways as you can muster. And a ruthless focus on modeling the desired behaviors. No one said leadership was easy.

But the reward for that investment of time and energy is a team that feels motivated. A team that feels empowered and has ownership in their work. A team that will fight through the inevitable failures and setbacks because they know where we are trying to go. Vision gives people hope and purpose. And those are two things we can definitely use more of!

Rick Arpin is the Former Senior Vice President of Entertainment at MGM Resorts International. He was recently named to Treasure and Risk Magazine’s “40 Under 40” list. Contact Rick.