Vision and Goals – Get Everyone Involved!

By Jean Marie Caragher

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According to a Franklin Covey and Harris Interactive Survey (March 2003) of 11,045 adult U.S. workers, 44 percent of those polled don’t know their organization’s highest priorities.  Only 19 percent of workers have clearly defined work goals with a strong link to their company’s top priorities. Accounting firms are no different. These same statistics most likely apply to your firm. If your people don’t know your firm’s goals, how can they help you achieve them?   

Are you sure that everyone at your firm knows your goals? Many firms and companies do a poor job of communicating goals and thus limit the contribution their sales forces – their partners and employees – can make toward the firm’s growth and success. If your employees don’t know what the firm is trying to accomplish, how can they intelligently talk about and eventually sell its services?

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Firm goals are the outcome of developing a mission, vision, and core values of your firm.  These three documents form the foundation to set short- and long-term goals.  Don’t keep this information a secret!  Not only do you want to share all of the above with your entire firm, you want them involved in their development.

Do It Right

A mission statement is your firm’s basic purpose. It tells everyone why you are in business. A good mission statement typically has three components.  It says what the organization does, for whom, and in what context.

To develop or revise your firm’s mission statement form a small task force of no more than seven people.  James C. Collins and Jerry I. Porras in “Building Your Company’s Vision” (Harvard Business Review, September-October 1996), suggest that you write a draft mission statement on a display board and then use the five whys.  Ask the group, “Why is that important?” five times.  After a few whys, you’ll find that you’re getting down to the fundamental purpose of the firm.

While the mission statement is important, the most critical thing you can do is to develop a vision. This is an internal document that tells everyone in the firm what you would like to become. The vision for your firm is critical to the goal setting process.  Where do you see your firm in five years?  In 10 years?  It is also critical for getting your staff engaged in the firm. What does the vision mean to them? How will they participate in the future of the firm? Don’t create the vision in a vacuum. Make sure that you get your staff and other key personnel involved in the creation process. Finally, you need to address what must happen in order for your firm to make your vision a reality.

Implementing a weak vision is better than not implementing a great vision. A vision without implementation is simply a vision – that is why you need to create the vision as a team. Don’t go off to the mountain by yourself and bring back the vision. Your staff won’t be committed to it.

Core values are the essential and enduring beliefs of your firm.  Look inside your firm.  Ask your partners and staff, what core values do we truly believe in?  Core values will give you and your staff a beacon to follow, they will guide you in making critical decisions. That’s why they need to be communicated and lived by everyone in the firm. Otherwise they become meaningless.

Clear and well-articulated core values will attract to your firm people whose personal values are compatible with your firm’s core values.

Goals and Strategies

Your goals should be aligned with your vision and core values. You will most likely set goals in several areas of your firm – marketing and business development, leadership, management, administration, financial and overall business processes. Once goals are determined you need to develop strategies – how will these goals be implemented. Having brainstorming sessions with partners and managers is often a more effective way to develop good strategies.

Sample marketing goals might address:

  • New business revenue
  • Cross-selling revenue
  • Client satisfaction/retention
  • New product/service development
  • Geographic expansion

Setting Goals

Make sure that you prioritize your goals. Firms often try to do too much at one time and wind up doing very little. The most successful CPA firms not only have clearly defined goals and action plans, but they make sure their people have time to accomplish them. Assigning goals to people who are already 100% committed to other things is a recipe for disaster.  

Are Your Goals SMART?

Each of your goals should be a SMART goal.  Taken one letter at a time, this means:

Specific:  State your goals in the most specific terms available.

Measurable: If you can’t measure it, how do you know if you’ve achieved it?  Be sure to quantify your goals and include a deadline.

Attainable:  Your goals should be attainable to you, not to other people.

Realistic:  Are the goals you have set realistic within your set of circumstances?

Tangible:  Your goals should have an element of tangibility, i.e., you must be able to easily visualize yourself achieving them.

Spread the Word

When you have completed this process, it is very important to share your vision and goals with your entire firm.  Get your people excited and involved about their future!  This will enable your people to tell a consistent story about your firm, focus their marketing efforts, work more efficiently and feel like part of the team contributing to the growth and success of your firm.