Interviews

Turning vision and values into practical actions – an entrepreneur’s account

6 min read

12 December 2017

A year after his article on developing company vision and values, Richard Blanford explains how they have been distilled into key behaviours that all Fordway staff are asked to exhibit.

One of the challenges we all face as leaders is turning strategies into practice – and it’s particularly difficult when it comes to company vision and values. It’s all too easy for this to be seen as an exercise in communications rather than something that impacts the way we all work day to day.

We were determined that this wouldn’t happen to us, as we believe our vision and values are essential to the growth of our business and should frame everything that we do. So we refined them into some key behaviours that everyone at Fordway – me included – should exhibit. As we did this, and reviewed the values with staff across the company, we also made some small changes to the wording of the values themselves to ensure that they more accurately stated the messages we wanted to convey.

To embed this in the company, we are implementing score cards which are data focused. When we review individual performance, we now have to provide factual evidence of how we’ve delivered against these values and behaviours. Getting staff focussed on how they live the values to deliver their objectives should help us to embed the culture and behaviours in day-to-day practice.

The vision and values approach

Our three values are deliver great results, stronger together and adapt and thrive.

“Deliver great results” is self-evident – if we don’t do this, we won’t be in business very long. It’s supported by two behaviours which explain how our staff can help us achieve this: be decisive, and take responsibility for your own actions. We encourage and empower everyone to make decisions, particularly when other people depend on them. If they need support or advice we ask them to provide options and possible answers rather than just ‘passing the monkey’ to a colleague or manager.

By taking responsibility, we expect people to fulfil their role and achieve their targets. However, everyone is human and we understand that at times they may need to ask for help. To make this work, we ask them to clearly state what they need so that as a team we can deliver our commitments to our customers.

Our second value, “stronger together”, emphasises that we can achieve far more working collectively than any of us can individually. So while we expect people to do their job well, as already stated, everyone has different skills and we’ll only succeed if we work together towards a common goal. So we celebrate the team first, and don’t take advantage of our colleagues.

We’ve defined a second behaviour alongside being a team player: “be positive’”, which we define by the phrase we say “yes and…” This isn’t just about going the extra mile, although we value that and have introduced awards to recognise it such as employee of the month. It means being confident and expert in your area, but not bluffing if you don’t know the answer; checking for understanding, questioning assumptions and get directly to the point so that we don’t waste anyone’s time. We’re well known for our straight talking and our customers regularly tell us that they appreciate this.

This leads us into our third value: “adapt and thrive” – which is about learning from both our successes and our mistakes. We aim to do everything right first time, but Fordway’s value to our customers is based on implementing and supporting new and difficult technology, dealing with uncertainty and taking calculated risks. So despite the best of intentions we may make imperfect decisions and mistakes can happen. As Albert Einstein once said, anyone who’s never made a mistake has never tried anything new.

What’s important is to learn from our mistakes and ensure that they aren’t repeated. We don’t believe in finger-pointing or a blame culture. If there’s a problem, we identify it and work together to find a solution. We succeed or fail as a team; we don’t throw our colleagues or business partners under the bus to protect ourselves.

This may all sound like common sense, but to succeed we need to have competitive advantage, and ours has always been our people and our experience. So we celebrate success, learn from our mistakes and continue to innovate. So far, it seems to be working.

This article is part of a wider campaign called Founders Diaries, a section of Real Business that brings together 20 inspiring business builders to share their stories. Bringing together companies from a wide variety of sectors and geographies, each columnist produces a diary entry each month. Visit the Founders Diaries section to find out more.