Last week was AKHIA’s Vision Week – a week-long opportunity for us to re-affirm our commitment to our mission, what we believe in and, more importantly, what that means for where we want to go next as a company. It may be my favorite time of year at AKHIA (and that’s saying a lot, given we have FallFest, Secret Santa and an awesome Opening Day Party).
When I think of vision I can’t help but think of ‘Breaking Bad’, which concluded on Sunday night. I’m still in awe of what Vince Gilligan did with 62 episodes over five seasons. You talk about having a vision of how something would play out, down to the last detail. It was a thing of beauty.
But as Gilligan will tell you, in every interview he’s done, this wouldn’t have been possible without his team of writers and the incredible actors who shared his vision. And that’s what I loved about it. Even in the most absolute example – a man, who had an idea of something that could be great – nothing is possible without surrounding yourself and trusting in the people around you.
For me, with Vision Week, it’s a humbling opportunity to look around and celebrate the fact that 50 other people are just as committed to the ultimate goal as you are. I’ll tell you, that gets you through a lot of days and some moments where self-doubt might creep in.
But how do you accomplish that? How do you get everyone believing in the same thing and moving in the same direction? Well, I wrote a little about this last week on the final day of Vision Week, teasing a few of the ‘Jan Rules’ that have led us to this point. And those things are important, but they’re only half of the equation.
The other half is right in front of you. The people who you work with every day. And when it comes to their role in your company’s vision, I have the ‘Ben Rules’ that have served me pretty well to this point. Here’s a few:
1. Transparency. People at AKHIA know Jan and I will always explain why we are doing something. We don’t manage in a vacuum. And where some people might worry about the impact delivering negative news or candid views might have, we can tell you the trust and equity you build by doing so is strong enough to overcome any of those concerns.
2. Listen. Okay, I stole that one from Jan. But hey, it’s a good one.
3. Believe. I love Morpheus’ line in The Matrix when he says ‘He’s beginning to believe.’ You can only do and say so much before you have to trust and believe in those around you. And sometimes, when people don’t even believe in themselves, knowing you do can go a long way.
4. Encourage. When you’re sharing a vision with the company, no matter your convictions it takes a lot to ask for the belief and trust of everyone. Think about that when you’re watching people act on or carryout that vision. What did someone say to you to make you relax or feel like you were on the right path? A well-placed, well-time confirmation can go a long way.
5. Respond. I’m always surprised when people say how great it is that they never feel ignored at AKHIA. Why would they? Vision is a byproduct of passion. And passion waits for no one. The worst thing we could do is tell someone to table an idea for a few months or not make time to hear more about someone’s suggestion.
6. Be flexible. One disadvantage Gilligan had with his vision is it had a shelf life. He knew it would end, which essentially made flexibility impossible. Our vision is one that is always evolving because the business (specifically marketing) world is always evolving. These ‘rules’ I’ve outlined above allow for that flexibility to be a strength and provide us with the chance to see how and when our vision should evolve.
(For everyone surprised I had six (v. five) – yeah, I like to keep you guessing. But hey, one was Jan’s.)
Finally, something I learned early on in my career that I will never forget: it is never about you. To think that a vision is your vision…well, it won’t go far. At some point it becomes less about what it means to you and more about what it needs to mean for everyone else involved. Then the real fun can begin.