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Entrepreneurs use vision to create a blueprint for employees

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Entrepreneurs need to create a blueprint of their vision for the company so others can work to make it happen, said Cameron Herold, founder of BackPocket COO and former chief operating officer of 1-800-Got-Junk?

Herold, who spoke at an event hosted by the San Diego chapter of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization, said he was first introduced to the concept of visualization in 1998, when an Olympic coach spoke to 12 EO members.

“He talked to us about vision, and he said high performance athletes will visualize themselves in the performance of their event. They will see themselves over and over and over in their mind. They will force themselves to get into the act of seeing and feeling themselves performing the event, so when they’re doing it, it’s completely on instinct,” Herold said.

The group then focused on construction to relate the idea of visualization to running a business.

“When you do a renovation or build a home, you don’t necessarily know how to do the electrical or the plumbing or the dry wall or put the floors in -- but you know how to dream,” Herold said. “You know how to have the ideas of what the finished result is going to look like.”

And entrepreneurs know what their company looks like three years out. The entrepreneur needs to create the equivalent of the pictures, photos and sketches of the home’s end result, which the contractor can then use to create blueprints from and workers can accomplish the goal without ever speaking to the homeowner. Herold called this vision the “Painted Picture.”

The painted picture is a three- or four-page written description that outlines every aspect of the company and what it looks and feels like three years in the future, Herold said. It should be like a jigsaw puzzle, he said, with the finished result in the entrepreneur’s mind.

“It’s almost like you’re going in a time machine,” Herold said. “Your employees then see this description and they can figure out how to make every sentence happen. They start building a plan to make your vision come true.”

Like a jigsaw puzzle, entrepreneurs should start with the corners, then the edges, then the big colors. The corners include the core values, core purpose and the painted picture; the edges include the people systems, financial systems, strategic thinking systems and strategic planning systems, he said.

“If we’re entrepreneurs, where do we like starting? The big shiny object,” Herold said, referencing a jigsaw puzzle with a beach scene featuring a big, red umbrella. “Guaranteed, all of you are going to mess this up. You’re going to go back to your companies and say, ‘I heard about this concept and we’re going to put it in place' – that’s the red umbrella.”

Herold coached an EO member from Geneva who painted a four-year picture, which included growing the company from $120 million to $500 million in revenue. After four years of coaching, his client hit the $500 million goal and now has a three-year painted picture with a $1 billion goal. Every goal has to be “smart,” Herold said, meaning: shared, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-based.

People often run out of time because action steps aren’t typically marked on a calendar -- only the deadline. And when the deadline approaches, many people are scrambling to start and finish the task on that day, Herold said. He suggested putting action steps with time blocks to finish that step on the calendar to keep entrepreneurs from over committing, force them to delegate and find a way to outsource.

“This whole idea of vision is powerful. But vision without execution is hallucination. If you don’t actually decide to put the people in place and the plans in place, it’s merely a dream,” Herold said.

The painted picture is not a group effort and should only be written by the entrepreneur -- unlike how business courses teach students to create a mission statement or vision by working together, he said.

“It’s not a big ‘Kumbaya’ where you get a team together and everyone writes it together. It’s the entrepreneur feeling it and committing to it in such a way that it literally attracts people like a magnet. … A magnet also repels, so if a painted picture is written in the correct way, it has to polarize. It has to push some people away at the same time it attracts others,” Herold said.

One of Herold’s clients read aloud his painted picture to his employees, and concluded by informing them that the company had packed up and moved to a new office while they were all offsite and the client said, “The vision has started.”

“You could literally see the people who were freaking excited were vibrating in their seats and 15 percent were just about throwing up in theirs. And within about six weeks, 15 percent of his company had quit,” Herold said.

And those who don’t buy into the vision can’t stay with the company. Keeping the wrong person at a company can cost 15 times that person’s annual salary, Herold said. Herold referenced a system used by Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric (NYSE: GE). If an employee had low results and low values, that person would be fired; low results and high values would mean that person would “change the seat” in the company; high results and high values resulted in “handcuffing” that person to the company; and high results and low values would result in that person being fired, Herold said.

“For a $100,000 person, it’s costing you $1.5 million per year to keep them because of the negativity, because of the spin-off negativity, because of the customers who won’t give you their business, because of better A-employees who won’t come to work with you because of this person,” Herold said.

To attract A-level employees, entrepreneurs must first know exactly what they’re looking for. Herold compared finding employees to duck hunting with his grandpa.

“Two miles off in the distance there were these ducks flying. I said, 'Grandpa, call them in.' He said, 'Those are the wrong ducks,'” Herold said. He then asked how his grandpa knew they were the wrong ducks, to which he replied, “They’re in the wrong formation; they’re flying too low or too high to the water; and their wings are flopping the wrong way.”

His grandpa then said, “I’m so clear on what I’m looking for that I know them a mile away,” Herold said.

When interviewing, Herold suggested using a scorecard instead of a job description and making sure all employees use the same definition for each behavioral trait when interviewing potential employees. Those looking to hire employees should look for: cultural fit, core values and if they are good leaders.

Like with duck hunting, Herold said decoys should be used to attract A-level employees -- like an office that makes them not want to leave. And A-level employees are often found with other A-level employees -- they already have jobs and are not listed on Monster or Craigslist, he said.

“A-listers have jobs and they have no intention of quitting. They’re not going to come to your office if it looks like crap. And they’re not looking for a job, which means you have to poach them,” Herold said. “If you don’t have your key employees handcuffed to your company, guys like me come and get them and we do it for fun.”

Employees need to be coached and meetings need to have structure. Each meeting should have a maximum of three outcomes, Herold said. Each meeting should have an agenda, which includes topics to be covered and how much time is to be spent on each topic. And the meeting has to start on time.

Employees and owners routinely show up late for meetings because the system is either broken or missing, Herold said. People show up 30 minutes early for their flight because the airline created a buffer -- the doors will close, the plane will pull away from the gate and anyone who is late will miss the flight.

“We built in a buffer. Every meeting stops five minutes before the scheduled ending time to make sure we’re always on time,” Herold said.

Herold outlines the best systems to follow in order to grow a company in his book, “Double Double.”

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