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Your vision statement sucks.

Sorry to be the one to break it to you, but it does. Your vision statement blows. The good news is you’re not alone. According to a recent survey 98.8 percent of all accounting firms’ vision statements suck.* It should comfort you, however, that each of the Big 4 firms’ vision statements also suck.

Ernst & Young’s vision statement is, “Quality in everything we do.” That sucks. McDonalds could say, “Quality in everything we do.” Low quality, but it still works. Presumably EY would argue that—although it is not explicit in their vision statement—they mean “the highest quality in everything we do.” Oh. Now I get it. EY turds are all 12.5 cm long, weigh 112 grams, and smell like fresh-baked macaroons because apparently there’s quality in everything they do.

KPMG’s vision statement is “Cutting through complexity.” Apparently they’re the CliffsNotes of accounting firms. You know what else cuts through complexity? A lobotomy. KPMG, the lobotomy of the Big 4. Maybe they should have just said, “Numbers are hard. Have a cookie.”

PwC says, “Delivering value, with you, every day.” That’s right. After you sign the engagement letter, you’ll never have a day off because you’ll be too busy delivering value with PwC.

Deloitte’s vision is to “serve our clients and help them solve their toughest problems.” Who knew that an accounting firm would be able to help me lose my muffin top? Because right now that’s my toughest problem.

Here’s more bad news. Your vision statement has no choice but to suck. Perfectly crafted vision statements are a myth, just like unicorns, leprechauns, and the Government Accountability Office. In Simon Sinek’s uber-repetitive book Start with Why, he says, “The part of the brain that controls our feelings has no capacity for language.” Why you do what you do—your vision—is all about feelings, not logic. Vision statements are more poetry than prose. This is another reason why I hate them. The majority of CPAs are logicians. We’re Vulcans. Don’t read me Emily Dickinson’s “She Sweeps with Many-Colored Brooms.” Just say, “Sunsets are pretty.”

Simon Sinek posits that your best loyal customers don’t buy your “what”; they buy your “why.” Two of Stephen Covey’s seven habits are “Begin with the End in Mind” and “Put First Things First.” In Good to Great one of the three circles of Jim Collins’ hedgehog principle is the understanding of what you are deeply passionate about. So, let’s sum up. You can only attract and retain the best customers and employees if you can clearly communicate your “why.” But it is impossible for the part of our brain that houses our “why” to communicate at all. Certain failure. Sweet.

So what do you do? You talk about it all the time with whoever will listen and give you honest feedback (and won’t get sick of listening to this “why” crap over and over again). Marcus Buckingham, the author of Go Put Your Strengths to Work, suggests that you keep a record of every activity that makes you feel as though you are working from the center of your strengths. Those moments will give you insight into your strengths, and your strengths will give you insight into your why.

For Sinek, the proper order of business is WHY-HOW-WHAT. However, your “why” already exists. You need to discover it and communicate it. A close analysis of the feelings behind what you’re currently doing can point you upstream to your “why.”

Challenge yourself to find a new way to restate your “why” every day. Developing your vision statement is a lot like writing a standup comedy bit. It might seem perfect in your head, but if no one responds to it, it sucks. Rethink it and rewrite it. Repeat as many times as necessary. If no one ever laughs, then stick to your day job.

Getting this part of your business right is far too important for procrastination or deferral. Without your vision—without your “why”—you’ll never enter the Promised Land, personally or professionally. Refining your “why” will be one of your toughest problems. Either wrestle with it tenaciously, or get Deloitte to do it.

 

*The survey had a standard error of 1.2 percent.

 

Greg was born in Akron, Ohio, in the shadow of the Firestone tire factory. He began to swim competitively when he was eight, swimming for the Mountlake Terrace Lemmings. He graduated in 1995 from the University of Washington with a math degree. He chose math for the ladies.  After serving ten-years as an 8th grade math teacher, he decided it was time for a career change, mainly because he “couldn’t stand those little bastards.” He began his accounting career with a local CPA firm in Orem, Utah, where he consistently failed the QuickBooks ProAdvisor advanced certification exam.  Greg currently works as the Controller for the Utah Valley Physicians Plaza. He lives in Provo, Utah, with his wife and two kids. He enjoys eating maple bars, drinking Diet Pepsi, and swearing.
Category:
Business
Comments:
7
  • On 02-06-2012 at 10:41 am, Kevin McCoy said:

    A lot of talk about sweets in this post, Greg. I’m sending you a box of cookies.

    Seriously though, searching for and figuring out your Why not only expresses to others what motivates you but it also frees you to turn down work that doesn’t suit you.

    Reply
  • On 02-07-2012 at 9:37 am, Jonathan Godwin said:

    Greg, you made my “why” feel bad. I do like the cookies idea, though. Kevin, send me some as well, please.

    I can’t agree with Greg and Kevin more. I have had more freedom to let work go that doesn’t fit my firm’s “why” and I have been preaching this to clients non-stop. If you don’t have your “why” figured out in such a way that you can communicate it effectively, you really should take time to hone it. I learned more about my business after I constructed my “why.”

    Reply
  • On 02-07-2012 at 11:07 am, Patti Scharf said:

    Is this where we sign up for the free cookies? If I’m not mistaken, it’s Girl Scout cookie season. I’m just sayin’….

    Great article, Greg. I’m curious… what’s your Why?

    Reply
  • On 02-07-2012 at 11:59 am, chris said:

    Why’s, visions, and strawberry shortcake dolls may suck, but I know I am only CPA in North Florida talking about them. There is only so much you can say during a sales meeting about “Oh yea, I can do that in QB” or “Ipad, schmipad.” Its fluff Greg, FLUF…..say it with me, f-l-u-f. Some people see right though it, but the majority eat it up. The reaction I receive is ahhhh this CPA has a pulse, thats nice.
    Keep on rock’in your WHY’s folk’s, I know I am.

    Reply
    • Jason Blumer

      On 02-07-2012 at 2:31 pm, thriveal said:

      I like Strawberry Shortcake. Did you know that if you smell the doll’s hair, that it smells like strawberries?

      Reply
  • On 02-07-2012 at 1:43 pm, Peter Wolf said:

    Finally!!! you wrote a good article, Greg. I knew the countless years of reading your stuff would pay off if I gave it time. I almost gave up back in 2009 but I’m so glad I didn’t quit you!

    100% agreement on your point – most businesses have interchangeable messaging because they don’t really have a purpose driving them.

    It’s especially sad these days on the Internet where even the folks with one in a million ideas have a thousand or more people with the same message.

    I wrote a different take on it here:

    http://summitdiary.com/2012/02/05/are-you-guilty-of-killing-your-business-without-realizing-it/

    Keep up the good work and I’m looking forward to meeting you in person Wednesday night in Chicago.

    Reply
  • On 02-07-2012 at 1:45 pm, Greg Kyte said:

    What I may not have driven home is that it’s impossible to communicate your “why” in a manner that is both succinct and effective. The only way to communicate it effectively is to describe it and illustrate it in different ways at different times, and to explain what it’s not. If someone else knows your “why,” they really know YOU. The “why” is illuminated as the relationship grows.

    My short-answer “why” is “To be unexpectedly entertaining and to make boring things hilarious.” But that sucks. For you to really know my “why” in a robust way, we’ve got to hang out and work together.

    Reply

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