Creating a Vision
Vision. It drives everything in a business. It’s what makes an organization stand out. It’s what makes getting a cup of coffee at Starbucks different than picking one up at a gas station. It’s the reason why, in a sea of competition, a customer chooses one business over the other.
“A vision is used to remind everyone within a business why the company exists,” says Phil Daniele, AutoZone’s Senior Vice President, Commercial, Customer Satisfaction. “For AutoZone, our vision is in the form of a Pledge and it starts with, ‘AutoZoners Always Put the Customer First.’”
Creating a vision for a company is essential. It will help create a strong culture within the organization and will bring the company into the future.
Daniele and Mitch Major, AutoZone’s Vice President, Commercial Support, Customer Satisfaction, share AutoZone’s tips and experience for creating a vision and how it has helped AutoZone stand out from other parts companies as a customer-first, value-driven, organization.
CREATE A VISION.
In the simplest terms, a vision is an explanation of what your company wants to accomplish.
“A vision should inspire both your employees and your customers,” Daniele says.
AutoZone’s Pledge is inspirational for their employees because they know that they are working for a company that is emphasizing customer service above all else.
For shops that are looking to create a vision, it should:
- Determine your company’s purpose and position
- Describe what that should look like to both customers & employees
- Be measurable
Let’s break that down for AutoZone:
Get your Team Onboard.
A successful business requires buy-in from all of its employees.
AutoZone’s purpose is to take care of its customers, the people who take care of cars.
This is echoed throughout the entire organization and people that work for AutoZone— known as AutoZoners—all know it.
“AutoZone does not have a typical corporate vision, we have a Pledge, and we recite it at the beginning of our meetings so the focus is always there, and it helps bring new employees into the culture quickly,” Daniele says.
Since 1986, AutoZone has celebrated employees that go above and beyond for customers with its Extra Miler Award. The Extra Miler Award is the highest recognition that AutoZoners can receive and is given to AutoZoners who provide exceptional customer service.
“By recognizing our AutoZoners that live out our Pledge, we’ve created a customer-first culture where everyone within the organization is on the same page and working toward meeting our customer’s needs,” Daniele says.
The Shop Lesson: When you see team members living your company’s vision, show your appreciation and recognize them. Whether it’s an Employee of the Month plaque or a gift card to say thank you, that acknowledgement goes a long way in keeping your company’s vision going strong.
Deliver on Your Promise.
“Once a vision is established, a company needs to do everything it can to follow through with it,” Daniele says. “Having a vision isn’t enough—you need to ensure that you deliver.” AutoZone does everything it can to provide the best customer service possible every time.
“Our customers—professional installers and DIYers—are the most important thing to us,” Major says. “Because of this, we are constantly evaluating what we can do to make their experience better and create new offerings and services to help make their lives easier and their businesses run smoother.”
In 1996 AutoZone acquired ALLDATA® as a way to better service the needs of its professionals by providing OEM repair information and having parts and information under one roof, making it easier for installers to get repairs done.
Other examples of this include its Vendor Direct Parts program and its MegaHub stores. The MegaHub stores carry up to 100,000 SKUs that supply surrounding stores with inventory multiple times per day, which helps them better serve their customers in a timely manner.
The Shop Lesson: As a shop owner, when you develop yearly plans or make decisions, ask yourself if you’re delivering the foresight on which you founded your company. You should be able to use your vision as a steering agent for business decisions.
Once you’ve established your model, it’s important to continually evaluate whether or not you’re living up to it.
The vision that you create for your own shop should be easily measured, meaning you should know right away whether or not you’re accomplishing it.
“Without the support of our professional installers and DIYers, we wouldn’t be here today,” Major says. “That’s why we make sure we’re offering them everything we possibly can to make their businesses successful.”
AutoZone’s vision is to take care of its customers, and the results can be seen in the company’s success, which is tracked through brand tracking, customer satisfaction surveys, sales and the millions of vehicles on the road with AutoZone parts. For example, in 2017, AutoZone surpassed $2 billion in commercial sales, which doubled in just 6 years.
The Shop Lesson: In order to track success, shop owners should look for feedback from their own customers. Whether it’s a verbal check-in or a customer satisfaction survey, it’s a great way to make sure you’re staying on track with your vision.
Continue to Execute your Vision.
Your vision should be a guide for your business. “Creating a vision for your company is like laying the groundwork of a building,” Daniele says. “Without it, you can’t build up.”