Every January, the president of the United States does a State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress. The address not only reports on the condition of the nation, but also allows the president to outline his legislative agenda and national priorities to the United States Congress. Given the economic turmoil that began in earnest last year, and the now early indications that the economy is showing signs of recovery, this may be the opportune time for you to present a “State of Your Company” address.
If your initial response is, “Huh?” consider this: Every business and employee has been affected in some way by the recession. As a leader, it is likely that you made some tough decisions to ensure the wellbeing of your company. Expenses were cut, certain projects were put on hold – and employees may have been laid off. Even on a limited scale, such decisions send unsettling vibrations throughout a company culture as employees contemplate that most fundamental question: How will the recession affect me?
Strategically, presenting a State of Your Company address has the potential to reinvigorate your company’s performance by sharing with all employees exactly what the state of the company is and how making tough decisions allowed it to weather this economic storm. Most of all, it provides you with the perfect platform to share your vision and leadership agenda for growing the company. This is all about information flow and allowing your team to have absolute clarity on where the company is going. A Neilism: Absolute clarity is like business GPS. It sets the where and the how.
Here are some no-compromise strategies to present a State of Your Company address:
- Find the right setting for the address: Do not hold the address where you normally hold meetings. The president has the distinguished podium in the House of Representatives. You need to select a site that communicates the importance of this address. Is there a meeting hall at City Hall that you can rent. Does your local college or high school have an auditorium you can use? Is there a company in your area that has a training facility available? If all else fails and you have to use your facility, hang red, white and blue banners around the space. Don’t forget to get a podium.
- The announcement to employees: Send or hand every employee an invitation to attend your State of Your Company address. Design and print a folded invitation that looks official. You can even put one of those gold foil stickers imprinted with your corporate seal on it. (You rarely get to use that seal so now’s your chance.)
- Prepare your speech: The president has speechwriters and edits it until the address is perfect. If you’re not good at writing speeches, ask for help. You will find accomplished speechwriters at colleges and acting schools. Work on your speech and keep refining it. If it doesn’t go through at least six revisions – it’s not done. Rehearse and rehearse some more.
- Dress “presidential”: You want to look like a leader. Put a lot of thought into how you want to appear to your employees for what could be the most important address to all of your employees.
- Keep the entire event “official”: This isn’t a party. No food. No music. No fan fare. Keep the entire evening official. Don’t forget to have someone introduce you.
- Have some fun: This is all about nurturing and reinforcing your company culture.
Pass this email on to your business colleagues, managers and friends.
Neil Ducoff, Strategies founder & CEO and author of No-Compromise Leadership