By Laura Schlereth
You can have a great business model, but for it to be efficient and profitable, you need to communicate it well. Putting your business objectives in writing can help you evaluate what your goals are and how you can achieve those goals.
"In the construction industry, we’re dealing with so many different sub-trades that you need documentation to make sure everyone’s on board," says Chris Phillips, owner of Toronto-based Greening Homes Ltd. "By keeping communication lines open, it sets expectations in terms of quality of work."
Here’s what you need to know when creating an effective communication plan:
Phillips says that Greening Homes has written objectives that cover all elements of their sustainable approach to building.
"They are shared with our clients and remain on-site throughout the project," he says. "Our sub-trades need to sign off to indicate that they understand our policies and approach and have read the documentation."
John Hrynkow, CEO of Edmonton-based Park Royal Homes Inc., is currently working on a communication plan for his business and he plans to include the following:
A vision statement: This is a general statement of how you want your company to be looked at down the road, says Hrynkow. For example, Park Royal Homes’ vision statement says that it wants "to be recognized as the homebuilder of choice for employment, potential new home buyers and our building partners (suppliers/trades)."
A mission statement: Hrynkow believes this should state what you’re doing in order to achieve the long-term goal stated in the vision statement. For example, in order to become "the homebuilder of choice," Park Royal Homes emphasizes in its mission to professionally manage all projects "from start to finish and beyond." Hrynkow says this means the business guides the customer from the beginning of the project (i.e. first meeting) to the end (final walkthrough) and beyond (upholding warranty obligations).
Core values and guiding principles: This is where Hrynkow plans to include the personable attributes he feels his business portrays in its effort to achieve its mission and vision. For his business, Hrynkow includes such terms as "fairness in decision making" and "respect for individuals." This section "defines how we operate," according to Hrynkow.
Although Hrynkow says every communication plan will be different depending on the goals and services of the business, he thinks every company should include in its plan the basics of an official vision statement, a mission statement along with core values and guiding principles.
Hrynkow believes it can be very helpful to mention in your communication plan how there are other written documents, which outline business objectives specific to your audience.
"We have an internal audience and an external audience," he says. "The internal audience is our employees and the external audience is our potential and current clients and building partners."
You can include your general expectations of the relationships you have with your employees, clients and building partners in your communication plan, but then also include a statement that refers readers to a separate handbook that discusses specific relationships in further detail. Hrynkow says, this helps keep the communication plan simple and easy to understand. It also makes everyone aware that more specific information pertaining to the audience is available in another written document.
Here are some examples of communication plan extensions:
For your employees — An employee handbook usually includes position descriptions and employee information, such as benefits packages, to better manage expectations.
For your partners — Phillips says his company gives his contractors a "protocol and procedures manual" which outlines general information such as policies concerning non-smoking or waste and renovation, but it also includes information particular to the project, such as specific safety or clean-up concerns.
For your clients: This written documentation outlines for your clients all the steps of the project. Hrynkow says he gives all his clients a "homeowner’s manual," which runs through everything from the purchase agreement to service and warranty.
Hrynkow says that an effective communication plan will make your business more efficient because it puts business priorities and goals and writing, and helps keep everyone — from clients to business partners — on the same page.
"It’s vital because as we know in any type of relationship, the more you communicate the less problems you’ll have," he says. "It’s certainly a stress reducer."
But he also cautions that a written document has a tendency to be forgotten after it’s created. To prevent this, Hrynkow recommends keeping it in sight for your employees by posting it around your office and for your clients and partners by including it on your website in the "About Us" section. But to truly keep the communication plan effective, Hrynkow recommends continuously working on it so that it stays on everyone’s minds and comes through in their day-to-day tasks.
"If you don’t use it or put it into action, it doesn’t mean anything," he says. "You should always be fine-tuning your [communication] plan."