"If it isn't Driving Business, Why are you Doing It?"

Earlier this year, we determined that an update of the VisionLink website was long overdue. We were living in the dark ages. Although the demands of our business were great, and we were already "stretched," we knew that rebuilding was critical. It just had to be a priority. We had determined that our website was an essential tool for defining ourselves in the market place--and that our current site didn't represent us well.

So, our search for a firm to assist began.

As you would expect, we interviewed four or five different website development companies that seemed suitable. Ultimately, we hired the last firm that walked through the door. Here's why.

When Jason Lavin of Golden Communications came in, he arrived with no laptop and no portfolio. He wasn't interested in demonstrating his firm's great graphics capabilities or showing us the many websites they had designed. His pitch was simple and straight forward. "As far as I'm concerned, if I can't make your phone ring with your website, then you shouldn't hire me."

He then proceeded to tell us how and why his firm's approach would drive business to VisionLink. He made sense. Our eyes were opened to new possibilities and we began to view the potential of our website more strategically. We were encouraged by what we learned. Two weeks later, we hired Jason's company.

We launched our new site about six weeks ago, and have already received several qualified inquiries through this tool. If you're reading this blog, you are evidence that the website is working. Jason did what he said he was going to do.

Since our first meeting with Jason, I have thought frequently about his challenge. I have recognized that it doesn't just apply to website development. It applies to a company's approach to compensation and rewards as well--perhaps even more. "If it isn't driving business, why are you doing it?"

Although this seems intuitive, most companies don't make rewards decisions this way. Few can tell you what business improvement or financial outcome each component of compensation is intended to create. If salaries increased by 5 or 10% from last year to this, what was the reason? When last year's bonuses were paid, what performance measures were they based on? Important questions. Too many business leaders can't answer them.

Back to our website.

Once we understood what our website could and should accomplish for us, we had some decisions to make. Should we just hang on to our old site and hope to get better results in the future? Maybe we could just "tweek" a few things. Or, should we just do away with our website completely and revisit it when we have more time? After all, it's kind of expensive to go through a change...plus, there's work involved with keeping it maintained and fresh. Is it worth it? How can we know ahead of time?

To some, these may seem like silly questions and a lame analysis given the internet age we live in. Who can expect to seriously compete in a service business without every strategic base being covered? But, with all due respect, this is the kind of analysis we see many businesses go through when faced with the challenge (opportunity) of updating their rewards programs. There is clearly a need to make a change but they are stuck in neutral.

(For the record, we never seriously considered NOT moving forward with a new site.)

As we approached our new website, we had to learn about the potential it offered. We discovered there was a systematic, effective, measurable way to determine if our site was generating results. We became educated in SEO and SEM marketing, Google Adwords, blogging, and more. We applied our effort and investment towards building something that would drive business and generate specific, measurable results. We set our sights on developing a tool that would support our business plan, attract the kind of clients we could best serve, and generate an appropriate return on our investment. We adopted a measured, strategic approach with a clear outcome in mind. We were confident that the effort, investment and forethought would be rewarded. (They have been.)

In this process, we were careful not to establish unrealistic expectations. We recognized that our website would not be the only key to success in our business. We still had to manage projects well, develop appropriate solutions and create the right experience for our clients. We realized that our site was simply a strategic tool that would assist us in getting to the next threshold of performance in our business.

As business leaders look at their compensation strategies, the thought process should be no different. CEOs should engage in a process that will help them first diagnose where they are, then enable them to envision, create and sustain great compensation programs--ones that are going to drive business. Rewards should reflect the strategic outcomes a business is trying to achieve--and the execution level it needs to foster.

This approach requires a different mindset; one that treats compensation as an investment designed to generate specific results and higher productivity. It rejects the view that compensation is simply another expense that needs to be managed.

We couldn't base decisions about our future website on the results we had achieved from our original site. We hadn't employed the right tools before. Likewise, business leaders shouldn't base future decisions about compensation on results they did or didn't achieve before knowing there was a better way to do things.

Obvious? Well, maybe so. However, too many companies are paying people the same way they did two years ago or five years ago, and hoping for a different result. Meanwhile, they are otherwise making plans for breakthrough growth. By now, it should be obvious that without a more strategic approach to compensation, they are not likely to realize that growth.

So, before taking another step with your rewards strategies, please ask yourself a critical question, "If is isn't driving business, why are we doing it?"

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