If you’re stuck on how to create vision and values, this episode is your “how to.” Business coach, entrepreneur, and physical therapist Sturdy McKee, PT makes a comeback in this episode to talk more about creating vision and values. Sturdy is a business coach, entrepreneur and business owner who also happens to be a physical therapist and private practice owner. Today, he reveals the three components of a vision and how much they can influence how you seize opportunities, make business decisions, and identify a good team player. Sturdy also touches on his methods in helping business owners and executives achieve their business and financial goals. Prepare to be inspired and fired up to start a business that not only drives wealth but also makes the world a better place.
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The How-To And Benefit Of Creating Vision And Values With Sturdy McKee, PT
I have a returning guest, Sturdy McKee, a physical therapist out of San Francisco. He is a successful physical therapy business owner, business coach, and entrepreneur who I want to bring on to dive a little bit deeper into vision. We had an episode about vision and its importance. I want to talk to Sturdy about what a vision consists of, how to go about creating it and how to utilize it in our practices. Sturdy is a great guest to have on because he has quite a bit of knowledge about current businesses and how they’ve been impacted by implementing these fundamental principles. I love hearing his real-world examples of how these things are helpful in our businesses or how they can hurt us if we don’t have them. He’s got a lot of wisdom to share. I don’t want to speak into it much more than to get to the interview.
I’ve got Sturdy McKee, a physical therapist out of San Francisco, who is a business coach and entrepreneur himself. Sturdy was on with me in 2018. We had a nice discussion about his story and what got him to be successful to the point where he is right now. He shared the formula that I espoused. He reached out, he networked with people, he stepped out of his clinic and started creating the business that he wanted. Thank you, Sturdy, for coming on the show again.
We already shared your story about what got you to where you are. You have the social proof, you’re in your business once a week managing, leading the company and in touch with your clinic managers and directors. I know you reached out to me. I’m excited to have you on because we’re talking about vision. You shared the idea and I agree. It’d be nice to get deeper into how to create a vision or what a vision really is. Where are you coming from in that regard?
I’m passionate about what a vision is because I’ve been through the same thing. Many people, your readers, all have heard of these different versions. I used to teach some of this stuff. I remember the mission of the VA stands out as one. When I first started teaching, I was using it as an example because it was obviously done by a committee. Each one of them, each VA was different. I’m not talking about each district. I’m talking about the Palo Alto VA and the San Francisco VA. Each one of them had its own mission statement on their website. I have some old PowerPoints where I copied a couple of them. They’re all gone.
I haven’t been able to find the old ones, but they basically were a laundry list of all the content constituencies at that organization. It was very internally focused on what we do. Without getting too much into politics, Obama and under the VA administration updated and changed it. The mission of the VA was revamped to be one sentence by Abraham Lincoln. He quoted, “It’s around taking care of our veterans and soldiers.” It is far more eloquent. It’s more purposeful in nature and that’s a great contrast. It’s all over history. My history is working in hospitals and other businesses and seeing things like vision, mission, values and all these different things that you need.
I have been taught by coaches and some others and guided this way, but I have come to this conclusion where my definition of vision includes three things. It’s very clear, these three things. It’s the higher purpose, it’s the core values and the big, ambitious goal. Whatever you want to call that, whether that’s a BHAG or what have you, we can take them one at a time and break them down a little bit. The higher purpose is your why. It’s the reason the company, the organization exists in the first place and it’s not profit. Profits are good and it’s necessary, but generally it’s not the reason we got all fired up and went out and started whatever business we did.
It’s more of the Michael Gerber explanation of it. He calls it an entrepreneurial seizure. I call it an entrepreneur or temper tantrum, but it’s like, “I’m going to do it by myself. I’m fed up wherever I am. I can do it better.” Whatever triggered that is the higher purpose. It’s not necessarily the service that you’re providing. This is true, whether you’re an attorney, a therapist, a plumber or a cake baker. “I’m going to do it because I can do it better.” It’s like, “Why were you not happy with where you were? What are you going to do for whom?” That’s more of the purpose. Why are we doing this? Why are we going out and taking this crazy risk going on this journey that is really hard?
I’ve read your blog with Will where he talks about falling 50 feet, breaking both legs and arms, the rehab and everything with that, and then saying, “The business was harder than that.” That made me think about another friend of mine who is a Navy SEAL. He was honorably discharged. He took over his father’s business. After about a year and a half, he was one of the EO members, Entrepreneurs Organization that he has been involved with. Darren is an EO member. He did a talk for us, a small breakfast talk, only about twelve members in the room. One of the things he said about having run that business was it was the hardest thing he’s ever done in his life.
We’re like, “You’re a SEAL for more than ten years.” He’s like, “I know.” That was incredibly humbling at the same time, I’m still not sure, maybe my journey has been a little bit easier, but it hasn’t been easy. I’m wondering, “That’s a heck of a comparison too.” It is this thing that keeps us doing what we’re doing. It’s the reason and it’s the why behind it. The other thing to know about a higher purpose is it’s not a goal. It’s not something that will be achieved. It will never be completely finished or fulfilled per se. It’s the reason that you get up in the morning and do what you do.
It’s also the reason why your employees should maybe feel compelled and excited about a vision that, “I’m going to work for something that I believe in.”
Let’s put them all together and then talk about how we can use it. That’s definitely one of the areas. The core values are the second one. We talked about a higher purpose. That’s the why. The core values are the how. It’s not the operational how but the behavioral how. It’s the code of conduct. It’s how we do things around here. When you write them out, I’ve looked up core values and you get this long list of one word to choose from, please don’t do that. The core values need to be behavioral in nature. They’re generally about three to six words in length because they need to be descriptive enough that people know what to do.
There are a lot of good examples out there. You look at the New Zealand All Blacks, an organization since 1902 or 1906. In any event, for more than a hundred years, they have a 77% win rate. That’s a country the size of Phoenix. In an international competition, they have the highest win rate of any professional international sports team in the world for more than a century. A lot of that has to do with their core values. “Leave the jersey in a better place, champions do extra,” those are a couple of values. They got five that they outlined. These are the things that tell them all how they’re going to behave.
“Sweep the sheds is another one.” Sweep the sheds doesn’t mean sweep the sheds, but it means cleaning up after yourself. Take care of the facilities. Take care of the place. It doesn’t matter if you’re an international superstar or you’re the towel boy, you still pick up your stuff. If you don’t do that, you don’t get to stay. They’ve stuck with that. That’s an attitude that brings to them together and bonds and they have. They’ve dismissed international superstars in the past because they haven’t lived and abided by the core values. They lived and not agreed with because that’s a whole other thing. It’s behaviors. What we need to do is ensure that the people in the organization are following those behaviors. Then, we’ll come back to attracting people.
The third component is the big ambitious goal. It’s sometimes referred to as the Bang or the BHAG. Jim Collins and Jerry Porras defined it in the Built to Last book in 1994. It was the Big Hairy Audacious Goal. They set a time frame for 20 years to 30 years, yet their number one example is the Moon Shot, which was about ten years since then. I’ve had this discussion with a couple of other friends who are business coaches and former coaches of mine, and we all settled on an eight-year to ten-year time frame. That’s far enough ahead that you don’t know how to get there, yet. It can be aspirational. It can be inspiring. You can figure it out along the way. It’s not so far over the horizon that it’s abstract.
If you ask me 25 years ago what I’d be doing, I would have been way off the mark. Twenty-five years from now, what will I be doing? I have a better idea than I did 25 years ago. If I can look at an eight-year to ten-year time frame, I can start to put my head around that. I can grasp that intellectually and logically, but it still gives me enough time to figure stuff out along the way. Those are the three components, the why, the how we’re going to act on the way there and where we’re going. Those are the three components of a vision that I seek to work with clients to develop and get those in place. The earlier you can do that in your process, the better.
That’s not to say they’re set in stone. They can shift. They can iterate and morph as you go along. You may discover some things that we’re missing, assumptions that need to be more explicit or what have you as well. It will evolve along the way. It starts to give you a beacon, a north star, a direction of where you’re going. This has got a lot more attention. This isn’t some feel good, “I want to fulfill my destiny” type of thing. There’s been quite a study around purpose-driven and values-driven organizations. They outperform their competition. They’re hard data, but they outperform on multiple fronts, employee engagement, customer satisfaction, innovation and financially.
Harvard Business School did a research study where they looked at companies for a decade. They outperformed their rivals by a factor of twelve. That was in seventeen different countries too. I’ve had people tell me, “This is culturally specific.” It’s not. Maybe what your purpose is could be your values, but the structural blocks do attract and inspire the right people. It makes your life easier all the way along the way. It’s not just if we talk about how we use this stuff, there’s one other thing that is interesting is it may give more credibility to this whole thing. Do you know who Laurence Fink is? The CEO of BlackRock?Profits are good and necessary but it should not be the reason you get all fired up to start your business. Click To Tweet
That sounds familiar.
Laurence Fink is the CEO and Chairman of BlackRock. I didn’t even know this. I knew of them. They’re here in San Francisco, but they have somewhere north of $6.8 trillion under management and investment. It might be as much as $7.4 trillion. It fluctuates a bit. The point is they’re one of probably the biggest investment firms in the world. Every year, Larry Fink writes a letter to the CEOs, the thousands of CEOs that are running the companies that they are investors in, that they have board seats on and all this stuff. In 2019, this is the quote in his letter, “To prosper over time, every company must not only deliver financial performance but also show how it makes a positive contribution to society.” He started to talk about not just corporate social responsibility because that’s not the same thing that we’re talking about, but a purpose-driven values-driven organization that isn’t solely shareholder focused.
In the publicly traded world, I think rightfully so, he got some push-back. A couple of hundred saw his letter and wrote him a letter back. They said, “That sounds great until you change the playing field in the rules, the way we get compensated, the way we avoid liability and don’t get sued and all the rest of it. That sounds great, but you’ve got to change the playing field if you want that outcome. The way it’s set up now isn’t going to allow us to do what you’re talking about.” That’s great news for most people who are going to read this because you’re not running a publicly-traded corporation. Very often, you’re the sole shareholder or at least the majority shareholder. You can take this stuff and you’re answerable to yourself not to institutional investors and CalPERS. You can do this. The cool part is if the playing field over the long-term favors this and the big guys, the corporations and your perceived competition out there can’t do this, at least not with any integrity or fidelity over time, then you have a bit of an unfair advantage.
Maybe someone already has an idea of a vision that’s already out there. How does one either assess their current vision? Is that different than someone who’s trying to start from scratch? I don’t have a vision in place necessarily, how do I go about creating one and get to my why?
If you have an existing organization, whether you’ve been in business six months or fifteen years, you already probably have a purpose. You already probably have values in a way you do things. What those are more of a discovery process of unveiling, sussing out and asking, “Why did you start doing this in the first place? What are some themes throughout your life? What do you do when you’re not getting paid? What inspires you? What does your family tease you or make fun of you about?” They’re like, “That’s Nathan. He does that.” It’s that stuff that starts to give you this common thread that ties it all together. Sometimes, we’re the last ones to be able to see it.
Everybody around us sees it. We think we’ve made this great discovery. We tell them, we figured it out and they’re like, “Yes.” Another friend of mine, Bill Gallagher is a coach. I love his saying, “A fish as the last one to see water.” Ask your loved ones. Ask your best friend. Ask your spouse. What do they see in you? What do they think drives you? That will start to help reveal the why and you tie that into your business. How does that align? What is it doing at the core values? Similarly, when I go through and do the core values, that exploration and facilitation with clients, I want to get everybody in the organization, in the room together, at least the leadership team.
Do you do that with the vision or do you leave the vision simply to the owner?
The vision is the aggregate of the higher purpose, the values and the BHAG, those three components. The higher purpose is usually more around the owner, but it depends on the maturity of the organization as well. There was an interesting story. I forgot what university it was. This woman came in and was leading the department organization. She was new to it but was going to be taking it over. To figure out what drove the people that were already there, the tenured professors, the new faculty, and the other people that had been around and were there for a reason, she went and talked to all of them about what that reason is. She started to find some commonalities and threads through that, that she then brought back, reflected them, asked them, vetted it and they were like, “That’s what we’re about.”
That is the discovery process. The core values are largely a discovery process because we have expectations for each other. What irritates you when somebody doesn’t live up to those expectations? What do you expect from each other? That’s a way to get to that. There’s a cool exercise to go through and get in the weeds and ask all the details, be on time and look people in the eye. What do you do? You start to find those common themes. The couple I mentioned follow the respect theme. There’s something there about respect. What does that mean for us? How are we going to manifest that in our day-to-day actions and behaviors? How do we articulate that, not only so we’re clear about it, but for new people joining the organization? How do we make it clear to them what the expectations are before they even get here?
I like how you filter it down from what it sounds like. You take this aggregate of behaviors. You filter it down to a common word. What’s our definition of that word? What does that mean? What does that look like in our company? From our perspective, we had four core values. PAGE was the acronym, Professional, Accountability, Growth and Empathy. We had those for a number of years, but they didn’t gain a lot of traction until we did two things, until we defined to them with the leadership team as what that looks like. What does professionalism look like in our minds? That could be different for somebody. You can’t assume that everyone has the same definition.
That’s the biggest hazard of these one-word values. If we have fifteen people in the room, we’ve probably got seventeen different definitions, which of those? Does respect mean the same thing to you as it does to me? It’s communication. It’s communicating. I hate that one. Communication can be a theme, but exactly what you have said, how does that manifest itself? Being a good one-way communicator and articulate, that’s maybe part of it. Listening is important in working together. There’s an empathy component, or there are other pieces and parts that come together that start to describe how we embrace that. Communication might encompass a theme like grouping, but then what we’re doing is taking those micro behaviors, pulling them together into something more cohesive.
You mentioned, “Champions do extra.” For the All Blacks, that means, “We run farther, we work harder, we stay later, and we go the extra mile in some cases. That’s if we want to win.” I’ve seen companies take that on and swipe it. Please don’t do that. Core values need to be unique to you. Aside from the fact that whatever business you’re in, you’re probably not a champion. You’re not literally competing for a world title. If you are great, then maybe that works. For most of us, figure out what your own version looks like. Make it your own and embrace it. The idea can be great, but that brings up one other thing. These are real. These are serious, real expectations. It’s somewhat hazardous to create core values that are aspirational in nature and that we’re not going to fulfill. That’s one of the hazards, in addition to the one word. Be careful about aspirational core values. You want them to be actual rules we live by.Spend time and effort on people that are attracted to your purpose. Click To Tweet
You’ve got to make them. They are the law.
That’s the third risk. If you’re the owner leader and you’re not going to abide by them, then you’re probably better off not ruling them out. That’s going to create dissonance and a problem with integrity in the organization. If you don’t intend to follow these, if these aren’t things that you exemplify in your behaviors, you may want to think twice before rolling it out to the rest of the organization to holding them accountable.
You’ve got some good advice. It’s not something I’ve considered before, that there could be a hazard in making it an aspirational value. We hope, but it’s tough. It’s something that we want to live to, but we’re not quite doing it yet. It doesn’t vibe. You can lose some people in that regard because you’re supposed to be holding people to this standard. If that standard is somewhat fuzzy, then it’s hard to play black and white and say you’re not living up to it honestly.
How do you explain that one’s aspirational, but the other ones are real rules? You’re creating potential conflict at least internal, mentally, emotionally. Don’t set the bar too low either. We don’t want a show up to be the goal or value. These are things that, again, are yours and not everybody’s going to agree with and that’s okay. It’s still what we hold as important.
How does an owner know the values? It might be easy to somewhat of an exercise to come up with, but how does someone know that they’ve got it? When they are happy with it, that’s it, but sometimes you can feel uncomfortable.
There are three or four questions you can ask. One of them is, “Will I spend money on it to fix it or to train? Will I confront someone else in the organization about it? Would I fire somebody who refuses repeatedly to get on board with it?” Along the lines of the spend money, would you also forego money? If you had a client or a company that wanted to hire you that wasn’t in congruence, wasn’t aligned, was in conflict with your values, would you still take that? If the answer to any of those is no, then it’s probably not a core value. Maybe, it’s nice to have. Nice to haves are great, but they do not core to who we are as an organization.
Those questions bring up the whole idea of, “How do you use these?” One of the cool things about them, once you have these three pillars, these three pieces in place is you use them in your decision-making process. They become the first questions to be asked when you have an opportunity or when a strategic partner or an employee comes to you with this idea, this program, this thing we want to do. Does it align with our core purpose or higher purpose? Does it fit with our core and does it move us closer to our big ambitious goal? If the answer to any three of those is no, we’re done. Move on.
If the answer to the three of those is yes, then we move to another layer of questions. That’s when you’re looking at, “How does it serve our target customer? Is it profitable if we’re running a business? Is it process-driven versus individual-driven? There are other questions that you can get to, but I’m not worried about answering those until I know that it checks the boxes on the first three by weeding things out. Bill Gates and Warren Buffett say this, so many people who are very successful say this, but it’s the things I said no to, not the yes. It’s too easy for us to get distracted. There are too many opportunities. There are many things we could be doing. The path to success very often lies in our focus and persistent work toward a goal towards something, not running around to all the different things.
It’s cool how you lay it out because I can consider taking these things. The vision, the values, or the higher purpose, the values and the goals. We start weaving that into interview processes.
That’s another way to use them. You’re connecting people. Your job postings, you’re going to surface that. Hopefully, if you’ve done that well for the right people. This is also key. For the right people, it should be inspiring. Not for everybody. That’s fine because if they self select out and they’re not aligned with your vision to start with, you didn’t have to spend your time and effort. You’re spending time and effort on people that are attracted to your purpose. You layout the core values and not tell people what they are. I’m a big advocate of reorganizing your interview questions to answer how aligned people are with those values.
I have a scoring system aligned with the poster child as opposed to not aligned with whatever. There’s a number scale that we came up with that we can rate on each one of these. We have the questions to answer whether or not basically their past behaviors. That’s the other thing. We’re not asking hypotheticals, “What would you do if?” We’re asking, “What did you do when?” That’s evidence-based as well. People’s past behaviors are more predictive of future behaviors than somebody’s answering the question the way they think you want to. If they’re telling you the truth about how they behaved in certain situations that they were confronted with, that’ll fall into this realm of your core value number one or core value number three. You start to get a sense of their behaviors and how well they are aligned, with that value.
You can decide, based on that whether they would be a fit with the organization. We did two interviews, and clients do two interviews. The first one is solely focused on are they fit with the team? Are they inspired by the purpose? Are they aligned with the values? Behaviorally, we’re looking for who they are before we’re looking at their skillsets and stuff. That weeds out more people. You might be a lovely person, you might even be a great player, but if you aren’t going to live by these behavioral values, then you’re not going to be happy here and we’re not going to be happy with you.People's past behaviors are more predictive of future behaviors than answering questions the way they think you want them to. Click To Tweet
This ends up being a real good test for all parties involved. They may not understand it quite the same way you do after years of practice or what have you, but if I send somebody away because they’re not aligned with the values and they’re like, “I really like you guys and I want to work with you,” you’re not going to be happy. I’ve seen this before. We like you. This isn’t a judgment about you as an individual. Are you going to be happy here with the team or are you going to contribute in the ways that we want? Are you going to abide by the same rules that we do? It doesn’t mean it’s the law. It means that it’s important to us.
What a powerful position to be in to say, “We like you, but we can tell that this isn’t going to work out.” To be able to forecast that as you interview many people. You’ve lived and worked through your core values and tested them so much that you can find the right person. I know that bears out with you guys because I don’t know if you still do this, but I tell a lot of people that one of your filters for candidates was that they had to play team sports in the past.
Collaboration is a big deal.
Consider that to some people that might be like, “That’s odd, but that would make you many decisions based on that one thing. That’s how you figured that out.”
Not quite so hard and fast on that if they can come up with another area where they truly collaborated.
It holds tight to your values.
That’s one of those things that were conditioned in school. Especially if you’re coming out with a DPT, twenty years of schooling taught you that collaboration is cheating. As soon as you’re out of school though, that’s not true anymore. I want people to have the context of working together, helping each other, sharing knowledge, not being afraid to ask for help or ask questions. You’re not withholding information, but sharing and telling, “I made this mistake. I’m hoping the whole team can learn from it.” There’s not a fear of repercussion there or punishment or getting it wrong. There’s a, “This will help the whole team and ultimately help our patients, our customers or clients.” In doing so, can we avoid this mistake in the future? Can I help everybody else out? Those are things that are important to us in our culture. That’s not everywhere.
That’s a great example of holding to your values. Is there anything you want to add here at the end to inspire people to help people solidify their purpose, values and goals?
We’re talking about the big ambitious goal, the eight to ten years down the road, then you can backward plan your three years, highly achievable goal, your one year, your quarterly, that type of stuff in your planning. I would encourage you to get working on it, but of all the things, if this is new to you and you’re thinking about it, start writing it down. If you’ve been through this before, start writing it down and implementing it. I started working with a client and we were talking about this stuff and they’re like, “We’ve done all this before.” I’m like, “What are they?”
The silence was the answer. “What is your purpose?” “I’d have to look it up.” “What are the core values?” They couldn’t recite them. How are you using within your organization? That’s not an answer to how you’re using them. We use them in our interview process. We use them in our one on one meetings. We tell a core value story about somebody else. Every week, we bring them up in staff meetings. We have a theme each month. However, it is that you employ and use these in your organization. They must be used. We use them in our decision making. Fair enough. If they’re not used, then they’re more words on the back of a name badge or a plaque on the wall that nobody cares about. That’s the other thing. They’ve got to be written down. They’ve got to be utilized in the organization. When I say used, I don’t mean one time, I mean this should be your favorite ten or whatever.
It should look as part of the agenda on meetings. It’s absolutely purposefully put in many different locations.
Those are more reminders. We’re using these in our decision making. What marketing efforts are we going to do? What outreach are we going to do? What programs are we going to do? We ask these three questions first every time. They don’t get dusty. They don’t have to pull them off the shelf. They’re well-worn and use as your favorite pair of shoes.
You start attracting those people. You don’t necessarily have to filter them out, but sometimes they tend to start finding you.
The bigger and the more you live these and use them, the more that’s out there. It’s not employees and stuff that tell their friends or others. It’s patients, it’s referral sources. It’s partners and vendors and other people that are like, “These guys, they know what they’re about.” Maybe it’s not everybody’s cup of tea. That’s fine. They know what they’re about. I think you might like them. They start matching people up and telling them about you and vice versa and stuff. It becomes a lot more organic in large part because people know what you’re about. They know what matters to you, and can be fairly powerful as well.
If people want to reach out to you and help them if they needed help establishing these or reestablishing these or any other business questions, how would they get in touch with you?
Thanks. It is SturdyMcKee.com. There’s contact info there, my cellphone. Text me or call me. There are links to Facebook groups. There’s a free Facebook group for business owners. There are all kinds of resources. Jump on there.
Thank you for your time. It is hugely valuable. I appreciate going into a little bit deeper into vision and values and its importance in our companies.
Thank you, Nathan. I appreciate it.
About Sturdy McKee, PT
Sturdy is a business coach, entrepreneur and business owner who also happens to be a physical therapist and private practice owner.
He helps business owners make the world a better place.
He has a special place in his heart for physical therapist entrepreneurs and private practice owners.