Several years ago, Adrienne and Troy Fenley, owners of Encompass Design Build, in Vienna, Va., worked with a consultant to develop a strategic plan. The process began with the development of the company’s mission and vision. “We believed in the concepts ...,” Adrienne says, but “the documents were put into a drawer to gather dust.”

Then, at a recent peer group meeting, the Fenleys were introduced to the idea of a personal vision statement. “This was an epiphany,” Adrienne says. “What we had was the tail wagging the dog — and what we needed was a company that reflected how we wanted to live and that helped us to reach those goals.”


The Fenleys immediately wrote down their individual goals for desired income, time spent in the business, personal time, travel, and retirement. Then they had another epiphany. “We realized that we had no idea what our key managers wanted,” Adrienne says, “so it was impossible to know how to help them reach their goals. Without knowing, how could we keep our top players?”

So the Fenleys requested a written vision statement from each of their key managers and were surprised at the response. “Everyone was 100% into it,” Adrienne says. “Because our team is young, ambitious, and career-focused, this was a natural outgrowth.”

The results were powerful for both the employers and their employees. “When [the staff] spent the time thinking about where they really wanted to be in a year, five years, and beyond, it helped cement their professional goals and the steps required to reach their goals,” Adrienne says. “One team member saw that in the next two years he’d have an MBA and a baby. With those goals reached, his financial needs would change dramatically — which translated to him taking on more responsibilities here in order to make the money he needed. Now that we all know where he wants to go, we can work together to try to deliver.”

By clarifying this particular employee’s personal goals, the Fenleys were able to jettison their assumption that they couldn’t keep him once he had earned his MBA. “Instead, we found out that he absolutely loves small business,” Adrienne says. “This means that if we can offer him the opportunity to be entrepreneurial within our organization, he’ll be challenged enough that he won’t want to leave. This is huge in building a long-term, energized staff. Without asking them to share their own personal visions, we may have really missed the boat.”

The Fenleys realize that they may not be able to retain all their valued staff over the long term. “One person came to us and said that he expects to leave for a larger firm in three to four years. We said, ‘Great! So what do you want to do here between now and then?’ Our employees realize that the overall company direction is going to be driven by Troy’s and my vision, and that may or may not meet their needs,” she says. “And that’s all OK. In the meantime, we’ll do everything we can to create a workplace that is fun, exciting, and that helps them live the life they want.”

—Victoria Downing is president of Remodelers Advantage, a national company that gives remodelers the tools to achieve consistent profitability and success through one-on-one consulting, the Roundtables peer program, and an online learning community, Advantage Associates, 301.490.5620. [email protected];

This is a longer version of an article that appeared in the December 2009 issue of REMODELING.