A Guide to Defining Your Company
A sense of purpose. That is the new driving force in the world. No longer is the goal simply to make the most money, or to make a name for oneself – people are searching for purpose. Employees are more likely to be drawn to work for a company that provides them with that, just as consumers are more likely to buy from a business that can articulate a strong purpose behind what they do.
The same rings true for business leaders. Starting a new business is exciting. You’re full of hopes and dreams and the imaginations of what life will be like when you reach the level of success you’re aiming for. Then, almost immediately, the day-to-day operations take over, the initial excitement fades, and the way forward becomes cloudy, if not fully buried under your daunting task list. You no longer feel the purpose that drove your forward at the beginning, and without those feelings, you’re not quite sure how to move ahead.
Defining Your Company – Mission/Vision/Values
Feelings can be excellent motivators, until those feelings fade. What keeps a business leader going after the initial excitement is no longer present are their mission, vision, and values. When we take the time to define our company at the beginning, we’re provided with a road map of sorts that will help us navigate through any obstacles that might show up along the way. When feelings are no longer sufficient to push us forward, they will act as the driving force we need to continue in the right direction.
What exactly are mission, vision, and values?
A mission statement is an action statement that gives direction to how your vision will be achieved. It tends to focus on more short-term goals and answers questions about what your company does, who they do it for, and what benefit it brings to those it serves. E.g., Customers, employees, shareholders, community.
A vision statement focuses on your businesses long-term aspirations; what your company desires to be or become. It can be more abstract than your mission statement and answers the questions why and where. Why are we doing this, and where do we hope to end up?
Your values speak to who you are as a company. What you believe in. How you behave. Meaningful values convey the culture of your company and set the standard for what employees and clients alike can expect to experience when working with you.
*For an example of the difference between mission and vision, check out LinkedIn’s Mission Statement and Vision Analysis.
The Importance of Defining Your Company
According to a survey conducted by the Harvard Business Review, “in organizations where purpose had become a driver of strategy and decision making, executives reported a greater ability to deliver revenue growth and drive successful innovation and ongoing transformation.”
Defining your mission, vision and values can help streamline processes and decision making for you and your team. It’s easier to make a yes or no decision when you can clearly see whether something aligns with your mission, vision, and values. Does it push you toward your goal, or take you on a detour? That’s not to say that detours are always bad, rather this is where values can guide you. A decision that leads to a slight detour, but aligns quite strongly with your values, might be the best decision in the long run. Let your mission, vision and values work cohesively to help you move your business forward.
Mission, vision, and values are highly effective when they become the culture of a company. If they are simply words on a wall, customers and employees won’t know them – they certainly aren’t looking for a list of statements to memorize – and they won’t live them. From the top down, values must be lived out day by day to become part of a company’s culture.
How to Develop Your Mission/Vision/Values
“Great leaders are those who trust their gut. They are those who understand the art before the science. They win hearts before minds. They are the ones who start with WHY.”Simon Sinek in Start with Why
Start with WHY, as Simon Sinek would say. Define your company – the mission, vision, and values – by asking yourself these questions.
- Why are you doing what you’re doing?
- What is the goal you are headed toward, and why does it matter?
- Where do you want to be in five years? In 40 years?
- Where would you take this if there were no boundaries?
- If you were to overhear someone else talking about your company, what would you want to hear them say?
- What are your company’s strengths, and what would you like to improve on?
It will likely take a few brainstorming sessions to fully answer these questions and to develop your statements. If you lead a large team, you may not want them in the initial brainstorming sessions, but a great way to gain buy-in from your employees is to include them in the final steps.
How to Integrate Them Into Your Daily Operations
First off, it’s imperative that you lead by example. Employees are always watching and listening to see how you respond to various situations so they know how they should respond. Reinforce the mission, vision, and values through practical training. Give your team real-life examples of what it looks like to live them out and be sure to excite them with the WHY behind it all.
Reinforce your statements by including them in all communications, written and verbal. It’s tempting to think that once you’ve told your employees what your mission/vision/values are once, they will be able to take them and run with them. Unfortunately, these things don’t often stick the first time. We’ve heard it said that when you finally get tired of repeating yourself, that’s what your team is finally starting to hear you.
Employees who not only understand but are excited about your mission, vision, and values are far more likely to adhere to them. As stated in the Forbe’s article, How to Get Real Buy-In for Your Idea, “Real buy-in involves at least some element of co-creation. It invites discussion, debate, and allows everyone to feel even more vested in the outcome.” As much as is possible, bring the team in when discussing mission and values, especially regarding how it relates to them.
“Average companies give their people something to work on. In contrast, the most innovative organizations give their people something to work toward.”
Acknowledge employees whom you catch living your values out – leaders aim to catch their team doing something right, not wrong. Incorporate them in your hiring processes – if you include them at this stage, you’re more likely to end up with employees who thrive as part of your team.
Including your values in your employee reviews is another excellent way to integrate them into your daily operations. This gives you a chance to help your team set up methods for tracking their progress individually as well.
Having your mission, vision, and values worked out is essential to reaching your goals in business. It’s the map that will guide you to your destination, even when the detours try to throw you off track. If the task of defining your company still seems daunting, book a discovery call and find out how we can help.