Vision, Culture, and Values

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While most business owners are focusing on hard facts and financial realities, there is also a “softer” side of the business that must be nurtured, and which can provide a competitive edge that other companies cannot duplicate. That edge is known as the company “culture” and it is an outgrowth of the business owner’s values and vision.

Most businesses have evolved from an idea: some simply a whim and others through careful planning. Once the business has a measure of success, the owner hires additional employees. To do so, the business owner must sell someone else on his ideas and get them to believe he can accomplish his goals. And, as long as there are only a few employees, it’s easy for the business owner to interact with each person and keep them engaged.

But, as a firm grows and adds employees, it’s important for the entire organization to continue marching down the same path; heading toward the same goal and upholding the values established at the beginning. There is little time for passionate one-on-one conversations about the company’s reason for being, and yet more and more people are communicating who you are, what you do, why you do it, and how you are different. As the company grows, it becomes essential to manage the message so that it is consistently proclaimed. Simply stated, mission, vision, and values statements, when regularly shared and understood, protect the consistency of the message.

Creating Mission, Vision, and Values Statements

Formal mission, vision, and value statements provide a business with a foundation on which to build that positive company culture. These statements answer questions for the business such as, “Who are we?”, “What do we do?”, “Why do we do it?”, and “How are we different from others who have come before?”

Large companies spend a lot of time and money engaging outside firms to help them with mission, vision, and values statements. For small to medium-sized firms, however, these statements can be created by the business owner and key managers. The mission, vision, and values statements set the course for the firm, and should be good for three to five years. Of course they would need to be revisited sooner if there were a major shift in the industry, a significant change in the competitive environment or client base, or changes in the delivery of products and services.

  • The mission statement articulates the purpose of the firm.
  • The vision statement describes the long-term objective of the firm.
  • The values statement articulates the principles that guide the firm as it fulfills the mission and vision.

Creating the statements requires the business owners and stakeholders to ask questions like:

  • What business are we in?
  • What are we trying to accomplish?
  • Who do we serve?
  • Where do we want to be?
  • What outcome do we want to have?
  • How do we want to impact customers/clients/consumers?
  • How are we distinguished in the marketplace?
  • What do we want to be known for?
  • How do we want to conduct ourselves in the market?
  • How do we view our employees?
  • What difference do we make?

Many firms publish their mission, vision, and values statements. Studying the statements of other companies you admire, or the statements of your competitors can be very instructive.

When to Craft Your Statements

In a perfect world, you create your mission, vision, and values statements as part of the business start-up planning. As a reader of this newsletter, however, you may be years past your start-up phase. But if you don’t have mission, vision, and values statements, there’s no time like the present to start!

Mission, vision, and values statements will typically evolve with the maturation of the company, but if they need to be discarded and replaced every couple of years, then they were probably too narrow to withstand the test of growth. These statements provide a foundation and set the tone during times of both growth and contraction, and should be able to withstand the test of either.

Using Your Statements beyond Your Business Plan and Web Site

It’s not uncommon to see great mission, vision, and values statements created through hard work and deep thought; written into a business plan; added to the company web site; and then completely forgotten! Of course the mission, vision, and values statements should still be included on the website and in business plans. The website tends to be the first point of contact for many people. But what else can you do with your statements?

The first stop is the employees. Employees inherently want to do a good job. They want to understand how they fit in, and how their efforts contribute to the greater good. They need to understand the business, what it stands for, and where it is going. It is these principles that guide the conduct, culture, and working environment. Make it part of your orientation for every new employee, and find occasions, at least annually, to remind everyone of these important principles.

The second priority is outside the business. Customers, vendors, strategic partners, and others want to know the drivers behind those with whom they are doing business, and whether it is a good fit. In today’s competitive environment, it is clearly important to distinguish a firm’s products and services. However, it is every bit as important to distinguish its values and culture.

If you have questions, click here to have our office call to set up a time to discuss this with you.

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