As brand consultants, we work with clients to create their mission statement, and we consider three tent poles vital to any business that strives to succeed in today’s marketplace. Purpose, vision and values are the real foundations of business culture.
With most things in life, you need to go through a process to get answers, and to define a brand’s values — a North Star that staff can rally around — the process is vital. The queries will reveal answers that form your company’s mission statement.
We first ask our clients this question: For what purpose does your business exist beyond making money? The next question is, what does your product or service give your clients or allow them to do? This is another way of asking, what is the role you play in the lives of your audience?
By now, people are really thinking. That’s when we consider vision. Think about your business 10 years from now. It’s a long enough period for people to have a vague idea of what they’d like to be doing, what size they’d like the business to be, and what kind of companies they’d like to be working with.
Ask yourself, what do I want? If you own the business, you get to decide how the plan develops, and you get to shape it to create the type of business you want, which in turn will give you the lifestyle you want. Now is the time to dream big. Let this vision be almost limitless — big enough to excite you, motivate you and slightly scare you. You need very little detail. At this point, it’s OK to say that you really have no idea how you’re going to get there.
The best example of this technique is President John F. Kennedy’s vision of landing a man on the moon and getting him back safely before the decade ended. When Kennedy said those words, no one had any idea how this goal would be achieved, or if it was even possible. However, once a vision is set and made clear, all kinds of opportunities pop up that lead to the destination.
Finally, consider your values. These are elements unique to you, reflecting what you really care about and stand for, and how you’d like people to talk about you when you’re not in the room. For example, a luxury boatbuilder should avoid “luxury” as a core value, as every yacht business worth its salt adheres to that.
Some of the questions we ask clients when getting them to think about their values include, what’s great about working here? What would your competitors be envious of? What do you want your clients and employees to say about you when you’re not in the room?
Now list as many values and things you care about as you can, then pick your top three. Think of values as the roots of a tree. The roots hold the tree firm to the ground. They keep the tree secure, and they remain consistent and steadfast. Having core values for your business helps you to be a more effective leader with a deep understanding of how decisions will affect all aspects of your company. These values are a filter to use when it comes to tough choices you need to make.
You have to select values that are bold and push the boundaries for your company. Each value needs meaning wrapped around it, reflecting what the words mean to you. Once you have these value words, you have an incredible tool kit for your business that greatly eases decisions of hiring, firing, promoting and building; finding clients, partners and alliances; and winning work.
Once you’ve selected the behaviors that support your values, look at your systems to make sure they encourage those behaviors and support the values. It’s vital that the business provides and encourages strategies and systems that enable individuals, the team and your organization to live up to your values, build on them and create your company’s culture.
Lauren Jones is founder and director of the branding agency Box Creative. Rebecca Bonnington is CEO and founder of Tricres, a consulting and coaching company that focuses on creating business culture.
This article was originally published in the May 2021 issue.