In a recent conversation with a client, he somewhat ashamedly admitted his business does not have stated mission, values or vision. He was frustrated by this, but couldn’t really figure out how to go back and start at the beginning when he already has eight employees. After all—how would he be able to express his own vision and values and still have buy-in from his team?
Trust me—it is never too late. In fact, it can pull your team together and inspire a renewed commitment to the work you are all doing together.
It makes sense when you think about it—when you start a business you are so busy looking for customers that it is easy just to focus on that. Once you start working with customers, you get busy and just keep moving ahead to keep growing. You know what you are doing, and the customers seem pretty happy, so it’s all good…right??
For a while, probably so.
But, as you keep growing, as you hire staff, and as you begin to have big (and expensive) decisions to make, it helps to have some guidelines to help you focus.
That’s where mission, vision and values come in. They help you define what you want your business to be, who you want to serve and how you want to serve them, and what problem your business is helping to solve to make the world a better place.
Here is how these can help you focus:
So, how do you go about the process of developing a mission, vision and values that expresses your goals of your business while also including your already-existing team??
First, pull them together and explain the situation. Ask for their help in defining what you as a team have at this time for your mission, your vision, and your values.
Work with them to put to words the problem your business solves for others and in the world. Why does this business exist? By defining this, you will create meaning for your business and help your team better understand why the work they do is important. It creates meaning for them.
Then, talk about the values the company seems to exhibit. Get a long list of words, then narrow them down to an aspirational few that you all want to focus on. Spend some time defining those words—what do they mean and what does it look like when they are happening?
For example, if your list includes customer serve, talk about that. Does it look like returning calls within 24 hours? Does it look like being available to them 24 hours a day? Does it look like meeting with each customer quarterly and bringing them new ideas about how you can serve them and improve their business?
You get to operationalize your values, and once you do, you have specific things you can ask of your team and evaluate them for.
Finally, discuss whether it makes sense for this business to grow? Stay the same size? Do you want a flashy office, or to be frugal? Is your vision to pass the company to your children, or do you plan to sell it when you retire? Or, is your vision to sell it once it reaches a certain size? Do you envision this company having an IPO? Or will it remain a small local or regional business?
Take some time with your team to envision the future of the business—five, ten, or twenty years down the road. Develop a cohesive vision statement that can guide you as a team into the future.
I also suggest spending some time talking about where each person on the current team fits into this mission, values and vision. Help them see the direct relationship of what they do and how that leads the company into the future.
Then you, as the leader, can spend time aligning your processes, your team, and your short and long-term goals to reflect what you have taken the time to develop. This brings your mission, vision and values to life.