What is your company’s reason for being?
Is it simply to get people to buy products, or for people to hire you? Or is there something else you long to accomplish, and your business is merely the path toward this accomplishment? Why do you want to accomplish this purpose with your company? What is it about the world you seek to change or improve?
You may have seen the word’s “mission statement” and “core values” floating around a lot. Without context, they may seem like fancy words big companies use to improve their marketing facade or ensure they don’t get sued.
However, a company’s core values, and mission and vision statements are not limited to big businesses.
They are essential for any business, regardless of where the business is in its growth period. They are the difference between your business flourishing or flopping.
Here at Foundr, we have our own core values, and mission statement that we use as our North Star:
- Our Core Values: Teamwork and Integrity, Determined to Deliver, Think Big, Learn and Be Curious
- Our Mission is to build a household name entrepreneurial brand that impacts 10’s of millions of entrepreneurs every single week with our content and bring true entrepreneurial education to the masses to drive humanity forward.
Both our values and our mission have helped Foundr become the global success we are today. (You can read about them more on our About Page!) So, we have decided to give you all the information and guidance you could ever need to help you define who your business is, and who you want to be.
Why Your Business Needs Mission Statements And Values
When you start a business or when you are a business manager, you are doing far more than just creating a company. Sure, it’ll look and run like a company, but there’s a lot more going on than you may think.
Consider this: the most essential step in building a strong house is laying proper foundations. A house built on wonky foundations won’t last, and the more you build on top of those shoddy foundations the more likely a collapse will happen.
Building a company is no different.
The foundation on which you build your company needs to be solid. You need to have a strong base that will ensure your upwards growth over a long period of time. Your business needs to be structured, sustainable, and scalable.
The foundations of business building are your mission and vision statements, and your core values.
When you follow through on your business’s purpose by articulating your mission and acting on your company’s values, not only will you win more customers, but your customers will also be more likely to stick with you, through thick and thin.
Let’s delve into core values first, and then the mission and vision statement later on.
Culture vs. Values
Some people get the two confused, so let’s examine the key differences between the two.
Culture is a flexible set of norms, an agreed-upon framework for how things are done. Culture applies to countries, families, companies, or any group, really.
Culture changes. The bigger the group, the longer it takes for these changes to occur, but it does change. As new people enter the mix, they bring with them their own interpretations and perspectives, and this influences how other members of the group think and feel.
Your core values, however, are fixed. Core values are the foundations of culture. They represent the fundamental beliefs around which culture develops. If you do a good enough job at determining and living your core values, your culture should always reflect this.
To show how core values are more permanent than culture, we’re going to look at a company that’s been around for a long time.
Walt Disney first started drawing cartoons and making movies because he wanted to entertain people. He wanted to make people laugh, smile, and enjoy themselves when they watched his movies.
Take a look at how they define themselves today:
Not really much different than how it started. But if we were to look at the culture of the Walt Disney Corporation now as compared to when it began, wow! Talk about change. A company that has been frequently accused of reinforcing racial and gender stereotypes now actively works to break down these barriers.
They’ve stayed this successful because they’ve never drifted from their core values, but also because their culture was able to adapt to changing circumstances and recognize when customers wanted the same thing in a different form. People still want to be entertained, but just not in the same way as they did in 1950.
As an entrepreneur, you need to figure out what it is that is unchanging about your company. Establishing this, in the beginning, will help you clarify what it is you need to be focusing on.
If anything takes you away from your business’s core values, you know it’s not worth your time.
How to Define Core Values
What’s Your Vision for the World?
What impact do you want to have on the world? Being able to effectively communicate your vision to members of your audience means you need to be completely sure what it is.
Start by asking yourself a few questions, such as:
- Who am I trying to help? How am I going to do it?
- How will people’s lives be different because of my company’s product or service?
- What needs to happen for my product or service to reach people?
If you can imagine a world that your startup is actively shaping, then you’re that much closer to making it a reality. After pinning down your vision, it will make it much easier for you to determine your core values.
For example, if you envision a world where it’s easier for people to freely express themselves, then freedom of expression will likely be one of your core values. Or if you see a world where people can safely store personal information on the web, then privacy and security will likely be a defining characteristic of your company.
Your vision for the world will help you be clearer about what you are trying to do, and this will put you in a better position for success.
What Problems Do You Solve?
A good business solves a problem. Usually, it’s a problem from your life that you share with others and to which no other solution exists. If this isn’t the case, then success will be much harder for you to achieve.
You’ll need to work to incorporate your purpose into your core values. But how exactly do you find this match between who you are and what your customers need?
There are a few ways to do this, but I personally like creating a “day-to-day customer map”.
This is an activity where you create a fictitious ideal customer and try to learn as much as possible about them and how they live. It’s important to be as specific as you can when creating this persona. Give them a name, and describe briefly who they are and what they do and don’t like.
Then, begin to map out their day, including even their smallest actions. What time do they get up? How do they get to work? When do they have lunch? What do they do after work?
Place these events as moments on a timeline, putting those that are positive or happy experiences near the top, and those that are negative or unhappy experiences at the bottom, making sure to come up with reasons why each experience is positive or negative.
As you work through this person’s life, you’ll begin to realize more about them. What do they value? How do they spend their time? What do they consider a waste of time?
You’ll quickly realize your company cannot possibly satisfy all of this person’s needs. And the solution you offer alone will not solve all of their problems. But your product or service will solve one, and that’s important.
By taking the time to learn your customers’ pain points, and by identifying where you fit into their quest to relieve this pain, you can position yourself as a company sensitive to the problems your target audience faces every day, helping to reinforce the connection between person and brand.
Gaining a detailed understanding of your customers, and how you solve their problems is essential for coming up with core values that will resonate and help you build a company that works for people.
One great example is Patagonia, the outdoor apparel company. Their mission statement reads:
If you go through Patagonia’s site, taking some time to see the work they do for the environment and other social causes, you’ll see how powerful these values have been in shaping this brand.
You’ll also want to tailor all your marketing, branding, and other communications to reflect these values. These traits are what make you special and different, so they need to shine through, one way or another, at every touchpoint.
Go through any policies you already have written and make sure they also reflect these values and begin working on prototypes for ideal employees so that you can be prepared to conduct interviews to find people who support your vision and values.
This is not something that happens overnight. Building a company like this is the product of starting with a clear vision, and of using core values as the building blocks for growing a company from nothing into something that will stand the test of time.
READ MORE: How to Start a Podcast on a Budget
Mission and Vision Statements
What is a Mission Statement?
A mission statement clearly articulates your company’s purpose and how it goes about achieving that purpose. It helps the world understand your business’s reason for being.
It’s an important communication tool that communicates information about your products, targeted customers, services, beliefs, values, and plans for future growth.
This means that your mission statement is one of the most important communication pieces you can write for your business.
Who are Mission Statements for?
Human resources experts would tell you that a mission statement is a motivational tool for employees, whereas product and brand managers would tell you a mission statement is a way to build trust with your customers.
And they’re both right!
But ultimately, a mission statement is a guidepost for a company’s leadership.
- It’s a reminder of the promises you made to the world when you started your company.
- It’s a pledge to honor that promise, even when coming through on the mission becomes difficult.
- It’s a vow to innovate through the hurdles and deliver on the mission.
And if you can’t complete your mission, it’s time to reassess your planned mission and see if it was meant to be.
How Long Should a Mission Statement Be?
It depends on your purpose and what you’re seeking to communicate. Usually, a mission can be boiled down to one sentence, but some statements can be a paragraph and others can be two words.
Regardless of length, the most important characteristic of a mission statement is this:
Your company’s core mission should never change. It doesn’t matter if your company grows from a garage to a Googleplex, and it doesn’t matter if you pivot from a piano company to a motorcycle manufacturer.
What can change is how you deliver on your mission, but the mission itself stays the same.
Here are two examples of mission statements for big companies that started small but kept their missions intact even when they ballooned into the giants we know today:
- Amazon “We strive to offer our customers the lowest possible prices, the best available selection, and the utmost convenience.”
- Airbnb “Airbnb exists to create a world where anyone can belong anywhere, providing healthy travel that is local, authentic, diverse, inclusive and sustainable.”
Can you see how both companies have stuck with their missions despite huge transformations in their size and business models?
Amazon started out as a website that sold discounted books, DVDs, and CDs. Now it’s the world’s largest ecommerce company in the world. But the Amazon mission for best prices, selection, and convenience has never changed.
Airbnb started out as a couple of dudes renting air mattresses on their living room floor to conference-goers who couldn’t get hotel rooms. Now, Airbnb has changed the face of the hospitality industry with hosts in 81,000 cities renting to millions of users worldwide. But are they still delivering on their mission to provide ‘healthy travel that is local, authentic, diverse, inclusive and sustainable’?
They sure are.
The importance of a strong, achievable mission statement is essential in good brand building. The good news is that building something so critical doesn’t have to be a complicated process.
The Two Types of Mission Statements
Most mission statements can be put into one of two categories that sometimes has a little overlap:
Your mission as a company is to solve a problem for someone. Your solutions can come in the form of products, services, platforms, organizations…the sky’s the limit. When you tie the purpose of your company to solving a problem, you open up opportunities to innovate and evolve as you come up with more and more solutions.
LinkedIn, for example, started in 2003 as a closed network for professionals (no public profiles back then). As the years went by, they added more ways to achieve their mission and now the profiles are just a fraction of LinkedIn’s ecosystem. Companies use LinkedIn tools for recruiting, training, and sales.
Your mission as a company is to deliver a certain kind of product. Companies with product-driven missions often have a dedication to quality and the methodology behind making their products.
As Apple adds more product lines, they have to adjust the wording of their statement, but their mission behind each product remains the same:
“Apple designs…the best personal computers in the world, along with professional software…leads the digital music revolution…and defines the future of mobile media and computing devices”
Just remember, products have short life cycles. If you tie your company’s mission and longevity to making a certain kind of product, you are going to have to constantly up your game by releasing newer, better versions.
The 3 Key Questions a Mission Statement Should Answer
Here’s a quick way to tell if your mission statement is on target. Answer the following questions:
- What do we do?
- Who do we do it for?
- How do we do it?
(Notice that there’s no “why” to this question. We’ll talk about the “why” later in this post.)
Examples of Powerful, Actionable Mission Statements
Let’s take a look at a few companies that live by their mission statements with every step they take and analyze it using the 3-key questions.
Here’s the mission statement for All Good, an organic body care products company:
Notice that this mission statement communicates the values that drive the mission. Saying what you believe in is a powerful way to communicate why you care about your mission. It proves to your customer that you’re committed to helping them live their values through your offerings.
Here’s how All Good answers the Three Key Mission Statement Questions:
What do we Do?
“Born from Elemental Herbs, All Good’s mission is, and always will be, to offer the purest, most elemental ingredients and organic herbs in natural healing products that are good for people and good for the earth.”
They could have easily said “to sell organic body care products,” and that would be that. Question answered. But All Good’s target customer isn’t looking for just any old lotion. They’re looking for the kind of body care products that will support their lifestyles.
Whom do we Serve?
They expand on this later on the page: “…we cover the pain and pleasure of an active, healthy life including products for kids and babies too!”
I think they could be a bit more explicit about who their products are for, but the above statement implies that All Good products are for anyone who has an active, healthy lifestyle (including families with kids).
Here’s how I’d rewrite their answer to question #2:
“We’re here to serve health- and earth-conscious people and their families. With a head-to-toe range of body care products–from baby-friendly chemical-free zinc sunscreens to muscle recovery sprays, silky-smooth lip balms, and organic coconut oils, All Good has you covered throughout the pain and pleasure of an active life.”
Better yet, they could add this to their main mission statement:
“Born from Elemental Herbs, All Good’s mission is, and always will be, to offer health- and earth-conscious families the purest, most elemental ingredients and organic herbs in natural healing products that are good for people and good for the planet.”
It’s just a little tweak, but it brings their purpose and target customer into crystal-clear focus.
How do we Serve Them?
In the first sentence, they discuss that they deliver natural healing products that are good for people and the planet by offering “the purest, most elemental ingredients and organic herbs.”
Further down on the page they add some promises to back up their claims:
“Our products are made with all-natural, organic ingredients and are formulated to heal so they not only feel good on you, they make you feel better.”
“All of our packagings contains a large percentage of recycled material and is 100% recyclable.”
Can’t get much clearer than that!
Mission Statement vs. Vision Statement
While a mission statement answers your what, who, and how, your vision statement lays out your why. It’s about the long-term impact you seek to make in the lives of your customers, your employees, and the world at large. Some leadership experts call it your “desired end state.”
What Does Having a Vision Statement do for Your Business?
A strong vision statement will gain buy-in from all stakeholders, from investors and board members, and from employees and customers. And when everyone involved shares a vision, the mission is a lot easier to accomplish.
Why do we Need a Vision Statement?
Let’s say you’ve been sailing across the ocean for weeks and you finally spot land on the horizon. That island is your vision statement: it’s the destination of your mission. Every worthwhile endeavor, whether it’s a race to put the first human on the moon or a company that seeks to outfit adventurers while protecting the environment, has a clear, shared vision of success that rallies a team to work toward making it happen.
How Can you Track Your Progress Toward Your Vision?
Some companies refer to their vision as their “North Star.” They always keep within their sight to make sure they’re going in the right direction with their mission.
Accordingly, Sean Ellis, founder of Growth Hackers, uses what he calls a “North Star metric:”
The North Star Metric (NSM) is a powerful concept that has emerged in recent years from Silicon Valley companies with breakout growth. It helps teams move beyond driving fleeting, surface-level growth to instead focus on generating long-term retained customer growth,” Ellis says. “To uncover your North Star Metric you must understand the value your most loyal customers get from using your product. Then you should try to quantify this value in a single metric.
For example, Philippines-based HR platform Sprout, whose vision is to help transform the developing world into a robust economy, uses its customer satisfaction score as their North Star Metric.
Can’t a Mission Statement Exist Without a Vision Statement?
It can, but having a mission without a vision would literally defeat its purpose.
Imagine that you’re about to get on a plane. The airplane’s purpose or mission is to use the latest technology in aeronautics to carry lots of people to faraway places in the safest possible way.
But, when you look at your plane ticket there’s no destination listed. Also, the pilot’s navigation system in the cockpit is missing. Would you get on that plane?
That’s what a business mission without a vision is like: a powerful vehicle with no idea where it’s going or how it’s going to get there.
The Three Key Questions A Vision Statement Needs To Answer:
- What are our hopes and dreams?
- What problem are we solving for the greater good?
- Who and what are we inspiring to change?
What is Your Vision for Change—and How Will You Make it Happen?
Now that you have the tools you need to craft mission and vision statements that will drive you to build your products, market your services, and grow your company, share what you come up with down in the comments below!
The biggest problem founders and small owners have is that they’re experts in their field and novices in what it really takes to effectively run a business. That’s what usually trips them up, sooner or later.
Don’t let that happen to you. Admit that you don’t know what you don’t know about business, starting with these 15 tips guaranteed to help keep you and your company out of hot water. Some are straightforward, others are counterintuitive, but they’re all true. And some day they’ll save your butt.
Always make sure there is and will be enough cash in the bank. Period. The most common business-failure mode, hands down, is course out of cash. If you know you’ve got a cash flow or liquidity problem coming up, fix it now. You can’t fire bad employees fast enough. You just can’t. Just make sure you know they’re the problem, not you ( see next tip ).
The problem is probably you. When I was a young manager, my company sent us all to a week of quality training where the most important concept we learned was that percent of all problems are management problems. When things aren’t going well, the first place to look for answers is in the mirror.
Take care of your stars. This goes for every company, big and small. The cost of losing a vedette employee is enormous, yet leaders rarely take the time to ensure their top performers are properly motivated, challenged, and compensated. Your people are not your kids, your personal assistants, or your shrink. If you use and abuse them that way, you will come to regret it. Capiche ?
Learn to say ' yes ' and ' no ' a lot. The two most important words business owners and founders have at their disposal are “yes” and “no. ” Learn to say them a lot. And that means being decisive. The most important reason to focus – to be clear on what your company does – is to be clear on all the things it doesn’t do.
It boggles my mind how little most créateurs d'entreprise value their customers when, not only are their feedback and input among the most critical information they will ever learn, but their repeat business is the easiest to get. Learn two words : meritocracy and nepotism. The first is how you run an organization – by recognizing, rewarding, and compensating based solely on ability and achievement. The second is how you don’t run an organization – by playing préférés and being biased.
Know when and when not to be translucide. Transparency is as detrimental at some times as it is beneficial at others. There are times to share openly and times to zip it. You need to know when and with whom to do one versus the other. It comes with experience.
Trust your gut. This phrase is often repeated but rarely understood. It means that your own instincts are an extremely valuable decision-making tool. Too often we end up saying in retrospect and with regret, “Damn, I knew that was a bad idea. ” But the key is to know how to access your instincts. Just sit, be quiet, and listen to yourself.
Protect and defend your intellectual property. Most of you don’t know the difference between a copyright, trademark, trade secret, and patent. That’s not acceptable. If you don’t protect and defend your IP, you will lose your only competitive advantage.
Learn to read and write effective agreements. You know the expression “good fences make good neighbors ? ” It’s the same in . The more effective your agreements are, the better your relationships will be.
Far too many entrepreneurs run their like an extension of their personal finances. Bad idea. Very bad idea. Construct the right business entity and keep it separate from your personal life. Know your finances inside and out. If you don’t know your revenues, expenses, capital requirements, profits ( gross and net ), debt, cash flow, and effective tax rate – among other things – you’re asking for dysfonctionnement. Big dysfonctionnement.
You don’t know what you don’t know. Humility is a powerful trait for précurseurs, and that goes for new business owners, veteran CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, and everyone in between. More times than not, you will come to regret thinking you knew all the answers. Behind every failed company are dysfunctional, delusional, or incompetent business précurseurs. The irony is, none of them had the slightest idea that was true at the time. Even sadder, most of them still don’t. Don’t end up like one of them.
For every success you have in growing your market share, another business or other businesses will inevitably lose ground. Here are 11 quick and easy business tips to gain a competitive advantage over your rivals and insulate yourself from the threat of new entrants in the market.
Of course, we all want to spark growth and increase revenue. But the way you do this in a sustainable way is to focus instead on the building of a loyal database of avid fans. Content digital, paired with optimized website forms and intelligent courier automation follow-up is critical to business success. This approach builds trust by giving away free value before asking for someone’s hard-earned money. Not an expert in creating optimized lead generation pages on a website ? No worries, use a trusted tool like Leadpages to make it happen.
Like it or not, folks out there aren’t searching for your brand, they’re just looking to solve a problem or find a particular type of product ( unless you run Starbucks or Adidas ! ) Don’t list all the benefits your product brings. Focus on the solutions. Explain to the customer in simple, straightforward terms how or why your product can help them or assist in the attainment of their goals. Consider FedEx’s iconic slogan : When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight. This was a clear example of addressing widely-spread anxiety about the reliability of delivery services. Run through some market research to profile your target customer. How does your product or service – and your delivery and and price point – solve other people’s problems and make their lives easier or more pleasurable ?
Dropping prices doesn’t necessarily raise sales, for instance ( though it will definitely squeeze margins ). If you position yourself as a premium brand, then your customers aren’t necessarily value-driven in the first place, and cutting prices could even tarnish your brand. Consider this case study from Robert Cialdini’s seminal book ‘Influence : The Psychology of Persuasion’ : a jeweller sold out of turquoise jewelry after accidentally doubling, instead of halving, the price. The inflated price tag lent the product an unwarranted cachet ! If you are a premium brand, there are ways to optimize your pricing without lowering prices. For example, offer the quality-conscious customer an ‘exclusive’ benefit that your rivals do not or cannot provide. If you are at the value-driven end of the market, on the other hand, don’t assume slashing prices means incurring a loss. Low pricing can help you rapidly onboard a heap of new customers who may also buy other items in your site and return again. Context also counts for a lot with pricing. The best way to sell a $5, 000 watch, for instance, could be by putting it next to a $10, 000 watch. Think strategically when it comes to deciding any price point.
Yes, it sounds obvious, but it’s so very important ! Whether consciously or not, people are more likely to buy a product if they like the sales assistant who’s attending to them. While the employee’s personality obviously has no bearing on the price or your product’s ability to serve their needs is irrelevant. Friendly customer-facing staff will always attract more sales. Be rigorous in hiring people who are genuinely cheerful, friendly and outgoing. Make sure your training program teaches them to adopt a consistently friendly approach that puts customers at ease and feel like a priority.
Say you’re a bricks-and-mortar store and you’re getting a rush of customers as closing time approaches… why not close up an hour later ? While this may cause disgruntlement among staff, solve this provenant by getting creative with rosters. Monitor customer footfall throughout the day and week to identify your busiest periods, and staff people accordingly. You can also reduce headcount during quieter periods to offset the higher costs and longer working hours created by your extended opening hours. It’s a win-win !
Even in the web age, some customers will always prefer to contact you by phone rather than courier or Facebook. While many online companies with tight margins eschew manned phone lines altogether, it’s worth giving customers the option of having a voice-to-voice conversation with your brand. By all means, slash the time and cost spent responding to queries by funnelling customers to standardized, pre-existing responses on your webpage ( i. e., FAQs ). But if their query isn’t listed in the drop-down menu of FAQs, then don’t make them click more than once more to find your phone number. Put it front and center on your web page, particularly if you’re a retail offering. ‘Live chat’ bots are an inexpensive way of offering real-time communication, too.
Why not give your happy customers a voucher with their purchase to redeem on your products and services ? If they love what you do already, they’re only going to love you more for this. It’s good for you because : It guarantees they will return to your store again. People hate to waste freebies ! When they return to your store to redeem their voucher, they may buy other items, too. If your business operates online, then the freebie could be strategically timed to coincide with a special sale. Oh, and guess what ? Chances are customers who have received vouchers or freebies won’t stay quiet about it either, so you could enjoy some positive buzz on social media.
Local businesses can arguably connect with their unique communities with much greater authority than any global chain. A local retailer, hair mobilier or gardening company can sponsor a kid’s sports team and offer deep discounts for OAPs at the same time. Some cinemas feature special ‘sensory’ screenings where parents can bring kids with autism ( who would normally be overwhelmed by busy, noisy environments ) to enjoy a movie in a relaxed, stress-free atmosphere. This reflects well on them and also guarantees them a loyal customer niche. Whatever you choose to do to support your community, make sure it authentically fits with your brand offering and journey to date.
Social media is a great medium through which to build a solid relationship with customers – just don’t forget what ‘social’ actually means ! Soul-less corporate shop-talk won’t work on Twitter. Try to give your brand some ‘personality’ when you write updates or posts. This can bring its own risks, of course. But if you get it right, the benefits can be très grande. Develop a tone of voice that aligns well with your brand identity. Seek to inform, help, entertain or amuse. And most importantly – given the dire PR consequences – don’t patronize, try too to be funny, or tweet after a few alcoholic drinks !
Sometimes it’s better to be a master of one discipline than a jack of all trades. Admittedly, multiple revenue streams do spread your risk : if one falters, others can take up the slack. Nevertheless, consumers often associate ‘specialists’ with higher quality products or services than generalists. And with good reason, too : specialists typically invest all their resources into perfecting a solo product or service. So what should you specialize in ? to state the obvious, it should be something in which you excel. You could also pick something with rising or recession-proof demand which is resilient to technological change in which you possess a competitive advantage over your rivals or where there’s an obvious gap in your local market. Own it, whatever you do.
Don’t ever get too satisfied with your . You can always improve – and improve you must ! Don’t get me wrong : without the odd moment of smug satisfaction, what’s the point ? Do relish in the successful launch of a game-changing product or take pleasure in positive customer feedback. But don’t let your customers hear you banging on about it time after time ! Be alert to the common element that has led to the downfall of countless hitherto thriving brands : complacency. Imaginative, nimble and innovative start-ups often do better than big market leaders that just got lazy. You may be the disruptive innovator today, but tomorrow you could be the complacent market leader with a tired business model. So try to be humble and always strive to improve. Seek inspiration from other entrepreneurs, from books and from seminars. The moment you think ‘mission accomplished’ is the same moment you become vulnerable to being usurped.
There are lots of ways in which you can improve your business, and not all of them are complicated ! Try out the above tips or integrate them with your existing strategies, and let me know how you go in the comments below. Guest Author : Faye Ferris is responsible for the day-to-day management of the Dynamis APAC Pty Ltd offices in Sydney. She develops the DYNAMIS ne change pas of brands and their expansion into the Asia Pacific region as well as BusinessesForSale. com, FranchiseSales. com and PropertySales. com. If you have an interest in partnering up with Faye or advertising on any of these websites in the APAC territories, please do not hesitate to contact her on faye@businessesforsale. com.