Leadership Diagram Shows Vision Values Empowerment and Encouragement

Over the next five weeks, this blog will be explaining the five areas of business sustainability.  This week we’re starting where I think all businesses should start…….by talking about values and mission.  The next four blog posts will cover, operational irrelevance for the owner, creating a recurring revenue stream, systematizing your business, and creating a business that has enough profit.  I hope you enjoy this series.

You’ve built a successful business.  You have customers you’ve served for years.  You make a little money every year and you have a lifestyle that you’re satisfied with.  Yet, there’s something missing.

You haven ‘t been able to put your finger on what it is.  Part of what you’re unhappy with is you feel like you’re in a rut.  You feel your business should be more successful, but you’re not quite sure how to get there.  You’ve even engaged several consultants over the years, but things just seem to stay the same.

It would be easy for you to feel like you and your business have stagnated.  You know that there is something missing, you just can’t put your hand on it.

If this sounds even remotely like you, you’re not alone.  These are all things I see with long-time business owners every day.  The truth is you’ve had some success in your business, but there’s a better than even chance that you haven’t taken the next step and created a business that’s personally and economically sustainable.

Read on and find out what the first step in creating a sustainable business.  The one that allows you to have freedom and choice.  Creating a sustainable business is probably easier than you thought.

Let’s start with values, vision, and mission. 

You’ve probably been in a business where you see this very long mission statement on the wall.  The mission statement will have lots of platitudes.  It’ll say things like “people are our most important asset.”  But, when you look at how the company treats its employees, you know it’s a lie.

I don’t want you to have this type of mission statement.  I want you to have one that’s short; one sentence that can be answered with a yes or no when you’re done.  But, before you even start on a mission statement you need to start with values.

The Stage 2 Values Process

When I think about a sustainable business I know all of them have clear values that all the business stakeholders understand and sign up for.  In a private business, these values need to flow from the business owner. This means your first action is going to be to figure out what your values are.

The way you’re going to do this is to take a piece of paper.  For fifteen minutes write down all of the values that you think are important in your life.  Your list should have at least fifteen and hopefully twenty-five different values.

Next, I want you to categorize your list using the following four value types:

  • Core Values – These are values that you exhibit 100% of the time in your life. You will code these values with a CV.
  • Aspiration Values – These are values that you want to have in your life, but they just aren’t quite there yet. You’ll code these values with AV
  • Permission to Play Values – These values are things that you mostly do, but every once in a while, you’ll slip and not follow through on living these values. Code these values with a PV.
  • Accidental Values – These values are things that have accidentally slipped into your life, but you really don’t want them there. Code these values with a AcV.

Now, I want you to cross out all your permission to play values and accidental values.  You should be left with around five to ten values.  You want to make sure that you’re tough on these values.  Don’t pretend that permission to play values is core values.  If you do, your employees will know that they aren’t real and your values won’t be used or believed by those you work with.

Your next step is to bring your list down to only five values.  And these values must be ones that you can use in your business.  If you have five core values, you can use them.  If you have aspirational values that you want in your business, you can use those value, but with one caveat.  You must be honest about them.  You must say that these are aspirational values and you need to have a game plan for how to move them from aspirational values to core values.

Now that you have your five values it’s time to make them useable. 

This step is where you make your values usable in your company.  I want you to take each of your values and write a clarifying statement around it.

If one of your values is simplification, which is one of mine, a clarifying statement might be: I take the complicated and make it simple and easy to understand.

When I talk with someone about simplifying their business, they have a clear understanding of what I mean.  You see, it’s too easy for each of us to make up what a value means when it’s just the value that’s communicated.  If I just told you one of my core values was simplification, you would make up what I mean by that word.  When I add a clarifying statement around the value, the chance for a misunderstanding about what I mean goes way down.

This step is a bit on the annoying side, and if you don’t do it, the worth of doing this values exercise goes down significantly.

Here’s the hard part.

You need to use your values every day.  You need to find ways to integrate your values statement into lots of conversations you have with all of the stakeholders in your company.  You need to do this consistently for months and at first, no one will get what you’re talking about.  It’s just the way it works.

You will want to integrate your values and value statements in these types of conversations:

  • When you’re talking with a new hire you want to make sure they understand what your values are and why.
  • When you’re helping a team-member see that their actions are not consistent with the stated values in your company.
  • When you find someone taking an action that supports your values.
  • When you’re talking with someone about what makes your company unique.
  • When you’re putting together marketing programs for your company.
  • When you’re talking with suppliers about how they can support your company and the values you hold dear.

You get the idea.  The more ways you find to talk about your values, the more quickly and deeply they’ll become ingrained in your company.

Please don’t expect others to do this for you.  If you aren’t talking about your values at least four or five times a day, no one will pick up on what you’re doing.  It’ll take months before being a values-led company will start to take hold in your company.  The truth is, eventually they will take hold and your company will become a very different place to work.

Mission Statement

Developing clear values is the first step in moving you towards a values-led company.  The next step is developing a mission statement that is easy for everyone in your company to understand and use.

My definition of a good mission statement is a simple sentence that is no longer than ten words and can be answered with a yes or no if you’re doing it.

Here are a few examples:

For our wealth management company – We help to make our clients lives better.

For The Sustainable Business – We help make successful businesses personally and economically sustainable.

For my former vending company – We provide quality food at reasonable prices.

None of these is earth-shattering.  They all fit in with the values we have in our company.  They are simple for all our stakeholders to understand and they can be answered with a yes or a no.  And, they are easy to use.

Making a mission statement part of your company.

The final step here is to make your values and mission part of your company.  Just like using your values and supporting statements several times a day, the same is true for your mission.

Six months after you install both your values and mission you should be able to ask anyone in your company what the mission of the company is and what the core values are.  If everyone can answer this question, then you’ve done a good job.  If the answer is no, then you haven’t been focusing enough conversations on values and mission.

The interesting thing is if your people can tell you what the company values are and what the mission is, you’ll see a change in behavior and performance at your company.  It’s amazing that when your stakeholders know what your company is about, their behavior will change.  But, and this is big but, you must be walking your talk in both mission and values.  If you don’t, your stakeholders will know and it just becomes another stupid management initiative.

It’s really that simple.  And, if you seem to see that no one is following your values, you’ve probably not labeled your values correctly.  They likely really are aspirational values or accidental values.  If that’s true, tell the truth and put a plan together to make them core values.

I know it sounds a bit weird and at the same time taking this first step of creating, using and depending on values and mission will make a big difference in putting your company on the road to sustainability.

Why don’t you hit return and let me know what you think about becoming a values-led company?  I would be glad to have a conversation with you about this if you want.  Just click here to choose a time and date for us to talk.


Topics: mission, values, Sustainable Business, business sustainability project

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