When someone visits the careers page on my branding agency’s website, they find a letter from me. In it, I describe how I always wanted to work at a company that valued every part of me—a professional woman of color and mother. I wanted a place where I could speak freely, where my creativity was recognized, where I worked with smart people eager to listen and learn and grow. Ultimately, I tell readers, I never found that place. So, I created it.
I chose to share why I started my company Tote + Pears because authenticity is central to our brand. And, research shows that being upfront about the values that drive your company can help attract people who share those values. That’s why your founding story is more than just lip service. It’s a rallying cry for customers and employees.
If you’re looking to grow your business, a clearly defined purpose that spells its mission, vision and values could help you set you apart.
Why You Need a Mission, Vision and Values
A study of C-level executives at 28 global companies published in the October 2019 issue of Harvard Business Review found that putting purpose at the core of your strategy results in “more-unified organizations, more-motivated stakeholders and a broader positive impact on society.”
A mission and vision statement are your opportunity to define your purpose by showing your customers and employees what they can expect from you. Enumerating your values further clarifies who you are and what you stand for. Taken together, these foundational elements form a framework that can help leadership make critical decisions that move your business forward.
Once you’ve arrived at your core values, give each one the coffee mug test. Would you drink out of a cup emblazoned with those words?
At Tote + Pears, we lead our clients through a discovery workshop that helps define their company’s identity. Whether your team is working at home or in person, consider carving out time with your senior staff to nail down “why” behind what your company does.
Create Your Mission Statement
Whether your organization is a fledgling startup or a large corporation, a strong mission statement starts from a place of authenticity. It says why your business exists, who you’re there to serve and how you do it. Engage your leadership team by discussing the “why” behind your company’s existence. Discuss what problems your business exists to solve and what role you play in solving them.
Once you’ve established your raison d'être, it’s time to turn it into a compelling statement. Aim to write like you talk—in plain language that everyone understands. To that end, consider bringing outside perspectives to spot cliches or industry jargon. When finished, your mission statement should be within two to four sentences and no more than 100 words. For example, The mission statement for the Humane Society of the United States, a nonprofit dedicated to animal welfare and eliminating animal cruelty, is "to create a humane and sustainable world for all animals—a world that will also benefit people."
Shape Your Vision
Your business’s vision is how your brand positively impacts your community, industry or the world. Getting it right requires looking forward, researching market trends and pinpointing the change you believe your organization is positioned to bring about. A vision statement should be inspirational and short—no more than 35 words
For example, the Humane Society of the United States’ vision is clear and empowering. It is “A humane society.”
Another good example is the Alzheimer Association whose vision is “A world without Alzheimer's disease.”
If you need help, a branding agency can facilitate conversations, synthesize ideas and provide valuable customer insights. Bringing in an agency for any part of this exercise (or all of it) gives you the freedom to think deeply and talk openly, without being responsible for crafting the output.
State Your Beliefs
Stating your beliefs, or brand values, sets expectations for your company’s actions. Three to five carefully crafted values can help unify your team and guide everything you do. Your values also serve as a checklist of sorts to evaluate how well you’re practicing what you stand for.
By phrasing your values in a way that translates to action, you can make sure they are functional and memorable. For instance, “Say what you’re thinking,” is one of our values at Tote + Pears. This simple directive comes from our conviction that sometimes the best ideas are unfiltered ones—expressed before someone has time to second guess themselves.
Once you’ve arrived at your core values, give each one the coffee mug test. Would you drink out of a cup emblazoned with those words? If yes, that likely means your tone is authentic—perhaps even inspiring. If no, why not?
As markets shift and entire industries are upended, consumers are placing their trust in businesses that commit to a worthy purpose and clear principles. Those organizations that can do that--and stay the course—may be the best positioned of all to succeed.
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