I was in a meeting the other day and the guy next to me, who runs a very successful company, said "you know, I've just never taken the time to do the mission statement. I know I should, but I don't quite know what to do."
Mission, vision and values are great tools for communicating what you are about and helping other people understand what you are trying to accomplish. Any business that struggles with communication should start here. It will make a big difference in how you talk with employees, customers, contractors and everyone else you do business with.
But first you need to understand the difference between all of these terms. There's a popular formula in the self help world that goes like this.
BE x DO = HAVE
When most people talk about success they talk about the HAVE. It's about having a bigger bank account, or having a successful business, or having a nicer house, or having a more successful relationship.
The problem is this. The HAVE is a product of BEing (what kind of person you are) and DOing (the disciplines and habits and ways you spend your time). If you are a kind, generous person who prioritizes time with those you love and makes an effort to do things to help them you are virtually guaranteed to have more fulfilling relationships. If you are others-focused and disciplined about finding and delivering the services that your customers value you are virtually guaranteed to thrive in business.
This same formula helps us differentiate between mission, vision and values. It goes like this:
VALUES x MISSION = VISION
Your vision is what you want to accomplish. It is aspirational. Axiom's VISION is to have 5 offices across the Southeast with 5 consultants in each office.
Our MISSION is to grow our client's businesses by teaching the art and science of growth through strategic planning, stewardship and leadership.
Our VALUES are Care (love those we serve), Truth (speak the truth even when difficult) and Diligence (bring the right amount of effort to the task).
Each of these areas is different. Our values are about the kind of company we want to BE. Our mission is about the things we DO every day with customers. And our vision describes what we would like to HAVE accomplished at some point in the future.
There's one more element.
WHY does any of this stuff matter to us?
Simon Sinek wrote a great book called "Start with Why" and this gets to the heart of the matter. What you DO will rarely inspire people, but WHY you do it is a different story. When you share your WHY you are sharing your heart of hearts. You are telling people what gets you out of bed every morning and what keeps you up late at night. Your WHY is hugely important when you communicate what you are about.
At Axiom we believe that there is no greater vehicle to change the world than small business. It has a power to transform and influence that is greater than any non-profit, church, social institution or government entity. Small business done well is world changing, and we live to help small business owners make an impact. That's our WHY.
If you've never thought seriously about your mission, vision, values and why I would encourage you to take an afternoon sabbatical and start working on it. It will rarely be a once and done exercise. You will come back to it, polish it, rewrite it, tweak it. Over time it will stabilize and become part of the fiber of your company. And it will be the most powerful communication tool you have.