In any business, there are countless decisions that need to be made on a daily basis. From hiring new staff members to developing marketing campaigns and everything in between, it can be difficult to know which direction to take your company. This is where having a well-defined mission, vision and core values can make all the difference.
Core values provide clarity in decision-making processes and help businesses succeed by building trust, establishing a shared purpose, and creating a strong organizational culture. In fact, a recent study by the Harvard Business Review found that companies with strong core values outperformed those without them by 282%.
Notice the term strong. It isn’t enough to simply outline core values. They have to actually exemplify who you and your people are. Take Enron for example; one of their core values was to “lead with integrity,” which was clearly unauthentic, and not living up to that value ultimately led to a massive collapse.
Mission, Vision & Values Can Make or Break a Company
It’s no secret that many businesses go under within the first few years. In fact, statistics show that only 50% of companies make it to the 5-year mark. Many factors can contribute to business failure, but one of the most significant is a lack of clarity regarding the organization’s mission, vision, and values.
When there is no clear mission, vision, or set of values it’s hard to make decisions that align with what you want your business to achieve. This can lead to a lot of unproductive activities, disagreements among team members, and loss of revenue. Worst of all, it can lead to stagnation and a cycle of repeating the same mistakes (like hiring the wrong people).
For us, as a part virtual, part in-person team, having these core values clearly articulated and exemplified by the leaders in the company is even more critical. On top of that, our industry (SEO) is becoming one of the most competitive in the US, with the number of businesses in the Digital Advertising Agencies industry growing 17.4% per year on average over the five years between 2017 – 2022 — today, there are over 7,761 Digital Advertising Agencies businesses in the US.
We need to have a strong, compelling mission, vision, and set of core values if we’re to break away from the clutter and stand apart from the competition. And outlined below is how implementing EOS has helped us do just that.
In business, we hear many terms thrown around. “Synergy,” “low-hanging fruit,” “blue-sky thinking” — you know the drill. But there’s one term that seems to come up more often than most: “mission statement.”
Have you ever enjoyed spending money or working with a specific company over another because you believe in what they do, how they operate, or what values they support?
As a veteran-owned and operated company, we enjoy Black Rifle Coffee, not just because it’s great coffee but also because we align with their mission as a veteran-owned and operated company, which is “to serve coffee and culture to people who love America.”
Not only do they live that mission, but they also give back to communities of veterans, law enforcement, and first responders.
Starbucks also has a powerful mission statement: “To inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup, and one neighborhood at a time.”
And while that is one of the reasons they’ve grown to be the world leader in coffee, and I still enjoy a cup of Starbucks here and there, it doesn’t speak to me, a veteran, as strongly as Black Rifle Coffee Company’s Mission.
What is a Mission Statement?
A mission statement is a declaration that expresses the fundamental purpose behind why an organization exists. A good mission statement is clear, concise, and inspiring. It helps leaders decide where to allocate resources and where to focus energies and provides a clear sense of purpose to shareholders, employees, contractors, and customers of what the company is trying to achieve. It can also be a powerful tool to attract new customers and investors.
How to Develop a Mission Statement
What does your company do? What are your company’s core values? What sets your company apart from its competitors? Why do your customers choose to do business with you? Your mission statement serves as a touchstone for all of your decisions, big and small. A simple Google search provides more than enough guidance in developing a mission statement. You can also hire business consultants, branding agencies, or EOS implementers to help build your mission statement.
We didn’t have a mission statement for years, and until ours was developed, I didn’t realize how much the lack of one stunted our growth.
What I love about EOS, and our decision to hire a professional implementation consultant, is that our mission statement was strategically created out of professional guidance, with tools such as the checklist below:
With clear guidelines, inspirations of other companies, and rigorous questioning, our mission statement was born:
We develop effective and innovative customer acquisition channels for businesses to succeed online. By doing so, our clients and our team can fulfill their American Dream, while having a direct impact on the economy and country we love.
Those words came directly from us. Not any book, not any research paper, and not any consultant. It is our purpose, cause and passion. It is what our company does and why it exists. Our mission, now clarified, serves as a roadmap to achieving our vision.
Envisioning the future is one of the most important things we’ve done for our business. It’s impossible to know what the future holds, but by painting a picture of where we want our company to be, we have a north star and have set a course for success.
Beyond planning and working towards achieving a company vision, daily visualization is an extraordinarily powerful technique to help empower that vision. Spending just a few minutes each day in silence imagining where you want to be, and where you want the company to be will help it become a reality. As wild as it may seem, studies have been done by The NIH proving its effectiveness.
According to Psychology Today, “A study looking at brain patterns in weightlifters found that the patterns activated when a weightlifter lifted hundreds of pounds were similarly activated when they only imagined lifting.”
When crafting a vision, many companies utilize the following template:
“We [company] will [goal] for [target market] by [target date].”
Our vision is quite ambitious, yet achievable. It inspires us. We love to share it with the world. We know that we can achieve the goal, but only if we stand strong to our mission, supported by the daily exemplification of our core values.
Core values are the principles that define your culture, demonstrate what sets you apart as a company, and guide how everyone in your organization is to operate to succeed.
Any company can create its “core values.” They can print them all over company swag, make posters for their walls, and display them on their website. If you haven’t read ‘The Four Obsessions of An Extraordinary Executive’ by Patrick Lencioni, I highly recommend doing so. His storytelling makes for a fun, short, and compelling read on the importance of core values and how to implement them properly.
Over the years, our core values have changed three times. First, I tried creating core values of the values I wish the company would exemplify. Second, I tried making an acronym out of our name, a core value for each letter of “Direction.” Finally, I tried adding detailed descriptions of each core value.
Nothing was clicking with the team. People weren’t living the values I was trying to push on them. Our culture was struggling. I had to get this figured out, and I did, with the professional guidance of EOS principles in defining core values;
My leadership team and I nailed our three core values down, along with a description of each, an “anti-value” of each, and a real-world example of each:
Our Three Core Values
We are creative problem solvers who love analyzing complex puzzles and deriving innovative solutions from our findings. We look at processes and strategies with the idea that they can always be improved. Our goal is to never stop learning in order to work smarter (not harder). If you are not learning or feel you have nothing else to learn, then you will never be able to grow into the best version of yourself. At Direction, we will do all that we can to give you the resources and freedom to explore your curiosity so you can excel in your career and your personal life. We do not allow fear nor failure to get between us & our creativity.
Anti-value: Doing what you always do and expecting the same result.
Core Value Example: Connor discovering new ways to automate manual processes through integrating tools with Zapier.
Through our optimism, enthusiasm and love for what we do, we can conquer anything. We continually strive to become the best versions of ourselves. We focus on making an impact rather than engaging in silly drama. We respect, support and encourage each other while working together toward the ultimate goal of creating a company that customers and employees love.
Core Value Example: Sara M. going out of her way to make sure that even through the toughest times, our teammates feel supported.
We love to win. Winning is awesome. When we win, our clients win; and when our clients win, our work is that much more fulfilling. We are not the type of people to celebrate a fourth place trophy. We have a mission to be known as the best minds in search engine optimization and will pursue this with everything we have. We set goals and effectively achieve them. We challenge ourselves. We don’t make excuses, we find solutions. We inspire everyone around us with a thirst for excellence and winning. We seek out new opportunities, share and celebrate wins together.
Anti-value: Being afraid to fail.
Core Value Example: Sarah K., after spending months re-organizing and revamping content, found a new keyword ranking in the #1 spot organically. She then shared that win with the team on Slack, and the team cheered the win.
Implementation of Core Values
Just having core values is not enough. Repeating them, living them, and making decisions with them is absolutely critical for them to actually have an impact in achieving the company mission and vision.
Some examples of how we live by our values are:
No company meeting starts without first stating our Mission, Vision and Values. This helps align every meeting from from the get-go.
We’ve found this to be lots of fun. People can let the company know when they see someone demonstrating a core value, and they can share information or articles that align with a core value. My favorite is our “Be a Winner” Slack channel, where we share new client rankings and other great wins with each other.
We’ve built out contests each month for a different core value in our Clickup system, which is really fun. The contest can be anything from working on different clients’ websites, and the first person to get a “featured snippet” in Google wins a gift card, or the first person to build three new automations of their work in Zapier wins a gift card.
The term “Slow to Hire, Quick to Fire” may ring a bell. Solidifying our core values has dramatically helped us solidify our hiring (and firing) process and guidelines. Since 99% of problems companies face are caused by bad hires, this is something that simply cannot be ignored.
EOS provides a “People Analyzer” tool that makes it simple to measure our team in accordance with our core values.
As we discover new ways to have fun with our core values, our team grows stronger, and our mission and vision become evermore achievable.
Creating an effective mission statement, solidifying a vision, and developing core values is challenging; it takes time, effort, and careful planning, but it’s worth it. Leaders who take the time to clarify their organization’s mission, vision, and values — and ensure that everyone on the team is aligned with them — are setting their businesses up for success.
By having a clear sense of purpose, you can make better decisions about where to allocate resources, who to bring onto the company’s journey, how to measure progress, and ultimately, what kind of company you want to be. So don’t underestimate the importance of clarifying your organization’s mission, vision, and values – it might be the key to keeping your business afloat during tough times and ahead of the curve in great times.