It was beautifully designed and placed on the wall of their printing business in the cosmopolitan city on the southern coast of Nigeria; three wall plaques side by side by side.
The first plaque read “Our Vision”.
The second, “Our Mission”.
The third, “Our Core Values”
The world of business has been uniquely lulled into apathy as to the true value of a vision story, a mission statement, and a set of unique core values.
We usually respond to such with an eye roll and a “yeah, we have those” as if we just asked you about a collection of VHS tapes in your attic, or your old cell phones from the early 2000s; ”yeah, we have those.”
It is also clear that they are dusty and looked at only during your annual office clean-up day with sentiment and reflection.
We have stripped the power away from articulating and casting a clear vision.
We have butchered the value of a bomb-dropping mission statement.
We have relegated core values to strategic talking points that check the box of purpose in the eyes of customers or stakeholders.
Let’s reset and challenge ourselves to take a fresh look at the life-giving tools of a vision story, a mission statement, and unique core values.
First, a challenge to write your vision story.
A few thousand years ago we found a Jewish leader in a desperate place crying out to God for help and frustrated, “how long do I have to cry out for help before you listen?”
If you’re looking for more resources to work ON your business, we have them.
Here was the response that ultimately came, “write the vision down, make it plain on tablets, so those who read it may run…if it seems slow, wait for it, it will surely come.”
Every business must have a vision, and that vision must be written and made plain to everyone because of the truth this wisdom, “where there is no vision, people scatter.”
Instead of making excuses as to why a vision won’t work, even though we’ve rarely tried, we must implement, commit, and believe that our team and our clients will have greater clarity because we have greater clarity.
Here are seven categories to work through as you write out a detailed, multi-page, bullet-pointed vision story.
The first category is the duration of the vision. How far out does this vision take you? Is it 18 months? 24 months? 36 months?
Our culture used to allow for 10 and 20-year visions. Those durations are much harder to gain clarity on because of the speed of our culture. We recommend that your first vision story be 24 to 36 months.
Instead of writing “36 Months”, write the actual date that is 36 months from now like “December 14th, 2025”. It makes your vision feel more substantive.
The second category of your vision story is the family and freedom section. You may ask, “but isn’t this a business vision?” Yes! Business and life necessarily intersect. Although we think we can “keep work at work”, we know better. What happens at home follows us to work and vice versa.
What vision do you see for your family in 36 months? Write down the ages of each of your family members. Write down what you hope for them by that time. Write down the things you wish to do and experience together. Write down everything you can think of in terms of the growth your family will experience because of the growth your business will experience.
Also, consider the freedom you hope to have as the owner of your business. Want to have your Fridays free to creatively think over new ideas? Write it down.
The third category is the finances section. What profit do you calculate your business to generate then work backwards? In order to generate that profit, you will need to spend and invest what amount? Add the anticipated profit to your anticipated expenses and you will have a rough estimate of your total revenue needed.
If it’s a crazy number then think about it. Is it ambitiously silly, or ambitiously doable?
The fourth category is the product and service category. What products and services will be needed to generate the amount of revenue that you envision in the third category?
Write them all down.
The fifth category is the team category. What roles (not names of people but roles) will be needed in order to market, sell, deliver, and administer the products and services that you identified that will ultimately get you to the total revenue that you envisioned?
The sixth category is the client or customer category. Describe in great detail who the person or groups of people are who will purchase and procure your products and services. Be detailed!
For example, “our best clients are business owners that have between two and fifty employees, been in business for at least two years, are cash flow positive, and struggle to find the free time to spend on the things that matter most in their lives.”
We also encourage you to write out details of who you do not prefer to work with as a client or customer.
For example, “we will not serve business owners who think they have got it all figured out, who demean their employees as widgets, who want us to ‘fix’ their employees but are unwilling to ‘fix’ themselves…”
The final category of your vision story is the culture category. If you were to walk into a restaurant and overheard a group of clients and community members talking about you and your business, what phrases would you want to hear them say?
For example, “I bet when you walk into their office, their team is constantly smiling and are at the same time locked in and focused on their mission.”
If you write a clear vision, read it (you can certainly leave the financial section out of your public reading) to your team, and in some cases to your clients; then we know that those who read it may run.
The mission statement and the unique core values are no different.
The mission statement is simply a written, memorizable sentence, less than 15 words, that gives clarity on the impact you make and forces people to either continue asking questions or to lose interest quickly and save you both time.
Our mission is to liberate business owners from chaos to make time for what matters most.
When asked, “what do you do for work?”, that is precisely how we respond. In the spirit of Simon Sinek, we do not respond with what we do or how we do it…but we respond with why we do what we do.
And what of your core values? They too should be written, should be challenged regularly, and should be unique.
Enron’s core values were Communication, Respect, Integrity, and Excellence. Written, but highly cliche, and rarely challenged.
Answer this, what are those things that you value, but we may not.
For us, we have a core value set that is unique.
Simply…Write It Down.
Work Worth Doing.
Work Is Faith.
Learn And Implement.
No other business we know has that set of core values. We talk about these at weekly team meetings and during our weekly check-in calls with team members.
Please do not presume, “yeah, we’ve got those.” Go back to the drawing board and put fresh attention on your vision story, your mission statement, and your unique core values so those who read them, hear them, and are influenced by them may RUN!!
Scott Beebe is the founder of Business On Purpose, author of Let Your Business Burn: Stop Putting Out Fires, Discover Purpose, And Build A Business That Matters. Scott also hosts The Business On Purpose Podcast and can be found at mybusinessonpurpose.com.