Mission, Vision & Values: How to Define Your Business's Core Purpose

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For most people, the hardest part of doing anything is getting started, and coming up with a business plan is no different. How should you begin thinking about your business, and what do you want to be known for? To start writing your business plan, you should first come up with statements of mission, vision and values. In short, before you detail the workings of your business, you need to figure out how you are going to do business.

Mission, Vision, Values

Regardless of your final product, your core or "soul" as a company should remain intact. Consider the mission, vision and values that you believe in and plan to uphold. After all, your business is a passion project. To be successful, you must be able to envision that success.

The essence of your company is within the mission, vision and value statements that you create; they are the beacon that directs everything you do from inception onward. What you are doing is the what and the where. The "how and why" of your company then sits in the mission, vision and values of your company.

Importance of Your Core Purpose

Why is this important? Does the mission, vision and emotional value of your company impact the bottom line? How should you go about figuring out what the core mission, vision and value of your company are? There are several major ideas behind framing the core purpose of your business, why this is important to do before you have a significant plan in place and what to do to ensure that you are able to maintain those values as your company grows.

While the "emotional" aspect of a business may be more difficult to conceptualize than the product, it is still the principal foundation of your business. What you do is the product, and how you do it is the mission, vision and value of your company. Regardless of your end product, your values are going to reflect on how the general public thinks of your business and how likely they are to do business with you.

Mission, Vision, Values: Purpose

You can think of the mission, vision and values of your company as the hiring template for it. Your employees will be the lifeblood of your company, and for it to work at its best, you need those employees to embody the same values that you do as a business owner. By surrounding yourself with people that embody the same values that you have as a business owner, you can help create a company culture that you are proud of.

Why does this matter? Simply put, in today's global economy, it won't be difficult to find people with the skill sets that you need to help propel your business. Many people will have the skills, but fewer will have the whole package.

This isn't to say that you should ignore the skills of applicants altogether. Instead, your mission, vision and values will help you select from the list of highly-skilled applicants that you will have in front of you. Do the people you choose have not only the skills but the temperament and values that will help them foster your company culture?

Mission Statement

Your mission statement will explain your company's reason for being or its purpose. Why are you doing what you are doing? Why does your business exist?

Mission statements do not have any set template. There is no major length that you will need to have for one either. However, best practice dictates that the mission statement should not be longer than a few sentences at the very most. Any more and it could be easily convoluted.

The purpose of your mission statement is to answer the question, "Why is my company important?" Important, but you don’t need to feel like you must have high-reaching goals, though many major companies such as Walmart have set substantial goals for success. Instead, the importance of your business can be a very simple niche that your product or service fills.

More About Mission Statements

For instance, your mission statement might be something like: "Our mission at Jim's Ice Cream is to combine local ingredients with American creativity to bring delicious ice cream to our customers." Mission statements should answer three basic questions: what, how and why.

  • What: What is your company doing? Focus on exactly what you plan to do as a company. In this example, it should include making ice cream. This is where you focus your company and core products. 

  • How: How do you intend to accomplish the “what" of your mission? In the sample mission statement, the "how" is by “combining local ingredients” with "American creativity". 

  • Why: One of the most important parts of starting a company revolves around why you are doing something. This question may also be the hardest to answer, because it encapsulates your business and is at the heart of what you are doing. "To make the best ice cream we know how to" is an acceptable "why." As long as it is a clear message, your "why" doesn't have to be grandly scaled. 

Defining Your Vision

Your vision statement could be considered the “horizon” that you are aiming for as a businessperson. Every significant action that you take on behalf of your business should have this vision clearly in mind. These statements of purpose should only be a few sentences at most. Any more than that and you risk having too broad of a target.

Broad targets in vision statements are not ideal, because they don’t encourage your staff or form a clear goal in their minds. To “do better” can mean to overachieve or it can mean to not do badly. Instead, “Ice cream you can be proud of. We strive to create an excellent ice cream experience for our customers by giving them our best inventions and friendly service every time” shares a very specific yet achievable goal.

This achievability is extremely important. “To become the best-selling ice cream brand in the world” doesn’t give your employees a goal that they can see themselves reaching. Instead, focusing on providing new experiences and inventive flavors allows everyone in your organization to see themselves contributing to the target.

More on Vision Statements

While vision statements can be aspirational and not have a marker for full success, quantitative vision statements can also be very effective, depending on the nature of the business. Presidential speeches tend to focus on clear visions with markers for achievement. For instance, think back to when President John F. Kennedy spoke publicly about space travel. “We will put a man on the moon and return him safely within the decade” is a quantitative statement.

What statement is best for you depends on the resources that you have to meet it. For example, if you say that you are going to become the top ice-cream seller in the world in the next five years while you are operating one small location with small-batch manufacturing, you will seem incredibly out of touch. This quantitative goal may be possible, but it is so daunting that you cannot expect everyone to feel inspired by it.

Measurable and Compelling Vision Statements

Here are some simple markers for a compelling and well-written vision statement:

  • Measurable: How do you know how close you are to the goal? For instance, if you strive to have better customer feedback, then you can easily measure your rate of feedback and the nature of it. 

  • Attainable: When discussing something being achievable, it typically needs to be something that a reasonable person could see as a reachable goal. Beating out all other ice cream manufacturers with a small batch and truck process isn’t attainable. It will dishearten your employees instead of galvanizing them behind your cause. 

  • Inspiring: If your vision statement doesn’t encourage your staff, then you’re not going to have a passionate team. You may be able to hire passionate people into your business, but to keep them that way, you must inspire them. An emotional argument shouldn’t be overly long; it should, however, address the human element. 

  • Cultural: What is your company's culture? How does it fit in with the people that you have working for you? To get this aspect of a vision statement correct, you should think about who you are working for, and who you want your employee to be. 

  • Single-Minded and Vivid: Your vision statement must paint a concise, clear picture of a focused goal. What are you, as a corporation, reaching for, and how do you intend to get there?

Defining Your Values

It’s essential to define what your company stands for. These are your values, and they will by necessity guide everything you do. Your values can and should dictate who you hire, what your internal policies are, where you source your materials and how you interact with the community.

Values should be documented and presented to all members of the company. In this way, it’s possible to encourage commitment to those values in every action you or a member of the business takes. By having an open policy and clear look at what’s expected, you can keep everyone, from managers to entry-level workers, honest.

Strategies for Building the Company

Once you have an “emotional trajectory” for your company, you can integrate that mission statement and vision into your strategies for building your company. Your mission statement has defined the purpose of your business. You can use that to extrapolate your business’ core philosophies and brand voice.

Your mission statement is the purpose of your company. By completing one, you have identified the ideology that will become the framework of your organization. If you're working on pitching an idea to investors, it would be an excellent idea to ensure that somewhere in your presentation you have all of your fiscal projections outlined in an easy-to-read format. This will be the “value” that you offer on top of your general-purpose as a company.

However, most businesses exist to make money for those who are in charge of them. This fact of business doesn’t make your mission any less genuine. Instead, you should be able to frame it in a way that doesn’t require your “bottom line” to hold it up. Saying that you want to provide the best service to generate loyalty is also a way to say you want to build and keep business without bringing numbers into the equation.