Mission & Values: How Your Company’s Culture Should Define Your Bottom Line
Just recently in June, we celebrated Choice’s five-year anniversary. It was a milestone I was particularly proud of because of the path we navigated to arrive. In 2013, when we started building the foundation for Choice, we met with all kinds of experts – attorneys, accountants, HR consultants, web developers, executive coaches and so on. I was determined that when we opened our doors for business that we’d have a professional, impressive and solid start as opposed to just throwing up a website and trying to find clients.
As a part of that 6-month process to build Choice, we set out to establish the Choice mission and core values. At the time there were only two of us. We sat with an executive coach and business consultant who walked us through the process and asked all the hard questions. At the end of the day, this is where we landed:
We exist to connect great and worthy ideas to help and inspire people to action.
- Driven by relationships – they are a priority with our families, team, clients and media
- Passionate about our clients and seek to understand their needs
- Excited to share our knowledge and our diverse talents (team, clients, industry)
- Willing to roll up our sleeves, dig in and go the extra mile
- Prepared and organized prior to action
In June 2018 – five years after creating the above and four years into Choice as a functioning business – I took our team on a strategic planning retreat. My executive coach Michele Cushatt helped me prepare an agenda for our week and at the top of the list was the re-evaluation of Choice’s mission and values. Every time I reviewed that purpose with a potential employee or client, I thought, “this just doesn’t feel quite right anymore.” This purpose didn’t light a fire in my belly. It didn’t excite me. And this wasn’t reflective of all the women at the table who made up Choice five years later.
Was it okay to alter what we initially created? Of course. Because the company has evolved. It’s changed. And there are more invested team members who have helped and continue to build this business. It’s not just my voice. And, I didn’t want it to be. What I love is the way we came to our new mission and values.
Michele created an exercise for us to walk through together on that strategic planning retreat. Initially she wanted us to learn what our team valued individually. To do this, we each took post-it notes and reflected on recent positive client/customer experiences when we were in the position of being the client. We answered two questions:
- Why did we love this experience?
- What happened to create that response?
Each person took a turn walking through her respective examples and wrote words or phrases on the post-its for that correlated. The insight gained through this exercise was enlightening, to say the least. I’ll never forget when Devin Lee shared a story about a car service driver she had just used for one of our client media tours. These were the words/phrases she wrote on her post-its to capture the experience and why it was positive for her and left a lasting impression:
- On time (or early)
- Two steps ahead/problem solving
- Felt safe
After each of us had a chance to share our own examples, we took the words or phrases and put them together based on trends or themes that wenoticed. It was crazy how much we were aligned on what we each valued and what kind of service got our attention. We narrowed our examples down to four categories:
- EMOTION/RELATIONSHIP: (1) We take care of you. (2) We know you.
- SERVICE: (1) Going the extra mile. (2) Enthusiasm/passion for serving. (3) It’s handled.
- PRODUCT: (1) Quality. (2) Distinguishing factors/unique.
- RETENTION: (1) Consistency. (2) Reliability.
From this filtered information, we developed our new mission and core values:
We see you. We understand you. We guide you. We make you known.
- Relationships Matter.
- Enthusiasm Drives Us.
- Regular Communication Makes a Difference.
- Accountability Sustains Partnerships.
- Delivering Results Means Going the Extra Mile.
And this is what we share with every person who we are considering for any kind of partnership with Choice – joining our team, becoming a client, etc.
We See You. We are intentionally looking to partner with people and organizations that we believe are distinctive. There is so much noise vying for our attention. These partners we can get above the fray because they bring value and a strong message, product or service.
We Understand You. It’s one thing to believe in a client. It’s a completely different thing to know what to do with them that will make a difference. We hook arms with companies and people that we can move the needle for because we understand what it is that they need to achieve their desired outcomes.
We Guide You. To use language from our friends (and clients) at StoryBrand, our client is the hero and we are the guide. We are walking them down a specific path of expertise. For us, that’s not healthcare or taxes, it’s communications. We are the experts on that subject and we are taking our clients toward their goals by guiding them in smart, strategic ways.
We Make You Known. If we are doing our job well, then this is what we’ve done for our clients. For some, that means their name in lights and national notoriety. For others, that means introducing them to and establishing them with a new audience that may never have heard of them before. We are raising their visibility to the right gatekeepers, influencers and consumers.
This lights a fire in our bellies. This is what keeps us up at night longing to achieve strong results for our clients. This mission guides our every step because we use it as a filter for determining the right partners and services provided. And, it reminds us regularly why we exist and what winning looks like.
So, how do we live out this mission? It’s through our core values:
We Believe Relationships Matter. We know that the most successful partnerships we have are the strong, cemented ones. Deep, meaningful connection with each other on our Choice team, with our clients, media and strategic partners leads to ultimate success. It’s at the heart of everything we do. This is also where our priority for our families comes into play. Deliberately investing at home is non-negotiable.
We Believe Enthusiasm Drives Us. We say no more than we say yes. That’s because not only do we want to believe in our clients and partners, we want to be excited and passionate about their work. How good will we be at convincing a major media outlet to cover them if we aren’t excited ourselves?
We Believe Regular Communication Makes a Difference.We are communications experts. Our partners should understand at every step what we are doing and why. We never want to be that firm that goes behind a curtain and requires the client to inquire in order to understand clearly. Hand in glove, we want to be aligned and in sync so that we are making solid, smart, effective decisions.
We Believe Accountability Sustains Partnerships. We know that we will be held accountable because someone is paying for our service, expertiseand relationships; however, we believe this goes both ways. If we bring an opportunity to a client and we don’t hear back in a timely fashion, that’s not on us. We need every partner we have, internally and externally, to understand that for our relationship to be most successful, we both have to do our jobs well.
We Believe Delivering Results Means Going the Extra Mile. We have many stories (many of them funny, several including snow) of ways that we have dug in and driven to the goal for our clients and partners. It’s not enough for us to just meet expectations. We want to exceed them. That means that, at Choice, we want there to be a clear, positive distinction between before and after we engaged. And we want to be known for working our tails off for you.
When I launched Choice, I’m not sure that I really understood the difference between a mission and core values. Now, I truly believe we live these out. Your mission and core values should be so innate in your culture that your team can state them off the top of their head without having to memorize like a student. They should be reflected in every interaction, every email, every presentation, every post. Your mission should ignite your passion and your values should carry that out on a day to day basis. You should share these with any candidate you are considering for employment, any potential client you may be trying to woo. Don’t just believe them, live them in practice.
I’d love to know more about your own personal mission and values. Have you created them? What do you stand for? What kind of clients are you here to serve? What can clients expect because of them? Should you re-evaluate your mission and values? Does your team know them?