Taking the time to plan out your business vision, purpose and values isn’t just a warm, fuzzy, feel-good topic, its the bedrock of your business culture. It’s important to have the right culture for your business to get the best possible results.
“Culture eats strategy for breakfast” – Peter Drucker
No matter how great your strategy is, if you don’t have the right culture in your workplace, you just won’t get the results you’re after. Your vision, your purpose and your core values are the three main drivers of your culture. We’ll work through these three cornerstones to demystify them and show you how they underpin business success.
The Cornerstones of Culture
Your vision, purpose and values are the three cornerstones of culture. But why is business culture so important? Is it just a warm fuzzy or is there a real benefit? Studies regularly show that teams with a great culture and an engaged team significantly out perform those that don’t. So time spent developing these cornerstones is a valuable investment in giving you a competitive advantage over your market and developing a unique business asset..
Your culture is something that you, your team and your customers should be engaged with every single day. Its not something that you design, hang on a wall or file away and forget. You should be living in to the values to deliver on the purpose and achieve your vision. Taking your business to the next level means using your culture as a filter for decision making, recruitment, an induction framework for new team members, and the foundation of marketing and sales processes. This all ensures that you stay true to your vision and values, attract a team that lives in to them and attract customers that share them.
Your business vision purpose and values are not just a nice-to-have or a box to tick, they’re the cornerstones of your culture and the roadmap to your business success. So let’s look at each cornerstone and then run through how to build a Culture Card to share with your team.
The Harvard Business Review evaluated tens of thousands of workers around the world as a part of their research into leadership. One of the key findings of this research was that effectively enlisting the hearts and minds of the organisation in a shared vision of the future was the key thing that differentiates leaders from non-leaders. What this translates to in practice is that businesses without a defined vision struggle to provide any meaningful context for their goals, strategies, an plans.
Your vision, as defined by author and consultant Jim Collins, is comprised of your core ideology and your envisioned future.
Your core ideology is made up of your core purpose and your core values. Its the enduring character of your business, a consistent identity that transcends product or market life-cycles, management fads and individual leaders in the business.
Your envisioned future translates your core ideology into a tangible goal; this is made up of a 10-30 year BHAG and vivid descriptions. A BHAG is a Big Hairy Audacious Goal, in other words, a goal so big that you’re forced to dramatically improve or you won’t be able to achieve it. It should be a goal is concise and easy to understand but that may only have a 50-70 chance of success but that you truly believe you can achieve.
Vivid descriptions are essential to make your BHAG tangible. They should paint a picture of what it will look like to achieve the BHAG.
To paraphrase Jim Collins own words, your vision of the future should be so exciting in its own right that it would continue to keep the business motivated, even if the leaders who set the goal disappeared.
Each part of your vision is essential for success. Without progression towards a desired future, your purpose and values become meaningless. But your future vision can’t be achieved without the stable foundation created by your purpose and values.
Your Vision Statement
You articulate your vision with a vision statement. This doesn’t have to be an essay, but you can flesh it out over time. To get started, a short powerful vision statement will help to position it well while being memorable. Here are some of the key guidelines for developing a clear vision statement, developed from advice at Change Factory:
- Write it in the present tense, not the future tense (yes, even though its about the future).
- Summarise your vision with a powerful phrase.
- Describe an outcome – the best outcome you could achieve.
- Use unambiguous language which is easy to understand.
- Evoke emotion – it should be obviously and unashamedly passionate.
- It must help to build a consistent picture in people’s minds.
Here are some examples of famous vision statements:
Create the most compelling car company of the 21st century by driving the world’s transition to electric vehicles. – Tesla
Create economic opportunity for every member of the global workforce. – LinkedIn
As you can see from the above examples, your vision statement doesn’t need to be long, technical or with any great detail. The detail comes in the things that build out from your vision and lead you towards it. Things like your purpose, values and goals add the details, pathway and measures of success.
Your purpose is your why. Able to be summarised in seven words or less, it is the statement of why your business exists, not for you, but for your customers.
Every business exists to make a profit, but that’s not it’s purpose. Your purpose is your reason for being, not a goal or a business strategy. It’s extremely important because, as Simon Sinek says, “people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it” – which leads us on to The Golden Circle.
To better understand your purpose, it helps to have a good understanding of a tool such as the Golden Circle. The above is adapted from Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle resources.
Most businesses are good at describing what they do, and how they do it. Most often fail to be able to describe why the business exists for their customers. It is important flip that around and to communicate from the inside out, building an emotional connection with your customers, with your ‘why’ at the core of your messaging. So, how do you describe your ‘why’ or core purpose?
Your core purpose should be 5-7 words defining why you exist for your customers. When you have a clear purpose that you team understands, its much easier to achieve alignment of thinking. When you and your team live into your core purpose, you’re able to provide even greater outputs for your team and your customers.
Once you’ve nailed how to articulate your purpose in a single sentence, you can then talk about the how, your unique selling point or brand promise. Once your customers understand your why and how, you can then talk with them about the products or services you offer to achieve that why.
Five Characteristics of a Great Purpose
Here are five characteristics of a good core purpose, according to author and consultant Jim Collins:
- It must be inspiring to your whole team. Everyone on your team should not only know your purpose, they should believe in it.
- It must be as valid in 100 years as it is now. This means it needs to be broad enough to capture what you do but not specific to your products or services (which may change greatly over time).
- It should help you consider what you could be doing, but aren’t. What products or services could you offer which will help you live into your purpose while staying relevant to what customers want?
- It should help you decide what not to do. Are your new product or service ideas relevant to your purpose? If not, should you really invest in them?
- It should be truly authentic to your business. You can’t copy someone else’s purpose and you can’t make one up thinking its what your customers want to hear. You must genuinely live into your purpose.
Examples of Well-Known Purpose Statements
Lets take a look at some examples of some famous company’s purpose statements.
At Tesla, their purpose statement is “to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy”. Notice how their purpose doesn’t actually mention electric cars? This opens Tesla up to other opportunities in sustainable energy, such as their solar panels and power wall batteries.
Netflix has the purpose “to entertain the world.”
Zoom’s core purpose is “to make video communications friction-less and secure.”
You can see the ways that these could be inspiring to their teams, will be valid in 100 years, help them to think about what they could be doing, help them filter what not to do, and are truly authentic to the unique businesses.
Every business should have a clear purpose. If you don’t have one, now’s the time to start working on it.
The Importance of Core Values
The third cornerstone of culture is your core values.
Your core values are the timeless, guiding principles that speak from the heart of your business. Your core values are almost like a set of fundamental rules of engagement for you, your team and your customers.
Effective and well defined core values are extremely powerful. They should act as decision making filters; if a possible decision doesn’t align with your Core Values, you should consider alternatives which do.
Numerous studies have shown that Core Values are a key driver of team engagement. data tells us this equates to:
- Less sick leave,
- Lower team turnover (and less time recruiting),
- Less re-work,
- Better communication,
- Higher innovation,
- Higher productivity,
- Higher profitability.
One of the best ways you can utilise your Core Values can be to resolve conflict. Are both of the parties to the conflict living into your Core Values? Use your Core Values to guide desired behaviour and come up with a resolution.
Your Core Values are the heart of your identity. Lets take a deeper dive into this with a look at the Identity Iceberg.
The Identity Iceberg
The Identity Iceberg demonstrates the impact our values have on our actions and behaviour.
Above the surface we have our actions, which are visible to others. But these are simply the tip of the iceberg. Our actions are what we, our customers, and our team members see and experience, but they’re driven by what’s unseen beneath the surface.
Immediately beneath the surface are our habits. These habits are driven by our thinking, which in turn is influenced by our beliefs. And as we move to the bottom of the iceberg, we reach our values which are driven by our identity.
Our identity defines our values.
So, as a business we need to delve deep below the surface to capture the values that reflect our identity – our brand – and bring those to the surface so that we can consciously allow them to influence the behaviour we want.
Deriving Your Core Values
Its important to come up with a short list of the Core Values that help differentiate your business. But its not enough to just have a list of values. Each of your Core Values needs a clear definition so that everyone understands what they mean.
Here is our recommended process for you to derive and clearly define your Core Values:
- Firstly, allocate an uninterrupted time to this process, it should take at least a half day plus some prep time before hand.
- Use an experienced facilitator to guide the process – this ensures that everyone’s point of view is heard and noone dominates the outcome (as a sole trader, this prevents you going through the motions to get to your preconceived outcomes without proper consideration).
- The brainstorming process identifies all potential values that may feature in your Core Values and their definitions.
- Stick to a limit of no more than five values. Each value should be 1-3 words, concise is good.
- Next, define each Core Value in a single sentence of no more than 10 words per value.
- Ensure that the values and their definitions are relevant to you as an owner of the business as well as to your team and your customers (don’t confuse your personal identity with your business identity).
- Avoid ‘hygiene values’ as they don’t differentiate your business from your competitors – words like honesty, quality and professionalism are a given for any business (things customers expect by default, nothing special), these aren’t your unique Core Values.
Bringing Your Culture to Life
The cornerstones of your business culture: Your Vision, Your Purpose and Your Core Values, can be pulled together to create a Culture Card.
Your Culture Card brings alignment of behaviour and energy to create a workplace where everyone is comfortable and happy in how they contribute to the overall success of the business.
Having a Culture Card front of mind in your business is a constant reminder of the expectations and aspirations of the team and the business. Provide everyone a copy of your culture card when you’re onboarding them and make sure there’s a copy in the office (breakroom is a great place to have it displayed). Having it easily at hand helps to embed understanding so that everyone can remember your Vision, purpose and Values.
So, how do we bring a culture to life? Here’s our simple but effective process:
- First, after finalising your Vision, Purpose and Core Values, create your Culture Card and share it with your team; we have a Culture Card template we can provide, which will give you a starting point – we recommend getting this professionally designed if you don’t have design resources in-house.
- Ensure your team has committed these to memory (discussing them at weekly meetings or morning teas is a great way to embed them into work life).
- Promote them on your website and use them in your marketing (they’re part of your competitive advantage so should underpin a lot of your marketing activities).
- Ensure your Vision, Purpose and Values are highly visible in your workplace, displaying your branded Culture Card is a great way to do this.
- Walk the talk and share clear examples when your team members utilise these cornerstones for conflict resolution, decision making, or to praise a colleague.
- Review them annually, not only to ensure they’re still 100% relevant, but so new team members understand how they came to be and refresh the whole team on their importance.
“Find congruence between what you say and what you do. As they say, as powerful as words are, actions can sometimes speak louder still” – Malti Bhojwani
Your Next Steps
Its time to implement some positive change in your business. It’s time to:
- Make the choice to improve the culture of your business today; by putting a line in the sand, you’re taking the first positive step towards improving your results.
- If you already have a Vision, Purpose and Core Values, decide whether or not you need to review them; if you don’t have these in place, then work out the best way to create them.
- Once you’ve developed them, ensure they’re visible, that you’re living into them, and they’re clear to your team and customers.
These are all things you can do – don’t focus on the things that are out of your control and, of course, if you need help from us, we’re here for you and want to help.
How We Can Help
There are several ways that we can help you to implement a lot of the content from this guide.
Business Planning is a fundamental framework for improving your culture – for clarified Vision, Purpose and Values right through to planning and goal alignment with your team.
We can also facilitate a Core Values Development workshop with your team to develop your unique Core Values.
If you’re not quite ready to commit to a full half-day workshop, you can request a copy of our Free Golden Circle Worksheet. This worksheet steps you through each layer of the Golden Circle to clarify your ‘why’ and learn how to articulate it to customers then position your ‘how’ and your ‘what’.
If you’re unsure of the best way forward, feel free to book in a Free Discovery Meeting with an MBP Business Advisor. This is an opportunity to get to know you, your business and how we can help.
This guide is general in nature and there no substitute for specific advice. For specific advice and support, book in a time to chat about the above with an MBP Business Advisor.