Entrepreneurs and founders are used to the daily grind of trying to get traction. It’s easy to forget about the core foundation: what’s the vision of my company? What’s my mission? What values should guide our decision-making? To some, thinking about those things may feel like a distraction, or soft. But my experience as an entrepreneur, advisor, and investor has proven over and over again that these core elements are essential to sustained success.
In the early days of TheraNest, we had a healthy culture. However, as we started growing, it became increasingly challenging to scale our mission and values and ensure they permeated throughout the entire organization. We needed a cadence and systems to keep our foundational elements front and center, and to keep it influential in everything we do. A culture needs to scale along with the company and help the team align and work together towards a common mission. It’s this unity of purpose that propels the growth of your business.
Mission, Vision, Values
With that in mind, let’s dive into the key components of a business’s foundation: mission, vision, and values.
I like to define the mission as the purpose of your actions for others. A company mission answers the question of why. Why do you engage in your current activities? What is the human value that these activities bring to others on a daily basis? Your mission concentrates on the short-term objectives and accomplishments associated with your daily efforts. In the Exit Ready program, I provide the tools to reassess your mission and ensure that everyone is aware of the underlying purpose behind what you do.
Unlike the mission, which focuses on actions for others, the vision centers around you. It looks ahead to where you aspire to be in the next 5-10 years. It answers the question of where you’ll be if you accomplish your mission. A strong vision ties to a long-term goal (you may be familiar with the concept of Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals (BHAG) that extend 20, 30, or 40 years into the future). But it should also guide you as you set
Company values are the accepted and rewarded behaviors at your company. They’re the traits necessary for accomplishing the mission and realizing the vision. These values are unique to each company. This inherently means that some organizations may hold contradictory values. However, it is acceptable as long as they contribute to the overarching goals. For instance, a company might prioritize autonomy as a key value, while another may emphasize a more structured approach. What’s important is that your mission, vision, and values are all aligned.
In summary, the mission focuses on actions to create value for others, the vision outlines where you aim to be as an organization as you fulfill your mission, and the values represent the traits that guide you on the journey toward your vision.
Using Your Business Foundation as Your Unique Differentiator
Every business is chasing a competitive advantage. But in today’s fast-paced world where what you do can be easily copied, it’s difficult to maintain that edge. The real secret lies deeper, in the core foundations of who you are and where you’re going. Your business foundation is your hidden weapon, the thing that cannot be copied.
Now, some might scoff at spending time on “mission, vision, values.” They’re all for hustle, for getting things done. Others may say they don’t need to focus on it because everyone at their company likes each other. But here’s the truth: a strong foundation isn’t just “frills” and it doesn’t simply mean everyone getting along. In some cases, it actually forces us to confront one another in order to align. It’s what unites your team and keeps you laser-focused on your goals.
How do you make sure you have a solid business foundation?
1. Align the Leadership Team:
If your captains aren’t sailing in the same direction, your crew will be lost. Unify your leadership team around your core values. Share resources, learn together, and speak the same language of your culture.
2. Ask the Uncomfortable Questions:
Is your mission statement top of mind? Do your people understand why they show up every day? Ask yourself and your team if your purpose still resonates. If not, you need to revisit your foundations and re-chart your course.
3. Culture is a Journey, Not a Destination:
Building a strong culture is continuous work.
Find out what matters, build rituals and data around them, and then actively improve them over time. It can be rituals around wins, learnings, company reporting, hiring, etc. That’s when it becomes the core of your culture, but it all starts with your business foundation. This is why the way that you embody your mission, vision, and values is more important than what your team says about the culture. Keep your foundation top of mind and use it to make decisions, reward your team, and ritualize the process through a cadence. Make it clear that culture isn’t just what you say, it’s what you do every single day.
You’ve established your mission, set the vision, and identified your core values. Now it’s time to put them into practice. As you get started, ask yourself these questions:
- Does everyone grasp the company’s “why?” Are our core values more than just framed posters on the wall?
- Do individual roles align with the bigger picture? Does everyone understand how their work contributes to the team’s success?
- Are responsibilities clear? Do people know what’s expected of them to achieve shared goals?
- What behaviors drive the team forward? What actions hold us back? Are these consistently acknowledged and addressed?
- If I left for 3 weeks or 3 months, would the team function seamlessly? Are they empowered to make decisions and act with ownership?
- Do we encourage honest feedback, even when it’s uncomfortable? Can we be vulnerable without fear? Can people raise concerns without fear of judgment?
- Do we trust each other’s skills and intentions? Do we celebrate individual strengths and try to help mitigate against weaknesses?
A robust culture isn’t about liking each other. It’s about having a shared purpose, clear expectations, and the courage to be vulnerable with each other. That’s the foundation that will drive your growth.
If you’re interested in laying out these foundations with me, check out my Exit Ready program. Where I provide founders with the tools and frameworks to help them transform their companies into high-growth “exit-ready” companies.