Vision, mission and core values.
Your brand – the experience customers have of your company and its offerings – is a direct extension of your culture. Your Vision, Mission and Values will dictate the experience you create for your customers, and that becomes your brand – not your logo, colors, fonts, tag lines or product packaging.
Defining your culture starts with defining your company’s Vision, Mission, and Values. What are these? How do you create them?
If you don’t know where you’re going, you might not get there.
This variant of one of Yogi Berra’s famously nonsensical quotes illustrates the point: if your company has no Vision, Mission and Values, you won’t be able to deliver on any brand promise to your customers. That’s because you won’t know exactly what you’re promising – and neither will your customers. Why then should they buy from you?
Confusing? Let’s clarify. Say you own a burger restaurant called “Beef Town.” Your company slogan, i.e. your brand promise, is, “Burgers always taste amazing when you’re in our town.” But in fact, they don’t. The employees don’t understand your vision of delivering the best tasting burger ever, just like your granddad used to grill. They don’t know your mission to deliver the exact same taste in the burger, every single time. They haven’t internalized the values your granddad passed on to you – that of lovingly searing the burger to perfection and following his savory seasoning recipe to the letter without fail. In fact, your employees, who have flipped burgers at numerous other fast food joints before coming to yours, don’t see your restaurant as any different from the other places where they’ve worked. So they’re making the same generic burgers they’ve always made.
Unfortunately, because Joe’s Burger Barn across the street offers the same generic burgers at two bucks less, guess what? All the customers are over there.
Maybe you personally have a Vision, Mission and Values that could make your brand different, and if you worked alone, you’d of course be making all the burgers just like granddad did. But, you aren’t working alone at Beef Town. Your location has 20 employees making burgers. And you’ve got ten convenient locations throughout town, each with 20 employees. That’s 200 burger flippers who couldn’t care less about making a truly great burger.
So the only way you’re going to get everyone on the same page about making your uniquely tasty burger, the same every time, is to build a culture where everyone shares your Vision, Mission and Values. In fact, if you do it right, everyone will be downright excited to carry out your Vision, Mission and Values.
The result: a super tasty burger, like no other, served day and night in ten different locations to happy customers who’ve never enjoyed a burger as much as they do at Beef Town. It’s a burger they’ll happily pay two or three bucks more to eat.
Vision, Mission, ValuesVision, Mission, Values:
Know where you’re going.
Your Vision, Mission and Values tell all of your employees where your company is going and how to get there. They are your strategy and implementation plan all wrapped up in a nice, tight package.
Here’s a real simple way to define Vision, Mission and Values, with examples.
Future looking: What do we want our company to be? What does our successful company look like down the road?
Beef Town’s vision: to be the go-to destination for gourmet burgers.
The company’s purpose: Why do we exist? What do we do, for whom, why and how?
Beef Town’s mission: to delight burger lovers who want extraordinary, not generic, burgers, giving them a remarkably tasty burger with absolutely consistent flavor, no matter when and where they order it from Beef Town. We do this by following granddad’s secret method of seasoning and searing burgers to perfection, serving them on a special type of bun, combining them with hand-picked vegetables, and pairing them with condiments specially selected to uniquely enhance the flavor of these hand-crafted burgers. In short, our mission is to deliver ecstasy in every bite of our burgers.
What the company’s employees believe and how they behave: What beliefs and behaviors must we all stay true to every day to successfully deliver on our Vision and Mission?
Here are the Values that all Beef Town’s employees live by every day. Only those who embrace these values are a good fit at Beef Town:
How do you develop your Vision, Mission and Values?
The Vision and Mission reflect the passion, purpose and strategy of the company itself, and typically are developed by the founders, owners or senior management team – those that conceived the company and are responsible for creating and implementing a strategy of success.
Your Values are how you get there – they’re the way your employees consistently behave and what they believe that enable your company to achieve its Vision and Mission. All employees need to own these behaviors. To ensure this sense of ownership, it’s critical to include employees in creating your list of core values.
You’ll do this by first explaining the company’s Vision and Mission, why they matter, and how important each employee is to fulfilling them.
Then, ask your employees what behaviors, morals and ethics they think they should observe, every day, to ensure the best possible result for everyone – them, the company, customers and even vendors.
Combine employee input with the core values your management team thinks are important too. Then work with your management team to refine this collection until you have the most concise possible list of guiding principles to take your employees forward.
Infusing Culture into your Company DNA
Now comes the true test – putting your Values into practice company wide, and collectively pursuing your Mission and Vision every day going forward. These are the essentials of your winning culture.
This is the point at which most companies revert to business as usual. Typically, these are the companies that never transcend “good enough” to achieve greatness. If you look at this list of successful companies – Zappos, Apple, Starbucks, Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Southwest Airlines – all of them took culture seriously, developed a strong Vision, Mission and Values, and created a culture that encourages adhering to the Vision, Mission and Values every single day. They understood the need to maintain consistency of their brand as well. These companies have succeeded in delighting their customers, vendors and employees, and as a result, have some of the strongest and most valuable brands.
As Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, has said, “Brand is a lagging indicator of culture.” We like to say, “Your culture is your brand.” Your culture is so critical to determining the customer experience that without a strong culture, there is no way to have a strong brand – no matter how fantastic your logo, colors, fonts, tag lines and product packaging are.