What is our purpose?
What do we value as a company?
What specifically are we going to do?
What are we committing to achieve?
Some of these questions sound overly simplistic. But taking the time to deeply consider and carefully articulate the answers is one of the most valuable things a business owner can do for their company. Many believe that stating a vision is the first necessary step toward making it real. It’s a lot less magical, though, than “If I say it, then it’s going to come true.” Visions bring clarity, and clarity brings results. Take results and guide them in a unified direction, steer them toward a single aim—a single vision of the future—and now you’ve made it real.
In today’s purpose-driven world, and certainly in a values-driven culture, it’s important that the reason a company exists speak loudly to everybody responsible for carrying that torch. A company without a meaningful purpose or existence makes it that much harder for employees to find meaning in their work. At EMyth, we say: We exist to help business owners create a life and a business they love leading. It’s a rich and potent statement when you slow down and break it apart. And at the same time, it’s beautifully simple. We are here to help. We work with business owners. We create change in not only businesses, but in the lives of the business owners we work with. And we do it through helping them change their relationship to their work, to their business, and to everyone the business touches.
Values are important as well. But it’s far too easy to create statements that express what a company values without being explicit enough about how they ought to be lived out. That’s why we also talk about behaviors. Behaviors are active, and can—and should—be felt in every interaction the company has: amongst employees, between staff and clients, between the company and its community. When you find the “active” way of describing a value as a behavior, you’ve now made an explicit statement to your team about how you want them to carry out their objectives. For example, rather than simply valuing “excellence,” a word that’s hung on plenty a boardroom wall, what if you told your team you wanted them to behave with a results-oriented approach. Now, rather than managers trying to navigate fuzzy conversations with their staff about whether or not they were living up to a nondescript idea of “excellence,” you can have much more grounded conversations about whether they were focused on the results needed in that moment. Whatever is important to you, it’s profoundly impactful to arm your team with the specific idea of how you see that lived out in every action, every day.
A statement about what a company does can seem obvious at first glance: “We build automotive assemblies for premium domestic auto manufacturers.” But the more specific you make it, the more it starts to free your team to focus and execute on exactly what you want them to do. Why? Because they’re no longer chasing other ideas of what they might do. There’s nothing in that statement about expanding globally. Or adapting your offerings for foreign car manufacturers as well. Or for trying to find additional verticals in heavy machinery or farming equipment. By stating clearly what the company does (and implicitly what it doesn’t do) you are giving your team yet one more layer of clarity and focus.
Lastly, it’s important to know what you are setting out to achieve. What are the results you are seeking for your company? Your clients? Your employees? Your community? Existing for a purpose larger than your own self-interest is a powerful thing. When you help others feel like you are fighting for them and have their needs at heart, the disengaged become activated. Now you have a cohesive team, who feels respected and appreciated, and are willing to do what it takes to create the mutually-beneficial outcome you are all after. All of which is so much more powerful than trying to motivate someone with a mere paycheck.
It took a long time for EMyth to finish this latest version of our Vision. Several months longer than we had hoped, actually. Yet I don’t regret a single day of that extra time. In the end, we created a document that connects, inspires, and clarifies. In sharing it with the team, I could feel relief in its simplicity and focus, a healthy challenge in living up to its ideals, and most importantly a unity in sharing a common purpose and vision for our future together.