by Tony Fannin, president, BE Branded
Almost everyone knows companies need a mission and core values. Most everyone agrees that these items are important to setting the course for the future. But, unfortunately, there are many who really don’t understand how to develop mission and core values or even how these things interact with brand position. Here’s one of the most common mission statements: “We strive to meet or exceed expectations through superior service, being customer-centric, and a dedication to quality. We will conduct business with the highest of ethics and moral standards.” Sound familiar? The problem with this is that it’s too ambiguous. There’s no concrete direction. No specific instructions on how to get there. And no differentiating cause. There’s no inspiration for the rank and file. Who would want to give their heart and soul to this kind of mission?
How can one create a true brand with this type of nonsense? No wonder 80% of businesses fall under “commodity”. And for you tech-heads, technology is NOT a differentiator. If it’s technology based, eventually it will be free (see open source, music, news, just to name a few). Then what? A mission and core values need to set a specific purpose and specifics on how to get there. Here are a few points about mission and core values:
Mission – The purpose of mission is to set a SPECIFIC goal for the company to achieve that is beyond just generic, cliched sayings. People want to be a part of something great. Setting a real mission needs to inspire as well as create a solid, concrete goal. Company missions ask their people to go on great journeys and adventures in order to fulfill them. For example, GE’s mission through the 80’s and 90’s: “Be #1 or #2 in any business that GE is in. If we can’t be that, then we will sell the business and get out of the category.” Wal-Mart: “To give ordinary folk the chance to buy the same thing as rich people.” Mary Kay: “To give unlimited opportunity to women.” These mission statements are inspiring, specific, and give employees a sense of esprit-de-corps.
Core values – These are specific behaviors and attitudes that will help a company achieve their mission. Core values should reflect the vision, culture, and goals of the company. These values should define several things.
1. Explain why you do business the way you do
2. Articulate what you stand for and why
3. Clearly communicate what is expected from each employee in order to achieve the mission
Core values isn’t too detailed in the “how”, but it concentrates on the “why”. Why these qualities are important. Why these values are the key to our success. You need to leave room for exploration and innovation of these values. This will create new and exciting interpretations of possibilities that you never thought of before. It will also allow your company to adjust and adapt with the changing world of business. If you are too ridged, all you get is emotionless robots without passion or true commitment.
In the end, if you get your mission and core values right, you are on your way from being a commodity to being unique. This is something you can define your brand upon. Marketing can then communicate that brand to your prospects and customers and it will be received as genuine and real. No B.S. because it comes straight from the heart and not just from a board room. Here’s one acid test to see if you have truly discovered your mission, core values, and brand: If, the next day, your mission, core values, and brand becomes a competitive disadvantage, will you still hold them dear and continue to operate your business based on those beliefs?