If you’re starting your research as an aspiring entrepreneur, you will come across a plethora of literature with advice to articulate your venture’s vision, purpose, core values, etc. How much thought have you given to these words and their meaning?
Recently I was enlisted to help a tech startup develop its brand strategy. After completing the initial branding exercise, the co-founders learned that they each have different ideas about their company’s vision, mission, brand identity, core values, not to mention their goals and strategies. This finding explained the lack of unity amongst the co-founders, as well as an absence of steady momentum.
This was not the first time that I had worked with or observed founders / co-founders with a vague framework and shaky foundation. In fact, more often than not, founders only care about the new hires’ qualifications. They would gloss over their vision, mission, and core values; more important, many founders don’t spend enough time to determine if the new hires truly share their core values and put them in practice. The faster a company grows, the more likely that these essential issues don’t get communicated properly to new hires and reinforced throughout the organization.
As an aspiring founder, it is essential that you reflect and define what these words mean to you first. You need to articulate this succinctly before you add another team member to your venture. Everyone who joins you shall look to you for cues when it comes to behavior and action. If you plan to cofound a company with another individual, then you both need to reflect separately and together to create a unified framework.
As you mull over definitions of Vision, Purpose and Core Values, here’s some food for thought.
Your vision should be a reflection of your appetite, your ambition for the venture.
How far do you want to climb? Do you envision a private company or a Fortune 500?
How extensive do you envision your reach? Do you want to sell X products in to every household in the U.S., all over the world?
In five years, in 20 years, what would you like to see in your venture?
Examples of vision
• Become the leading builder of LEED-certified mobile dwellings.
• Become the global voice and resource for rural farmers.
• Become the global advocate for excellent elderly care.
Your mission or purpose is your venture’s raison d’être. While your product line, your marketing strategy, or your sales strategy can change, your purpose should remain unchanged. Your purpose should serve as an aspiration as well as inspiration.
Examples of purpose
• To educate X group of individuals and help them improve their livelihood.
• To entertain and bring laughter to people.
• To provide superior care for the elderly.
Your core values reflect your deep beliefs, not what you think your new venture should represent from a marketing perspective. If you ascribe certain core values to your new venture without believing them yourselves, you’re starting out with a handicap, as your actions won’t reflect your beliefs. Your core values should connect closely to your mission or purpose. Like your purpose, they should also serve as your beacon. Core values, like purpose, are not changeable.
Examples of core values
• Importance of education
• Importance of humor—laughter brings people together
• Respect for the elderly
• Enrichment through collaboration
It is important to reflect and define what these terms mean to you. When they are not articulated clearly, you shall encounter communication and operational issues, as my co-founders recently discovered.
Your Vision, Purpose and Core Values shall influence all components of your venture: goals, strategies, tactics, standards, processes, structures, etc.
Clear articulation, with continual and strategic reinforcement shall help your venture stay on course.
© 2014-2015 My-Tien Vo