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20/20 vision

Monday, 17 October 2011 | By Mark Campbell
Way back in my uni days I was always taught about the importance of setting out your company's mission, vision and values – classic business 101. It was always sold to me as the cornerstone of any business – everything you do should be driven by and from this overarching ideal.


It's a principal I still firmly believe in, but one I think has been heavily diluted in most cases. The norm for a lot of companies is to outline a clichéd mission statement, backed by a list of values that sound good on paper.


The problem then is that this is where the process tends to stop – with the words written down and put to the side, to be reviewed at next year's annual strategy meeting.


Very few companies in my experience actively live out their mission statement and judge everything they do against the values they claim to stand for.


I often think this is one of the major differentiators between an average business and the truly great ones.


The companies that are really successful over many years tend to be those that are driven by a consistent goal that they are always striving for – often a higher purpose than pure sales. They put their money where their mouth is and aim to deliver on the vision they believe in.


Having said that, it's easier said than done to even come up with a great mission statement, let alone create a culture where it guides every facet of the company.


To be honest, it's something that we haven't completely tackled yet at Shooii. Partly that's because we think it's important to wait until we have more staff involved so they can help shape our vision, and partly because Dave and I are on the same page in where we see Shooii going and what we want to stand for.


But I'm sure it is also common for other start-ups to put this task to the side, as something to be tackled “when things settle down”. Things change so quickly in a new business it can also be hard to pin down while still remaining agile.


The next trick once you have some meaningful thoughts in place is to actually back them up. If one of your statements outlines that you value your staff, ask yourself what you are truly doing to live this out. Do you actually invest in training and development? Do you regularly check on the morale of the team and put actions in place if there's room for improvement?


Sounds simple enough, but for many reasons and many companies words and actions don't always align.


Perhaps the acid test for business leaders is to ask the question, “What would staff honestly say, if asked how well the company lives by it's values?” If you tend to think you wouldn't like the answers you'd get back, then it's time to devote some time and effort finding ways you can live up the ideals you started out with.