When I started my business, I spent a crazy amount of time writing —and rewriting— my statement of Mission, Vision, Purpose & Values. It was time well spent! At first, it was just for me, so I could clearly wrap my head around what my business was all about. Then it became a tool for unifying my staff under a common CAUSE (literally, because that’s the acronym I created to summarize Purpose + Values, or our ‘reasons for being’ as a business). Beyond that, my acronym guides our business decisions and helps us communicate our values to customers. In short, our CAUSE reminds us every day that we are doing business on purpose.
If you look online you’ll find a ton of explanations for Mission, Vision, Purpose & Values, many of them conflicting. This may cause you to question whether you’re understanding correctly. You may wonder if you need to write up all four and if so, how long should they be. Then you may start thinking that maybe you should just hire this work out to a professional.
Listen up my dears, and let’s simplify!
You can do this
First and foremost, there is no one right way to go about writing your Mission, Vision, Purpose & Values statements. It’s your business, so you get to decide! You can draft all four components or combine them. There are examples, like with my business, in which Purpose is successfully wrapped up together with either Mission or Values. And if you’re about to start a business, nobody knows your concept better than you, so you really don’t need a guru to figure it out for you (although I can help you with that!)
An easy explanation
Here’s my ultra-simplified crash course: Mission is what you are doing, Vision is where you are going, Purpose is why you are doing it and Values guide you along the way.
Let’s imagine you’re planning a road trip to Vermont during color season (highly recommended!)
- Your Mission is: To drive around Vermont to see the Fall leaves and experience all the best food and accommodations along the way.
- Vision: In late September, I will fly into Burlington, rent a car, drive a circuit around the state and spend the week exploring, taking photos and eating.
- Purpose: To experience scenic countryside vistas, farm-to-table dining, and bed & breakfast stays.
- Values: Art and artistic expression, the local food movement, and peaceful travel.
Do you get the idea? Purpose is what really drives the bus because if you weren’t inspired by rolling meadows, local food and quaint inns, perhaps your Mission would be to drive to downtown Los Angeles for a completely different urban experience.
Now all you need to do is apply this concept to your business. Set aside some uninterrupted time and start pounding the keyboard or writing out your ideas. Keep it simple! You don’t have to write a novel. My Mission, Vision and Purpose/Values fit on one page.
Think about your Purpose and how it will inspire and motivate you — and others as well. British American author & speaker Simon Sinek says “People don’t buy What you do, they buy Why you do it.” So you need to be sure it resonates with others. You may be motivated by making tons of money but your employees and customers are unlikely to care about your needs so you’ll have to dig deeper.
After you have your first draft, congratulate yourself and take some time away to let the thoughts settle. Be prepared to go back again to revise and revise some more until you have clear and concise statements.
Make it come alive
Think of your company Mission, Vision, Purpose, and Values as living, breathing parts of your business that inform the kind of culture you aim to create and that help you navigate. Work them into your staff meetings and marketing materials. Don’t let all your brilliance just turn into a document that decorates your walls! If you intentionally make it come alive each day and commit to doing business on purpose, it will set you apart and serve you well for a long time to come.