You help your clients do it every day but have you defined your values, mission and vision?

As you preach to clients, it’s vital to every business that they have a clear idea of who they are and what they’re all about. Usually the owner has some vague (or maybe very defined) vision for their organization but few have taken the time to distill it down or made the effort to weave it into the fabric of the company.

Many people confuse mission and vision. Here’s how I define and distinguish between the three elements.

Mission — what you do best every day

Vision – what the future is like because you do what you do best every day

Values – guiding principles/beliefs

In an environment like an agency – each of these is critical. If you’ve already done this work – revisit it to make sure it’s still on target and meets the following criteria:

  • Are you mission and vision statements a single sentence?
  • Are you values short enough that everyone on your team could memorize and recite them?
  • Are all three components written in common, easy to understand language?
  • Are they unique to you? Could any agency claim the exact same set?
  • Are they all from the client’s/an outside perspective? Remember this is how you want others to see you.

As you know, because you probably guide clients through this process, it’s deceivingly difficult.

If you haven’t done this or you think the work you’ve done could use a refresh – do it right. Investing in defining your values, mission and vision is one of those important but not urgent quadrant activities that will change the future of your agency.

Carve out some time and get out of the office. Go someplace that inspires you to clear your head and really do some deeper thinking. For some of you, this will be a quiet place like sitting on a bench by a lake or in an art gallery. For others, it will be putting on some headphones in a Starbucks and just immersing yourself in the energy. Or it might be sitting on the deck at your house when everyone else is at school/work. Hopefully you know what kind of an environment triggers your best thinking.

Most people find it’s easiest to tackle the values first. Make a list of all of the values that you want your agency to have. At this stage, don’t edit or censor. Just brainstorm the list without any censoring.

After you’ve completed the list, look at the values and see which ones are just variations of another. If you have both honesty and straight shooting on your list – those are probably getting at the same core value. Do that distilling until your list is more refined.

Now, pick the 5-6 values that are most important to you. These are the values you are not willing to compromise on, for love or money. These should not be aspirational. These need to be foundational to your business – you should already be using them as a guide, whether you’ve articulated them before or not.

The finalists should get a yes answer to the following questions (borrowed from Jim Collins in Good to Great):

  • If you were to start a new agency, would you build it around this core value regardless of the industry?
  • Would you want your agency to continue to stand for this core value 100 years into the future, no matter what changes occur in the outside world?
  • Would you want your agency to hold this core value, even if at some point in time it became a competitive disadvantage—even if in some instances the environment penalized you for living this core value?
  • Do you believe that those who do not share this core value—those who breach it consistently—simply do not belong in your agency?
  • Would you personally continue to hold this core value even if you were not rewarded for holding it?
  • Would you change jobs before giving up this core value?
  • If you awoke tomorrow with more than enough money to retire comfortably for the rest of your life, would you continue to apply this core value to your productive activities?

After you’ve gut checked them against this list, rank them in terms of importance. Why does this matter? Because sometimes values are in conflict with one another and you need to know which ones trump the others.

Now, that you have the values defined, are you happy with the words you’ve chosen to communicate each one? This is your opportunity to wordsmith them before you roll the list out to your team.

But don’t plan the roll out yet. We still have mission and vision to deal with!

If you love this sort of work and recognize that defining your values, mission and vision are just the start of distinguishing your agency from all the others, you might want to explore our Agency New Business Blueprint on demand course. Our five modules (over 4 hours of video teaching and a 144-page participant’s guide.  Ask me about it.