New Year: The Ideal Time to Reflect on Your Real Purpose

Sure, your company has a mission and a vision. These statements are fine, even necessary; but your values define who you really are.

Aw 20003 Values

As a new year approaches and we celebrate the holiday season, now is a good time to review your company’s purpose. Who are you? Why do you exist? Where are you going?

Most companies focus on their mission statement. They spend hours, days and sometimes weeks making sure they get their statement just right. The mission statement is often prominently displayed in the lobby and on marketing materials. Pick up almost any business book on strategic planning and the author will stress the importance of having a clear, concise mission statement that defines the company’s purpose—their reason for existing as a business. Of course this is important. If you don’t know your company’s mission, you are the proverbial “rudderless ship.”

Many companies also spend countless hours developing their vision statement. A vision statement helps the company understand where it is heading, i.e., what will the company look like in the future? While the mission statement defines the company’s purpose, the vision statement lays the roadmap for the future.

While both are important, I contend that defining a company’s values are too often overlooked and are poorly defined. Your company’s values define who you are and what you stand for. Some rules of thumb to consider:

  • Values are from the heart. Look inward and define who you are.
  • Values should apply uniquely to you and your company. Can your competitors say the same thing?
  • Remember the saying often attributed to Alexander Hamilton: “If you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything.” What does your company stand for?

Often a company’s mission and vision change as the company’s strategic direction and focus changes. Market conditions, the economy and other factors often influence a company’s mission. A company’s values rarely, if ever, change and are unaffected by external forces such as the economy. Once you have your values defined—live them. It's not enough just have your ideal values on paper. After all, Enron, the energy giant that went bankrupt as the result of accounting fraud, had a 64-page “Code of Ethics” clearly defining their values. My favorite line from their values statement: “Ruthlessness, callousness and arrogance don’t belong here.” Hmm….

Stephen Blank is Chief Executive Officer of Loman Control Systems Inc., a certified member of the Control System Integrators Association.

More in Home