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Who are we?

(Mission, values and 3 – 5 year vision)

Module 1: Five questions every CEO must answer

As a company grows, it’s very common for CEOs and MDs to get sucked into working in the business rather than on the business. In the rush to finish a product, secure customers, and get to market, it’s easy to overlook defining who the company is, why it exists, and where it should be going. But without a mission, a set of values or a vision, a company is like a boat adrift on the ocean without a rudder, oars, or compass.

To grow a successful company, you must formulate a mission, define a set of company values, and develop a clear vision of where you want the company to be in three to five years. Doing so will enable you and your executive team to develop decision frameworks and set goals. It will also enable vendors, suppliers and employees to determine whether they want to work with you and help you achieve those goals.

What is a company mission?

A mission is the reason your company is in business. It’s what you do and why you do it. Without a mission, your company lacks a reason for being, and it is difficult for employees to know whether working for your company will enable them to achieve their personal goals. A good mission statement provides guidance to prospects, customers, and employees about what you do, for whom, why and to what end.

What are company values?

Too few CEOs understand the importance of having a set of values and describing the behaviors that define those values. For example, it’s not enough to identify teamwork as one of your company’s values. You also need to add a sentence or two that describes the behaviour associated with teamwork. For example, teamwork might be defined by the following:

  • Respect, listen and value the opinions of others
  • Work and think well in groups
  • Do what you say you’ll do
  • Help others learn.

Values and behaviours should define who you are as a company and signal how you want employees to interact with each other, with customers, with suppliers and with vendors.

Although defining your values may not be easy, getting your employees to help provide descriptors for each value and to communicate them will have positive impacts on performance. In addition, having a set of values enables you to select candidates who match those values and pass on those who don’t. Your values will also clarify the kinds of customers, vendors and suppliers you want to do business with. It will explain why, from time to time, you need to cut loose certain customers, vendors, suppliers and even employees. Staying true to your values will help you make difficult decisions and keep your company aligned.

Your values will also clarify the kinds of customers, vendors and suppliers you want to do business with.

What is your vision for the company?

Most CEOs have some ideas about where they want to take their company, but their vision often stays in their head, and they don’t communicate it to anyone else. Other CEOs are reluctant to share their vision because it keeps changing, while others aren’t sure what to do to achieve their vision.

Being able to articulate your vision is incredibly important to your employees. They want to support you, and they want the company to be a success. As one employee asked his CEO, “What is your vision for this company? I can’t keep working this hard if I don’t know!”

A shared vision is powerful. It keeps people motivated, provides meaning, and makes each person’s job significant. Your role as a leader is to:

  • create the vision of where the company is going,
  • engage your team in determining how to get there, and
  • then make sure your employees understand how what they do contributes to achieving that vision.

In short, it’s your responsibility as leader to ensure that you have defined, articulated and communicated the company’s mission, values and vision. This will provide a framework for decisions, sanction certain behaviours, and clarify actions that you – and your team – will need to take in order to move the company up the growth curve.

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