Build A Strong Foundation

This Month’s Topic: Building a Sustainable Business

Building a Sustainable Business: 3 Essential Elements You Can’t Ignore

A strong foundation is essential for a business to be sustainable. Three elements essential to a strong foundation are core values, mission, and vision. Successful business owners and nonprofit leaders understand that the organization’s core values, mission, and vision guide their decisions and actions.

The Foundation: Core Values, Mission, and Vision

Your core values, mission, and vision are the cornerstones of your business. Each of these plays an important role in building a strong foundation. Each has a distinct purpose. Each is uniquely different from the other two.

Your core values are the fundamental beliefs that guide decisions, actions, and behavior. Core values provide the framework for the culture of your company.

Your mission is the purpose of your business. It describes what your business does and who it serves.  It is the present.

Your vision describes where you “see” your business in the future. It is the future.

Clarify Your Core Values, Mission, and Vision

It is critically important that you, the business owner/leader, are crystal-clear on the core values, mission, and vision of your business. Why? Here are some reasons:

  1. You’ll rely on these when making decisions and taking action.
  2. They impact people who interact with your business – employees, customers, prospects, funders, investors, vendors, the community, and more.
  3. They form the culture of your company, whether you are a solopreneur or a large entity.

So how do you get clarity? Use strategic thinking. Here’s a definition of strategic thinking as it pertains to building a sustainable business:

“Strategic Thinking: an intentional thought process that focuses on critical factors and variables that will influence the long-term success of a business, team, or individual.”

Having facilitated hundreds of strategic thinking sessions during my time in business, here’s a simple process to help you develop a Core Values Statement, a Mission Statement, and a Vision Statement.

  1. Make time to think. Schedule time away from your usual obligations, distractions, etc.
  2. Do this yourself or involve a few other people who are involved in your business or who are familiar with you and your business.
  3. Ask these compelling questions: 
  1. What are the core values that guide your decisions and actions in your personal life and your business? (Your personal values are reflected in your business values.)
    1. What is the purpose (mission) of your business? What does your business do and who does it serve? (What words succinctly describe the business so someone who does not know the business would understand?)
    1. Where do you want your business to be in the future? This is your vision. (Pick the timeframe and describe what your business looks like then.)
  • Write a statement for each. Set the statements aside for a day or two. Then review them and revise as needed.

Your Mission Statement states what your business does, who it serves, and why it is important. Keep it simple so anyone who reads it immediately grasps a simple understanding of your business.

Your Vision Statement describes your business in the future. You pick the timeframe. It can be three years, five years, or even one year. The timeframe is your choice and is typically determined by the type of industry you are in. For example, a timeframe for a high-tech consumer-oriented business may only be one year. Many companies I work with choose three to five years.

Your Core Values Statement describes your values. If you need “inspiration” to write your Core Values Statement, check out this short 4-minute video I created. It offers examples of several formats for Core Values Statements.

Use the Statements You’ve Written

Share the statements you’ve written with your team and stakeholders. Use the statements in your promotional materials, in proposals for work, in funding applications, when seeking strategic alliances, during team meetings, or when making strategic decisions and setting goals.

Sharing your core values, mission, and vision keeps your team informed, inspired, and focused and helps those who want to do business/are doing business with you.

Next Topic: Change Is Good! Knowing When to Adapt

Create more harmony in your workplace, your work life, and your personal life by clarifying your personal and business core values. “The Big List of Core Values” is an indispensable guide to unlocking personal and professional fulfillment through the exploration of core values.

Judy Whalen
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