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Building and sustaining your business (IV): Clarifying your mission, vision and values

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Henrietta Onwuegbuzie. PHOTO: YouTube

This week, we continue to discuss how to build and sustain your business by understanding how your mission, vision and values provide the foundation of a successful and sustainable business.

The concepts mission statement and vision statement are mentioned simply as clichés because most people do not understand how to use them.

A Values statement, though less mentioned, is equally important.

Let’s take them one after another, and see how they all connect and provide direction for a business.

As the saying goes, “If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else” (Yogi Berra).

My interpretation of this quote is that if you don’t know where you’re going, you may end up in a bad place.

As I explained in previous articles, the first principle of business success is to be solution-driven.

This ultimately leads you to create value that is either a solution to a problem, or a need you have identified.

This value is therefore relevant and people will be willing to pay for it, if presented the way the want and at an acceptable price

A mission statement helps you define the purpose of your business.

It answers the question all entrepreneurs need to ask themselves, “what is my business here to provide?”

An example could be: To provide safe, comfortable and efficient transportation. Understanding this would lead to putting things in place to deliver on this mission.

Actions taken could include: ensuring that the cars and tyres used in the business are in top condition, making sure the drivers are well trained and actually drive well, ensuring punctual take-off and arrival times, making sure all safety gadgets are in place and used appropriately.

By the time all these are implemented, customers will be willing to pay a premium for such service, especially if it is not commonplace among other transporters.

Such a business immediately stands out from the crowd because a greater level of safety, comfort and efficiency has been provided.

This mission statement can also guide strategy, by leading the company to focus on market segments that value safety highly.

Such segments include parents whose children are in boarding schools in faraway places and need a safe means of getting their children to school and back.

This means that the business can have an arrangement with schools, as a means to bring children to school at the beginning of the term, and take them back home at mid-term or at the end of the term.

This is a large captive market. This same service may also be extended to hotels who offer transportation to guests coming in from abroad, who are usually particular about safety.

The mission also influences the focus of innovations in the business.

The fact of highlighting safety, comfort and efficiency in the mission statement, will lead to continuous improvements in line with the goal of providing these attributes to passengers.

Fulfilling this mission easily makes the business a compelling choice for customers who value these features.

Vision on the other hand refers to your dream for the business, what you aspire the business to become in future. This helps you plan and work towards the goal.

In the same way as Rome was not built in a day, a business usually does not become a giant overnight.

Remember: start small, think big! Your vision represents what you want to grow up to become.

An example of a vision statement may therefore be: To become the safest, most comfortable and largest transportation company in the country.

This could be a 10-year vision. So even if one starts the transportation business with leased cars, as patronage grows, earnings will begin to allow the purchase of cars to increase the fleet.

As revenues continue to grow, one can begin to approach high volume customers as described earlier, and include vans or buses to the fleet to meet high-capacity needs. The mission statement therefore informs the vision statement.

Further, the vision informs the way things are done in the business right from the start.

For instance, knowing that one is planning to run a large fleet, means that it is critical to have a source of good drivers.

This realization may lead to starting a driving school, that will provide a steady source of well-trained drivers as the fleet expands.

Without a vision, one may be satisfied with hiring any drivers one finds, because one is operating only in the present without working towards a target.

Vision therefore helps one understand what needs to be put in place to reach the desired goal.

Vision also imposes financial discipline, as even when the business grows and people think it is doing well, it compels one to keep reinvesting into the business, as one is yet to hit the set target. Vision keeps one striving towards the set goal.

Vision can however be modified over time in response to changing market needs or advances in technology that make it necessary for the business to proceed differently.

If for instance, a lot of trains are introduced into the transportation system and the routes are efficiently distributed, it would no longer make sense for the business to own a large fleet of cars, as people will find trains faster and more efficient.

The company may then modify its mission and vision to meet another related need.

The Values statement will be discussed next week.

Onwuegbuzie is a globally certified Management Consultant and a Senior Lecturer in Entrepreneurship at Lagos Business School: Twitter: @honwuegbuzie; email: honwuegbuzie@lbs.edu.ng


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