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Core Values and Mission Statements

Is your company on the right track in terms of its philosophy? Your company can lose its way and its employees can be without a clear direction if you haven’t formulated a set of core or corporate values and a company mission statement.

The ABCs of core values
“Values guide behavior more directly than do policies and procedures,” explains Professor Barbara Jones, dean of the School of Business at Alabama A&M University. “Employees can manipulate their way around policies, but values push us very directly.”

If the staff understands the values of your company, they will conduct themselves in the manner required. “Just like in our personal lives, our values drive our behavior. Employees prioritize and interact with others based on the company’s values,” says Tracy Brown, president of Diversity Trends L.L.C. and a former president of the National Association of African Americans in Human Resources.

And while values start at the top, they should not be one’s personal values, but should reflect the company. “Company values should be broader than the values of the owner or founder,” explains Brown. “They should represent how the company wants to be perceived by employees, customers, suppliers and the general community.”

As a small business owner Gary Johnson, founder of Gary A. Johnson Co., a management training and consulting firm in Temple Hills, Md., found that establishing his corporate values also lets his customers know what type of business they are working with. “Corporate values serve as the foundation for everything that we do,” he notes. “That includes all of our products, services, the attitudes of our associates and our interaction with our customers.  Corporate values are bedrock principles that help you earn a reputation. You simply cannot put a price tag on having a solid reputation.”

His company values are simple and direct. “Listen to our clients and address their needs as we
understand them; Recognize differences and leverage them to our client’s benefit; Be honest, be professional, and treat people with respect (as they want to be treated),” offers Johnson.

Crafting a mission statement
Mission statements and corporate values go hand in hand, says Jones. But they are two distinctly different things. “A mission statement says where you are going. Values influence what you will do or not do to accomplish that mission,” Jones points out. “Values influence goals and processes for achieving goals.”

The mission statement should be a concise business directive and should answer these questions: What do we do? How do we do it? For whom do we do it? “A mission statement describes why a company exists, what products or services it offers, or the outcome of all efforts,” says Brown.

There is more than one way to draft a mission statement. “The leader can write a statement and bring it
to the leadership team for discussion,” says Jones. “In a small operation, all employees can meet and collectively draft one. There can be a committee or team assigned with the responsibility of developing a draft. A professional can be charged with putting the words together after that person is given a clear idea of the ideas that the statement should reflect.”

However you decide to put your mission statement together, make sure it fulfills your needs as a company. “Effective mission statements are clear and inspiring. They serve to invite employees to be ‘stakeholders’ in the organization,” says Johnson.

Size doesn’t matter
Every company, regardless of size and age, can benefit from corporate values and mission statements. “A small business may need this more than a big company,” observes Johnson. “The problem is that many small businesses don’t think that they do. Effective mission statements and values are more than just words. They are the fabric that runs throughout the organization.”

In order to do business, you must first know how you’re going to conduct business, why the company is in existence, and what the company stands for in terms of its own standards and reputation. “Every business has a mission and operates based on specific values whether these things are written down or not. So, yes, even a small business needs to clearly express mission and values,” notes Brown.
“When new business is being developed, your mission statement can help you stay focused on the primary goal of the business. And when conflict arises, the company values can help people resolve disagreements or misunderstandings based on company standards,” she adds.

Getting employees onboard

Once you have your values in order and your mission statement formularized, how do you get your employees on the same page? Get them involved, advises Jones. “There should be discussion of the ideas with the employees in a small company before the mission statement is finalized,” she explains.

Brown agrees. “In a new organization it is smart to include some employees in the development of mission and value statements. In an existing company it is smart to include mission and values in employee orientation,” she says. Next, you set an example by “preaching and practice,” she adds.

With a clear mission statement and a finely tuned set of corporate values, you company should be ready to compete — the right way.