Recently I read a fantastic article by Guy Kawasaki titled “The Meaning of Meaning”. A key message from the article was that if you get in business to only make money you will likely have a hard time creating a great company.
He went on to discuss how the great companies stand for more than just profit, and that they clearly articulated this goal.
Worded in a different manner could be to ensure that the mission of your business has deeper meaning than just turning a buck. This is where I find it gets a bit confusing for small, and medium sized enterprises (SME’s).
I remember a situation where I was discussing how important mission, vision and values are with one business owner. His response to me was that idea was a 1990’s fad, and was no longer relevant. I think this speaks to the fact that these entrepreneurs are a little skeptical of “flavor of the week” ideas and fads. These busy companies have little time to get their heads up out of the business let alone enough time to figure out if an idea is a fad or not.
I agree that if creating a mission, vision, and values statement gets done just to say you have it – it is pointless. But what would happen if you can capture the deeper meaning of why you are in business in this statement? What if the values your organization follows get captured? What if you not only do this, but you figure out a way to get this message to your entire organization? If time is taken to create these critical ideas you can create a road-map that provides the where your company is headed, why it is going here, and by what means you will achieve this. From here you can realize an alignment that can help project your company towards greatness.
I think where SME’s get lost is trying to achieve too much with the meaning part of the statement. You don’t have to save the environment by yourself, or have some grandiose higher purpose that does not fit your organization. It is likely true that making money was a driving factor behind why you got in business, but there is often another reason. Maybe you felt that you could create a company where you could make a profit, but also treat your employees with respect. Perhaps you wanted to start a business so you could donate some of your earnings to a certain charity. Maybe you started your company because you felt the customers you dealt with in your old company deserved better.
The point is while it is important to have a deeper meaning, it is more important for that meaning to be something real that you believe in. If you end up trying to stand behind a false purpose people will see through this and it will probably backfire. People will get behind real meaning so figure out what your meaning is and let your people know. By having a transparent deeper purpose you will likely attract like minded people to your company. These same people will help you achieve this deeper purpose and help move your company towards greatness.