Does your company have a purpose, a vision, and accompanying values? As a business owner you know what your company does, but do you have a clearly stated purpose about why you do it – the values and behaviours that you and your whole team understand, embrace and live by?
It might not seem important, but you would be surprised at the challenges, frustrations and problems which can be caused by a lack of purpose. Without a clear purpose and articulated values, can your team consistently make effective decisions? Without a company purpose, staff don’t have the confidence to make the decisions they should be making. You, as the boss, get tasked with making decisions that are frankly, not the best use of your most valuable commodity – time. It’s very difficult for a culture of accountability and responsibility to be achieved without clarity of purpose, values and behaviours.
Without these in place, your team probably turns to you constantly for answers to their questions. For example, I have worked with businesses where the CE is asked to decide on everything down to ordering more toilet paper.
As the business owner or CE you become so important and vital to the business that it can’t operate successfully without you – all roads lead to you. You don’t feel like you can take a holiday, and when it’s time for you to sell or move on, any prospective buyers or investors are going to see that without you, the business is much less desirable or valuable. And in the meantime you’re left feeling frustrated and ripped off at not having the flexibility to choose how and where you spend your time, which is part of the reason you went into business to begin with.
Purpose can help you step back and grow the value of your business
Your business should have a clear purpose. It needs a vision statement, with associated values – and every person who joins the team should know these inside out with all decisions coming back to tie in with the vision, values and behaviours.
This helps you empower your team to make decisions and resolve situations - if you find that someone is knocking on your door to ask a question, you can refer them back to the behaviours and values and use the conversation as a way of understanding what is stopping them from taking action. That way you are leading your team to use the company’s values and behaviours to guide them in future decision-making. For example, let’s say a process is being run to choose a new supplier – do the contenders align with the company value of ‘Integrity’ or are they suspiciously cheap and sourcing items from a country with poor labour practices?
In the long term, your empowered team will make decisions without needing to ask or rely on you, so your business can operate without you being present at every moment. It can grow faster, instead of being stifled by the fact that you can’t be everywhere at once. You can step back: spend more time on strategy or the things you love working on in the business, work fewer hours and take more time for yourself and your family. And if you want to step away entirely, your business now looks better to prospective vendors, because it doesn’t need to be micromanaged, and the owner doesn’t need to set up camp at the office to answer every question or make every decision.
Every successful business does this, because it works
When your business is struggling, establishing purpose, values and behaviours might feel like it should be at the bottom of the to-do list – you can always find a reason to put it off. But you should never be too busy to do this work. Tough times are ideal for setting out your vision and we are certainly seeing a lot of businesses experiencing tough times currently! Instead of heading off down the wrong road, you have guiding principles to help you see opportunities that line up with your goals and take action.
Many businesses have these statements, because they’re essential to growing a successful company. They create a common purpose and a positive ethos the whole business and everyone in it can gravitate toward. All the decisions in a business come back to your values, whether it’s pitching for work, resourcing your team, marketing or sales. Every time there’s a decision to be made, someone should be asking: is this in line with our values? It also enables those within your business to call out behaviours that don’t align with the values, allowing prompt resolution of problems and the development of a high performing team. As a bonus, these statements can really give you a leg up with your recruitment. More people now want to work for a business with a vision that aligns with their own personal purpose and values.
In every case where I’ve worked with business owners and leaders to establish a purpose, values and behaviours, they’ve seen their business growth accelerate. This isn’t necessarily cause and effect – it could be luck, or, more likely, it’s a consequence of business directors, owners, and leaders who have decided to invest in the future of the business.
It doesn't take long and funding may be available
In my experience, it usually takes two half days to sit down and talk about:
the current personal visions and ambitions of the owners and leadership team and how aligned they are
what parts of their role they enjoy, and what parts they’d like to delegate
the reason for the business and collectively what they want the business to achieve
exploring, articulating and documenting the business’s vision, purpose, goals, values and behaviours
- working out the now what – what are the actions they will commit to and be accountable for to bring this all to life!
This can be a real relief to business owners who have been struggling with feelings like, “I’m stressed out because there’s only one of me!” “Nobody else can do what I do”, or “I’m doing tonnes of stuff I don’t enjoy.” It also helps to focus efforts on work that gets businesses to where they want to be and owners to achieve what they set out to when they decided to go into business.
The good news is that you can often access funding to help subsidise this type of work. The Regional Business Partner Network, for example, may subsidise up to 50% of the cost of this investment (to a maximum of $5,000).
One business I have worked with recently in this area can see that with purpose, values and behaviours in place, the company now has a clear vision of where it is going, and why and how it will get there. That’s allowed them to create delegation policies empowering their people to make decisions and has resulted in the entire team functioning more effectively.
It’s not only about writing down your vision and purpose, of course; it’s about investing in the future of the business. But that vision is an ideal starting point, putting you on course for greater success.
The views expressed in this content are those of the author, who is also responsible for any errors and omissions. Family Business Australia and New Zealand provides this article for your information only. The content of the article should not be taken as advice. If you wish to explore this topic, please consult an advisor who you consider to have the expertise to provide specific advice in relation to your family business.