The Value of Values
By Courtney Holmes
I like to compare business behavior to personal behavior. My designer got a BA in Sociology before going back to school for design, so we talk about this topic a lot: there are universal behaviors that are just inherent in us.
Lately I have been really working on living my values. This required a lot of self analysis, spending a lot of time really listening to myself and identifying what is important to me. I read 7 Habits of Highly Effective People in January and it has been a huge game changer. One of the takeaways I received from the book was that success is living your values. For me, I value genuine connections with others, freedom to live life fully, and personal health. When it comes down to it, nothing else matters. So I have really rearranged my life in order to live these values. This required that I find balance in my life and stop being so self-critical. I am currently working on simplifying. Anything that does not add value to my life, I try not to participate in. Life is too complicated as is - why muddy it up?
This realization has created direction in my life and made goals actually attainable. Life is good, really good.
I see this same phenomenon in business. Companies that don't have clear values and mission have no direction. They are lost. Decisions are based on emotion, not drive. There is no cohesion and consumers cannot connect with them because they don't know what they stand for. It's sad that there is heart behind their brand, yet they don't know how to live the "heart." In other words, they don't know how to live their values.
Branding does just this. A brand strategy is not just the visual components of a company, it is the heart and direction of the founders and staff. If you have not identified your values, you have no direction. Owners will be pulled in all different directions, they may compare themselves to successful competitors and want to mimic them. But what is the old adage - "be true to thyself"? You can only be you.
We wrote our mission statement together and plan to reclarify it each year. Mission statements are not meant for your customers to read and judge. It is a way to judge yourself and make sure you are living your mission. If we have a difficult decision or even a really great opportunity, we have to decide if it is in line with our mission statement. We make modifications to our processes so that we can better live these values. We also walk away from great opportunities if they are not in line with the mission statement. This is the hardest for business owners sometimes: saying no. If you say yes to everything, you go nowhere. I admire companies that say "no" gracefully. They know what is most important to them and stick to that.
I had a client that was vetting e-commerce platforms. The client wanted functionality that the e-commerce provider did not offer. The client asked if they would do custom programming for this feature. But the provider's mission is to "sell more DTC for wineries" and they knew this feature would actually reduce DTC sales. They know because they base their decisions off of AB testing. They said "no" and lost the client. I admire this. They stuck to their mission and did their best to communicate to my client that the research doesn't show this functionality sells more wine.
Mission statements are the foundation of a brand strategy. We, as communication experts, help the client communicate these values. But the client must live these values.