One of the biggest challenges facing any business is to decide what you are and what you represent. What do you stand for? How do you distinguish yourself from the competition? What makes your business unique and different?
Deciding on your values and your purpose is an undertaking that is well worth your time and effort. It is not easy to do. It is not urgent, and it does not ring or arrive in your email. So, if you do not make it happen, it will always get put on the back burner. If you take the time, and if you make it happen, you will find it is ultra-important, and it is worth every minute of time and attention you give it. It is said in time management that for every minute you spend planning you save 20 in execution. The same is true in deciding on your values and your purpose. Once these ideas are clear, it becomes much easier to make choices and to pick the path when two choices are placed before you. They become the compass in the storm.
Your values are the bedrock of your business. They are the things that never change. They are built into the foundation of who you are and what you stand for. Although your plans and strategies may change over time, your values should not. That is why it is worth spending some real quality time determining what these are and how you want to express them. As you attempt to create them, take some time. It is not a process that should be rushed. They are best if they are succinct and easy for everyone in your practice, or business, to memorize them. If they are long and complicated, then chances are they will get hung on a wall somewhere and forgotten. Who wants that, right? Instead, you want them to become part of the fabric of who you are. You want them to be expressed and memorized by your team. It is important that there is a shared vision and purpose. This is the way you start to make that happen.
Keep it to as few things as you can that express what you stand for. Search the web for what other great companies have done and what they stand for. Some helpful ones may be Southwest Airlines, Whole Foods, Zappos and the Ritz Carlton. In addition, I will give you what my company’s values are. It is not important what ours are, as you need to have your own, but it may give you some ideas as to what they might look like. We actually created our values 10 years ago before opening our first clinic and they are still the same today. In fact, they have become a symbol of who we are and we use them every time we need to make a tough decision. Our Values Are:
- Amazing Customer Service
- Financial Success
- Awesome Place to Work
- Great Medical Care
This is what we stand for. It is not something written on a wall somewhere that nobody knows about. It is permeated throughout our organization and all our clinics. We live those values. We made them succinct and easy to understand. They define our thinking and what we do every day. Lots of things in our clinics and in our business have changed over the last ten years, but those over-riding principles have not. Ten years from now, if we are still lucky enough to be around, they will be the same as they are now.
Just as important and in sync with your values, is your business’s purpose. They are not exactly the same. Your values define who you are. They symbolize things that will never change about you and your team. Your purpose is a little more action oriented. It is the reason you exist. It is what you try to accomplish every day. When you are making plans for the year, month, or week, it is the over-riding thought. It is what keeps you moving forward. Your purpose is what keeps you going when you’re tired, or when it doesn’t seem like it’s worth it. Your purpose is in alignment with your values, but it defines better what it is you are trying to accomplish while maintaining your values. The best way to come up with your purpose is to ask yourself and your team to finish this sentence: Our business exists to…
We first did this years ago at my house. We gathered our entire team (we were much smaller then) and we had everyone finish this sentence. We took all the answers and started making a list on the dry-board of the different ideas. We honed them down to three. This process was a matter of realizing which things really mean the same things, which were actually strategies or values vs purpose, and then slowly taking those ideas and creating OUR sentence. When we were finished this was our sentence: HealthCARE Express exists to serve our communities, provide a WOWZA customer experience, and leave a legacy of leaders. The greatest thing about this sentence is that it did not come from me. I did not lead the group to coming up with what I wanted. Instead, we got deep on why we really exist. What do we want our company’s legacy to be? It came from the team so, they are all bought in. They get it. It is THEIR purpose. What has happened since? Has it made a difference? The answer is… absolutely! That day has made all the difference to us. We focus on serving every community in which we exist. We do it because we are grateful to them for supporting us, and because it is the right thing to do. Our team members are required to do community service to keep their employment. That’s how much we believe in it.
We invented, and since trademarked, the word WOWZA. We define it our way and it has become what we are. It is literally everywhere in our company. You find it all over our web site. It has its own definition to us. We have WOWZA leadership training, WOWZA Palooza once a year, our WOWZA guarantee, and on and on. We really didn’t have the phrase “leaving a legacy of leaders” defined back then. Since then, it has become what we are about. We feel like what we lack today in our societies are true leaders. We do not mean just leaders in our company, but leaders in our families, our churches, our communities, and our country. It has become what we are about. We spend a lot of time, money, and effort training and developing leaders. It has been one of the greatest decisions we have made. All of these things are because we decided to decide what our purpose is.
So, what is your purpose? Why do you exist? What is your company’s legacy? It is not urgent, it is very important. We often let the urgent take the place of the important Take the time, get your team together, and involve them in the process. Twenty years ago, I would have thought most of this was hokum. I thought it made for good books or good talks but didn’t make a rat’s ass difference in real everyday life. I am now of the opposite opinion. Defining who you are, what your values are, and what your purpose is may be the most important time you can spend. For us it wasn’t just a difference, it was THE difference.
I hope you find the same to be true.
Living Every Minute,