Your Mission & ValuesApr 10, 2023
ASKING THE RIGHT QUESTIONS
I was about to make one of the biggest decisions of my life and I needed some courage. So I did what I always do: research. After my three kids were in bed, I hopped on Google and typed in “How to start a business.” Then “Things I need to start a business.” Then “Best ways to start a business.” You get the idea. I went down the “Start a Business” rabbit hole. But something didn’t feel right.
At my core, I knew what my business would be about. I’ve been in the video production world since high school. It started off with cheesy “news segments” for our school announcements. That turned into a degree in broadcast journalism, seven years writing and editing for the local NBC station in Washington, D.C., and then a move to storytelling and live streaming. Needless to say, video has always been in my wheelhouse.
But even with all the Googling, I was getting a gut feeling that I wasn’t asking the right questions. It was starting to become clear that the key to my business succeeding wasn’t how I set it up legally or what my brand colors would be or even what services I offered. What I was missing was the soul behind this massive decision I was making. I’m not talking about something metaphysical here.
Rather, the soul I was looking for was the drive, motivation, and desire I had to create videos for a living. The qualitative, not quantitative, reason to wake up in the morning and create. I needed to discover the heart behind my business if I ever wanted it to succeed.
I’m not an expert at this by any means. I have simply been there, done that. And there are two things I did that helped shape my business: I determined my “Why” and I named my values.
DETERMINING YOUR WHY
Initially, when I sat down to sketch out the skeleton of my business, I wanted to start with what I would offer: storytelling, live streaming, editing, corporate videos, etc. But I quickly realized that I needed to figure out why I was even doing this in the first place.
Some of those answers were personal. Maybe you’ve experienced that undercurrent of the mundane in your job where you feel like you’ve lost the spark you once had because you are doing the same thing over and over. That’s what I was feeling. I wanted to enjoy creating again. I wanted to bring some creativity to places that don’t always get to experience it or can’t afford it like non-profits, mom and pop businesses, and digital education. I also wanted to create a more flexible work environment where I could put my family first. I wanted the freedom to define success.
On a more professional level, I wanted to tell beautiful stories about humans who have a passion to run their own companies and serve the community. I wanted to help companies and organizations understand that they have a heart and soul, and allow them the freedom to express it. Ultimately, I wanted to fill a gap relationally between organizations and their customers or clients that would allow each party to see the soul or humanness of the other.
If you haven’t noticed, my personal and professional answers all tie back to this idea of soul, the idea that I wanted a business that operated out of quality over quantity, relationship over numbers, freedom over routine.
So what is your WHY? Start broad: What does your organization do? What service do you provide? That gives you the WHATs. Now ask yourself, WHY do you do those things? What motivates you to do your job, run your business, guide your non-profit everyday? What motivated you to start doing that in the first place? Start drilling down deeper and deeper. And as you do, write everything down so you can really distill you WHY.
Once you have that, it’s time to take the next step.
NAMING YOUR VALUES
Now that I had my why, I had some words brewing in my head that felt like tent poles for the business. Values that everything else could be built upon. One of the first that I wrote down was “unity.” My desire to bring businesses or organizations and the people that they served together was a driving force behind this value. In fact, I felt so strongly about this word that it became part of the name of my business: Unite Creative Company.
Then other words started to surface. “Authenticity" is a massive driving force, not just in how I run my business, but in how I desire my clients to portray themselves. Brene Brown says this about authenticity in her book “The Gifts of Imperfection”:
“Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It's about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen.”
This is exactly what I desired for my clients. That their true selves could be seen by allowing me to tell their story.
And finally, I wanted to be a “partner.” Yes, I want to be seen as the video expert to my clients. But I also want to have a long-lasting relationship with them. I want them to see me as being invested in their success, not just in the success of my own business.
These three values plus the determination of my “why” is what led me to create this mission statement for my business:
We partner with companies in the DMV (DC, Maryland, Virginia area) to craft unique video experiences that give clients and customers access to an authentic view of your business.
Now it’s time for you to state some of your values. For me, these came quickly after defining my WHY. But a good place to start is to ask what you want your customers or clients to feel when they interact with your organization. Or how you want the services you offer to be viewed by potential customers or clients. If you are struggling, there are lots of value assessments online that could be good places to spark your imagination. They often are more geared towards personal values, but like me, you may find your personal and professional values overlap.
FINDING YOUR SOUL
I mentioned at the very beginning that I needed to find the soul of my business before I could move forward. I strongly believe that every business, non-profit, organization, person has a soul. And I believe that soul is actually the most attractive thing you have to those you reach and serve.
I’ve seen my Why and Values shape the types of work I’m doing. These two guiding principles have kept me from doing busy work just to make a little more money. They’ve helped me seek out clients that I know I can develop a long lasting relationship with. And they’ve grounded me in the skills I have as a storyteller instead of a marketer.
In an age of Instagram, Tik Tok, and influencers, people want to experience authentic relationship. They want to see who you really are and what your business is really all about. They want to get to know you. The most practical way I put this into practice is by reaching out to people I really want to work with through a personalized video. In the business world it’s called a cold email, but I like to think of it as a first impression that allows me to show my true self. For you, it could also mean telling the stories of people you serve or getting testimonials from customers who appreciate you for your soul. But first, you have to put in the work to discover your soul.
So, why do you exist? And what are your values? Answer those two questions, and building relationships with clients, customers, or those you serve will become all the more clear.
By John Wist, Founder of Unite Creative Company