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Mission Statements, Values and Beliefs

So far in my life I have created two seven figure businesses, one I recently sold and I am still working on the other one. Early on when it was just me and no staff I remember reading a Harvard Business Review article that told me to ask myself at least 3 times why I was doing what I was doing. It really takes 3 times to get to the bottom of it. So after you answer yourself the first time you might say "because I want to work for myself" etc. ask the question again why is that important to you and so on. At the end of the day for me the final answer was "I wanted to help people". Now you might assume oh he must be a Doctor or a Nurse, but no I am a CPA and financial advisor. I probably could not do what doctors and nurses do as I am too squeamish.

Right after I figured out why I was doing what I do it became easy to set some values for the firm. Things like integrity and treating people the way you want to be treated were core and answered almost any question an employee might have as the firms grew. Our business cards even espouse some of the things that differentiated the firm so we made sure our clients knew we promised:

Accuracy, Creativity, Knowledge, and Protection.

I think most clients just expect that from a CPA but it is nice to spell it out, and it turns out not all CPA's are creative after all.

Now we have staff and I am less involved in the day to day activities it is nice to see that the firm really has a culture that hinges on those values with no reminders from me. The staff will go the extra mile, honor a price if they underestimated the time, own a mistake if they make one and fix it. Research the best way to file a return etc. The core value shows we are there to help people and the fee is secondary to the mission.

    1. Values

    I studied for my MBA over the course 3 years in night school. One of the useful things they had us do was write a paper with our values and beliefs and where we wanted to be in 5 and 10 years.

    Values are core and different from beliefs.

    Values shape an individual’s or businesses character and behavior; they are the basic foundation for a person’s personality, behavior, attitudes, and perceptions.  We always make decisions about right and wrong based on our values.

    Values include things like:

    Integrity

    Respect for others

    Achievement

    Creativity

    Continuous learning and improvement

    2. Beliefs

    Beliefs are convictions that we generally accept to be true, even without actual evidence or proof for example more like faith. Beliefs are often very strongly ingrained in us in that they influence our behaviors, thoughts, and attitudes in very powerful ways.

    Beliefs include things like: adopting Christian values, God created the world, there is an afterlife etc.

    But also many more basic things that affect how we live and the way we might run or grow a business.

    For example:

    an assassin would not do well if they believed killing was bad.

    Personally, with three children I think you are born with your personality and probably your values but that you can change your beliefs. Beliefs are mainly taught either directly or by inference.

    If you want a successful business then you need to make sure that the values you propagate are held by the team and take precedence over any contrary belief system an employee might bring to the table.

    For example "Respect for Others" a value will prevent a whole range of areas into which an employees belief system could cause trouble. You cannot hold "Respect for others" as a value and then be racists, sexists etc.

    3. Now write your mission statement

    Now you have got to your core values and beliefs it is pretty easy to write what you do in one sentence.

    For example: "We make our clients lives easier."

    So that answers a load of questions in your business. When you give them the tax return do you also show them where to sign? Do you provide a pre-addressed envelope if something has to be mailed in. Do you explain the differences from the prior year? Do you advise them on what would help them save money next year? Do you help them plan for retirement? Do you add Investment services? Do you explain how they might get a home equity loan? Do you check they have enough insurance? Do you guide them about their business?

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