In the dictionary, the word foundation is referred to as being the natural or prepared ground or base on which a structure rests. Interestingly, the word is also used to describe an institution (as in research) financed by a donation, legacy, or endowment that is designed to last a very long span of time.
It seems somewhat counterintuitive that regardless of the size, shape, material, and purpose of the building, the construction of each begins by digging into the earth and lining it with concrete reinforced with steel. Just as the proper foundation is critical for the strength, stability, safety, and longevity of a building; it is just as critical to have a proper brand foundation.
If a building foundation is made of concrete and steel, what makes a brand foundation?
Your Mission is the guiding purpose behind your business; the reason you began your business in the first place. It can be likened to the North Star (Polaris) which is not only the brightest in the night, but the most consistent – it moves so little throughout the year that it has been used by travelers for centuries to navigate their journeys. Used properly, every decision made by the company will be harmonious with the mission. While the mission can never be reached, it can be lived and expressed by everyone in the organization.
Here are a couple of great questions to answer when developing your Mission:
Who are we?
What do we believe?
How do we treat people (internally and externally)?
What is important? (What is NOT important?)
What are we here to accomplish?
Your Vision is an illustration of your ideal future. It is a specific destination or objective that also plays an important role in decision-making on all levels by asking the question; does this option help bring us closer to the vision while living the mission. Because a vision is a destination, it can (and often will) be achieved – as in new product launches, sales/revenue targets, etc. In order to make the vision become reality, it is crucial to share the details with your team, customers, and vendors.
Here are a couple of my favorite questions to help develop Vision:
What sort of impact do we want to make?
How will this look in 12-18 months? 3 years? 5 years? 10-20 years?
What will need to happen to make this work/possible?
We use words, images, and expressions to communicate thoughts and ideas to each other throughout our lives. Each of these is a separate and subtle language that, when harnessed and designed, can make our communications dramatically more impactful. Businesses that take the time to design their own language can create a significant advantage over competitors. Consider brands like Kleenex, Xerox, Post-its, and Google (add Coke if you are from the southeastern US); they are specific brands that we interchange for generic categories.
Businesses frequently use mission and vision focused language in job titles and descriptions; in marketing and promotions; as well as internal dialogue. By carefully choosing (even creating) words and expressions, we can help guide our conversations that surround us.
Just like the simple ideas of concrete, steel, and wood forms help us construct elegant buildings; we can use Mission, Vision, and Language to construct elegant and successful businesses.