It’s 4:45pm at the end of the last day of the tradeshow. Booths are being dismantled. A few attendees are holding on until the end, meandering the aisles, looking at what businesses remain. You and your team are exhausted from three days of non-stop selling and product conversation. You have three promotional trinkets left, one of them is broken. No more snacks. You notice one of the last attendees is walking down your aisle. Decision time. Do you let this person pass by, surrendering a partnership opportunity in lieu of the almost irresistible pull of a ice cold post-show beer? Or do you engage them, taking advantage of every last moment to spread the word of the value of your product? Beyond an innate sticktoitiveness, what would keep you engaged and, conversely, what would give you permission to check out? The answer is a strong commitment to values and mission over the uninspired objective of lining your wallet with more money. Although, let’s be honest, that’s a strong motivator as well. We all have to eat and how else will you pay for those beers?
In my recent interview with Vas Diachenko, Founder & CEO of LoyaltyPlant, a technology company that empowers innovative restaurant brands to achieve game-changing business results by building rewarding customer relationships, we explored the power of a value driven organization and the necessity of defining values for early stage companies. If at this point in this article you are thinking, “oh great, another consultant talking about mission bullshit,” then keep reading. This one’s for you.
Vas and his team have not always been authentically mission and value driven. They knew, like everyone else who hasn’t been living under rock, that they needed to follow the checklist for new startups. Define mission, check. Write down values, check. Integrate the values and mission into strategic decisions about growth, whoops. Forgot that part. And guess what, they failed. They fell off the bike and busted their knee. But, like any passionate innovator, Vas got back up, rallied his team, and did some much needed internal reflection. It was at this point that they refined their values. Previously they had viewed values as optional, opting to drive through revenue focused strategy over mission driven strategy. In reviewing their business goals and conversions, they realized the best partnerships they had established were all motivated by the WHY of their company, the mission, rather than the WHAT or the HOW. It was at this point that they became inflexible in the commitment to their mission. Driving through the WHY is not always the easiest decision, but it is always the right decision. That commitment takes guts.
Let’s check back to the tradeshow, shall we? The lone attendee is walking down the aisle. You look around and see other booth reps checked out and avoiding eye contact so as to deflect any final interactions. You choose the harder path, muster the strength and energy, and engage this attendee. You start the conversation with the WHY, you’re inspired and inspiring, and as you make your way finally to the HOW you realize that this conversation is a diamond in the rough. Your perfect prospect. What could have become of them if your commitment to your mission was immaterial? They would have been lost to the land of “what could have been.” For innovative companies, mission and value are not optional. They are not an afterthought. They are the pillars on which you build strategy, brand identity, and strong company culture. Building a community of raving fans who are willing to forego the call of an ice cold beer for that one last opportunity to share the mission of the organization. It will determine who and how you hire, when and why you fire, how to scale, when to scale back, and, ultimately, identify opportunity to disrupt and create lasting, substantial impact.