I’ve always been about purpose and values. I act in an ethical way, and I expect the same from our team and our clients. When I started my first company, it was with an almost intuitive sense of purpose and values. It was never just about the money, it was about creating cool stuff that delighted people, and that made a difference, too. This ad-hoc approach mostly worked throughout my 20s, but time goes on, and things change. For instance, my shop has grown in size and geographically, and continues to grow as we add strong teammates. And we are constantly approached by potential clients of all kinds, asking us to be involved in their businesses. The old ad-hoc approach from my 20s wasn’t cutting it, anymore. It became time to codify what we do, and why we do it. I wrote a post about that, and it really helped my team focus on what’s important to us, and it helped drive our decisions for the company.
It was fantastic, and quite helpful.
Well, it’s been a few years since my original post about purpose and values. It’s time for a redo, it’s time for an update. Founding father Thomas Jefferson suggested the need for a revolution every 20 years. I tend to agree, although this isn’t quite a revolution, but more of an evolution.
I’ve been thinking about this post since our work with PepsiCo, as their ‘Performance With Purpose’ is such a driving force for their business. It feels like companies who have strong, codified values tend to do better at the things that matter. As we’ve grown, it’s become incredibly important to me that everyone here knows what we’re about. It’s important that potential clients do, too.
I’ve recently been involved in another company’s efforts to create their own purpose and values program, as the director of their company video. Unfortunately, as the project progressed it became clear that this company didn’t ‘walk the walk’ with their values (and they really weren’t 100% sure what those values were, either). It was all just words to them, calculated to extract incredible loyalty and instill fear among employees. The company practices management by intimidation.
It made me really think. ‘We can’t be blamed for what happened’, I thought ‘How could we have known?’. Well, in fact, there were a few red flags in preproduction that I ignored: 1) they tried to lowball us, and only grudgingly accepted a fair project price, 2) they insisted on splitting the project into two videos instead of one great one, and 3) my initial dealings with the CEO and his minion made me feel a little icky inside, from his sportscar parked across 3 parking spaces, to the minion being insanely late to our kickoff meeting, at a purposefully-snooty locale.
At the time, we were just opening one of our studios, and we didn’t have much local work, yet. I ignored the red flags, and we went in full speed ahead- even when they started making adjustments to our working relationship, ignoring their part of the contract while insisting that we follow every word on our end.
Thus began my re-education about the importance of a strong, well-thought-out purpose and values manifesto. We needed- I needed- a roadmap, updated to our current business realities, that could guide us in our day-to-day dealings with clients, as well as in our more long-term decision making. We needed to revisit the core of our business, and figure out what we’re really all about. And we needed to refocus ourselves so that we can identify both good and bad opportunities, before it was too late. It’s easy to get caught up in the craziness of day-to-day life in a creative agency, and miss out on the chance to not just do cool stuff, but to do the right cool stuff. To create work that delights, and work that makes a difference. And furthermore, to build a company that radiates these values so brightly that it attracts the good, and discourages the bad.
Every company, nay, every individual should take the time to occasionally think about- and write down- their own purpose and values statement. Next time, I’ll share our company’s shiny new purpose and values manifesto with you.