Vision Statement
Vision Statement

The Path to Advisory: Crafting a vision for your firm

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Note: Many thanks to the Intuit® Tax Council for their guidance in putting together this article and for their input on “The Path to Advisory.” See editor’s note to download the guide.

Well-defined mission, values, and purpose statements — sometimes called your firm’s MVP — serve as beacons to guide your practice. When you embrace them and actively integrate them into your firm, they can have a powerful impact on your practice.

Drafting your mission statement

Your mission defines what you do and for whom. As you move toward leading with advisory services, your mission will help you identify your target clients and communicate a high-level picture of what you strive to provide.

Guiding principles for a mission statement:

  • Short enough to memorize easily.
  • Simple enough to be understood by a 12-year-old.

A classic marketing rule of thumb was that it should be short enough that you could recite it in the dark at gunpoint. That’s a rather harsh situation to imagine, but the idea is that you would know it by heart even when flustered under any circumstances.

Why the simplicity? Because if it is too complicated, you and your staff won’t keep it front of mind in day-to-day actions.

The main components of a mission statement include:

  • What you do.
  • For whom.

Sounds simple, but it can be quite challenging to capture the heart of what your firm does with this simplicity. Here are a few classic corporate examples to help set the tone.

  • JetBlue: “Inspire humanity.”
  • Tesla: “To accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.”
  • TED: “Spread ideas.”
  • Intuit: “To power prosperity around the world.”

Those are lofty examples. Here are a few examples from our Tax Council members that might feel a bit closer to home as you consider writing your own mission statement.

“To be the behind the scenes arm for small businesses and help them prosper.” —  Andrew Poulos

“AdminBooks educates our clients with tax & financial options that make a difference in both their business and personal life!” — Renee Daggett

As you work on your mission statement and consider possible options, these two simple tests can help decide if you are on the right track:

  • It should tug at your heart in some way — not everyone’s heart, but your heart. It should be meaningful to you.
  • You should feel proud to share it with others. Humbled by it and proud to strive for it.

Books that Council Members recommend to support the development of your MVP:

Clockwork: Design Your Business to Run Itself by Mike Michalowicz

Business Made Simple by Donald Miller

The Pumpkin Plan by Mike Michalowicz

EntreLeadership: 20 Years of Practical Business Wisdom from the Trenches by Dave Ramsey

The Ideal Team Player: How to Recognize and Cultivate The Three Essential Virtues by Patrick M. Lencioni

Who by Geoff Smart

Identifying the values that drive your firm

If a mission statement defines the what and for whom, values define the how. Values create the standard by which you hold employees accountable and filter decisions that guide the business.

Begin by brainstorming.

Create a broad list of values that reflect how you want to serve your clients and the business itself. An initial session should:

  • Be no longer than 30 minutes.
  • Include 1-5 people who care deeply about the shape and direction of the practice.
  • Capture all ideas. Don’t throw anything out yet.
  • Result in a minimum of 25 values listed.

Some question prompts that can stir creativity include:

  • What are we most proud of in the way we conduct our firm?
  • What derails our ability to do our best? What supports it?
  • What drives us through the difficult days/times?

Next, categorize your broad list into related concept clusters.

This process provides a collaborative opportunity for evaluating initial input and typically identifies the outlier ideas. Now is the time to remove items from your list that do not merit inclusion.

As you look at the concept clusters, try to define the core theme of each group. Can you condense each group into a single value? You should be able to get your list down to five to eight values at this point.

Now it is time to choose your core values.

Rank the values from your concept clusters by what matters most. Often this task rests in the hands of the business owner.

Here are a few questions to guide the ranking process:

  • Are we willing to hire new staff using these values?
  • Are we willing to let go of someone (staff or client) based on these values?
  • Do the values stand the test of time?

When you have them ranked, pick the top four to six values, but don’t feel overly restrained by the final number. Amazon famously has 14, and they actively live by those values in every meeting, every new hire, and every new idea. And a recent Forbes article claims that great companies only need one core value. What truly matters is that your values cover the topics by which you want to govern the culture of your business.

Diana Crawford has learned that working with clients who respect her firm and share her values is part of her success. “We are not firefighters and don’t want to work with procrastinators who regularly call with their pants on fire, expecting us to drop everything to fight their fire. We have invited those clients to be successful with another practitioner.”

Consider adding a little personality to your core values set

Some companies constrain their values to single words. Others use brief phrases to be more specific. The ones that get ignored are too long. And the ones that tend to be utilized most have some personality baked in.

An example of this can be seen in the values of Renee Daggett’s firm, AdminBooks. They have brevity followed by short elaboration and just the right amount of levity.

  • Honesty & Integrity — we will not post your daughter’s wedding expenses as a business expense!
  • No Mean People — we are kind and respectful to everyone & expect the same from those we work with!
  • Actively Engaged in Communication — we will communicate multiple ways, but expect that you will take action and be as invested in your situation as we are!

Renee says, “ Issues with clients generally happen when either the client veered  off our core values, or we did.”

Drafting your purpose statement

A purpose statement!provides the reason or reasons your firm exists — your why. Simon Sinek is author of “Start With Why,” and has an excellent TED Talk on how great leaders inspire action. It is well worth taking 18 minutes to watch.

Your purpose statement should be aspirational. It should inspire. Keep it short — a single sentence or two is best. The power of the emotion within it can get lost with too many words.

Al-Nesha Jones-Holiday has a purpose statement for her practice that genuinely hits the mark.

“We exist to make it easier for our clients to operate in their space of greatness, both personally and professionally. Clients who work with us have increased revenue, clarity, guidance, efficiency, and time for what matters most to them.”

Timothy L. Wingate Jr. has a mission statement that has his purpose statement baked in as well. It’s inspiring. It covers the what, for whom, and why.

“We will help every construction company we work with get at least a 1 million dollar bond because every construction owner deserves the  opportunity to bid on better projects.”

Using your mission, vision, and values is as important as creating them

Your mission, vision, and values are meant to be expressed in every possible aspect of your practice. To make this a reality, do these three things:

  • Commit them to memory.
  • Communicate them often.
  • Live them.

Committing your MVP to memory isn’t hard, and incorporating them into daily communications and activities in your practice can be fun.

Minal Babaria has a robust process for integrating their MVP into the practice. “We do a Morning Huddle every day and read our mission. We discuss how we will achieve the mission and how we will know we are successful in our matrix every day. Then open up the platform to share any client WINs or feedback or testimonials, followed by team member recognitions and company updates. We did a recent survey with our team, and these morning huddles have been every employee’s favorite thing to do. They all look forward to it. It only takes about 15-20 minutes a day, but it sets the tone for the rest of the day.”

Heather Satterley has the MVP printed on staff mousepads and displayed on computer wallpaper. “Our marketing is focused on sending out our MVP into the world to find the right clients. Blog articles, team spotlights, case studies, and social media show future clients who we are. We have a social campaign we call Motivation Minute that shares our core values with a graphic.”

You can incorporate your MVP into:

  • Weekly staff meetings.
  • Company website.
  • New client onboarding.
  • Team goals and KPIs.
  • Staff awards.
  • Social content.

Have fun. The more you integrate your MVP into your brand persona and company culture, the more you will draw the customers you want to your business.

Editor’s note: This article is a small part of a whitepaper, “The Path to Advisory,” that can be downloaded and used extensively in your firm. The PDF includes checklists, charts, and many other activities that could not be included in this article. Download it today. There is also an Executive Summary available for download.

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