Authored by: Barbara Turley, CEO - The Virtual Hub
I always used to wonder exactly how a company’s purpose truly connects to things like operations, culture and decision making. Purpose statements can seem kind of vague, floaty and, honestly, disconnected!
In my last post in this ongoing ‘COVID 19 survival series’, I shared with you the importance of balancing defensive (e.g., cost-cutting) and offensive (e.g., investing in people or other resources) measures to get through hard times and accelerate fast ahead of the pack thereafter.
Enrolling in the Scaling Up program from Verne Harnish’s Growth Institute is one of the offensive measures we’ve taken this year at The Virtual Hub. It’s our chosen ‘bootcamp’ to help us navigate through this crisis and ultimately come out on top (without sacrificing our souls!).
Scaling Up, Fundamentals
The core of the Scaling Up program involves four pillars for effectively scaling any business:
Like many, we were eager to dive into the pillars and get to the ‘meat’ of scaling up as fast as possible. We already had a company purpose and a list of 6 bright and shiny core values. We had ticked that box. Or so we thought, until the program, like any great high performance coach, dragged us kicking and screaming back down to ‘Purposeville’ so we could nail that bad boy properly.
We needed to take a step back and consider whether or not our purpose and values were 1) truly what we aspired to and 2) were still working for us.
In truth, we had done a pretty good job with TVH Purpose version 1.0. We didn’t just throw words around in fancy speeches and wall hangings. We genuinely tried to live and breath our purpose, brand promise and core values but, in reality, we desperately needed an upgrade! Everything from our data to our culture and feedback programs were showing the signs. We just couldn’t see it until this point.
TVH Purpose 2.0 started to peek it’s head silently above the ground like a green shoot in spring continuously grounding us as we tried to race ahead in the program.
No matter where you are in your business, remember that these things can and often do evolve over time. Continuous examination of the core of your company - your DNA, if you will - is always both enlightening and useful. As it’s described in Scaling Up, your core values and purpose are “alive” in your organization.
Why the Core of the Organization Is Critical to Define
You can’t scale something you can’t clearly and accurately define. Your company purpose and core values are a lighthouse, standing up as your guiding light. Every decision you make must be filtered through that guiding light to create a business strong enough to scale.
If you’ve been keeping up with my 2020 story, you’ll remember that we initially planned to pivot when pandemic lockdowns started late in the first quarter. We had everything planned for allowing clients to hire our VAs for shorter-term project work, which is not our normal business model.
The pivot was thoroughly planned out, including new training requirements and a sales page that was ready to be published on our site. But it became clear almost immediately that we needed to stick to our existing business model because the demand for our virtual assistants was actually on the rise due to the need for business owners to outsource work remotely and inexpensively.
The need to grow during the pandemic created some challenges for us, including how to hire new staff when we couldn’t have in-person interviews and while the unemployment rate was on the rise. People who are desperate to find work behave differently in interviews than they would under normal economic circumstances.
My A-Ha! Moment
As our team was taking a look at the core of The Virtual Hub, the penny dropped for me. We needed to better nail down our company purpose, mission, and values in order to build the culture around our core.
To strengthen the culture, we’d need to then connect the core to how we identified new recruits - or more accurately, how new recruits would be attracted to us as people who’d fit into that culture.
I made the connection between our recruiting and hiring challenges and how weakly it was connected to what we thought was our purpose. In addition, I realized that to keep reinforcing the culture, we’d also have to incorporate the core of the organization to our HR practices and to decision-making in general.
Remember above where I mentioned values and purpose were “alive”? They need to be active in the organization, shaping decision making at every juncture and not something created, filed and forgotten.
Redefining Our Purpose and Values
As I mentioned, we thought we already had our two-fold purpose on lock. On the clients’ side, our purpose was to “eradicate overwhelm” by providing highly-skilled teams of virtual assistants and supporting the clients in training their VAs and delegating to their teams in order to free up their time and energy to grow their businesses.
This purpose is something I’m passionate about, as it helps business owners grow their companies, which means they hire more people and inject more cash into the global economy.
On our employees’ side, our purpose was to “create dynamic careers” for people in the Philippines, which would give Filipinos opportunities to forge a clear and stable career path. Providing dynamic career opportunities to Filipinos has a ripple effect in their communities, bolstering their local communities and economies. It was a purpose we were proud of.
However, for both parts of our purpose, we realized they were good, but not good enough. To get to a purpose which would truly guide the business and all of the decisions we make within it, we needed to “peel back the layers” to unearth the real Why of The Virtual Hub. And we did it by asking, “Why?
The 5 Whys
You’ve probably heard of “the 5 Whys,” which refers to an iterative tactic to get to the bottom of a specific issue. Asking the 5 Whys helps you peel back to the root of an issue or problem.
You simply look at the issue and ask, “Why?” and then do that four more times, where the answer to each Why becomes the basis of the question for the next Why.
So, for the client-side purpose, we looked at “eradicate overwhelm” and asked, “Why do we want to eradicate overwhelm?” And our answer was, “So business owners can get off the hamster wheel and spend more time focussed on business growth.” Therefore, the next Why became, “Why is it important for business owners to focus on business growth?”
The client purpose we finally peeled back to is simply, “Help entrepreneurs unlock the dream they had for their business when they started it.” Every business owner has a deeply held dream for their business. This dream can often get bent out of shape and disjointed when the reality of business life sets in.
"One great thing about an inspiring purpose is that you can use it to create goals and for decision making."
We are passionate about helping our clients free up their time and energy so that they can get back to focussing on and realising their business dream.
Our team went through the same process of asking 5 Whys with the employee-side purpose. For our employees, we peeled back to the purpose of “unlocking dreams." That is, we want to provide dynamic careers to give Filipinos the opportunity to fulfill their dreams.
We can’t fulfill their dreams for them, but we can provide the company and the growth process that can propel them to unlock their dreams.
What we loved about this exercise is that our company purpose turned out to be legitimately the same for both of the people we serve - our employees and our clients.
We cannot realise someone else’s dream but we can help to unlock it. Hence our new TVH Purpose is ‘Unlocking Dreams”.
Leveraging Our Revised Purpose
One great thing about an inspiring purpose is that you can use it to create goals and for decision making. For example, we took the new employee purpose and turned it into a BHAG® (Big, Hairy Audacious Goal) or bold mission: To unlock 5,000 dreams by 2030!
And once we refined our whole company purpose, we’d completed the first step to figuring out how to improve our recruiting, hiring, and other HR processes. Our purpose spelled out the first criteria for the type of person we want to attract to The Virtual Hub: someone with a dream we can unlock!
Next Up: Defining the Values
Naturally, one criterion isn’t sufficient to characterize the organization or the people we’d like to have join our team. Someone may have a dream to unlock, but is their dream aligned with what The Virtual Hub stands for? To know what we stand for, we next needed to take a hard look at our company values, which we did in a very fun way that got the team involved in the process.
I’ll describe that empowering activity in my next entry, as well as share with you the new values we developed and how they are informing our HR activities.
Which brings me to a key point about Scaling Up (or whatever your bootcamp is): You have to involve your team. Including the team - and not just managers and supervisors - allows team members to step up and contribute, empowers employees, and will lead to better answers for your organization.
Until next time…. Have a think about how you can revamp your bootcamp!