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ValuesMission

How We Determined Our Values as a Startup

An easy, step-by-seway to uncover them and empower your team

How We Determined Our Values as a Startup

An easy way to uncover them and empower your team

Discovering our values and mission has made our company much more effective
Image from Canva

Everybody determines the meaning of a successful life with a different yardstick. This yardstick is what we value most, and the most powerful goals are those that align with these values.

This is why our personal values are important— but the same is true for companies! I’ve realized this after starting a number of them over the past several years.

Simon Sinek talks about a company’s “why”, stating that

“the best organizations, in particular, are better able to inspire others and differentiate themselves by starting with their ‘why’.”
https://cdn-images-1.medium.com/max/800/1*t3h5VRMYLrUjxSzOAkraKQ.png
In ‘Start with Why’ Simon Sinek uses the golden circle theory to explain the most important message that an organization or individual can communicate, since this is what inspires others to action.

At our startup, Beeline, we recently attempted to better understand just what our “why” was, exactly.

What was our mission?

And what were our ‘values’?

This article will explain how we did it — so that perhaps our approach will help you.


Why Were We Concerned with This Now?

We are a very early-stage startup — this may beg the question of why we’re bothering with this now, shouldn't we be building/coding!?

Elon Musk defines a company as “a group of people gathered together to create a product and/or service”. You could even take this further and say that:

“A company is simply “a group of people gathered together to solve a problem or address a need””.

We decided that discovering our “why” would be an essential ingredient to surmounting the multitude of challenges we would undoubtedly face on this journey, whilst also enjoying it all the more.

“He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.” ― Friedrich Nietzsche.

As an engineer, it makes sense — on a mathematical level — that if every individual in a company is aligned and working towards the same thing right from the beginning, the sum total of energy exerted in that direction will be much larger, and the company will attain greater success in achieving its goal(s).

https://cdn-images-1.medium.com/max/800/1*B2ml_sbP4i4S5I6MPqSiDQ.png
Poor company (left), and great company (right). Arrows can represent individuals within the organization or groups of them (departments). Dark yellow squares represent assets such as machinery, property, and data.

Clarifying Our Vision & Mission

One of our co-founders, Dylan Evans, has been in the education space for a while. He had this screensaver on his computer, which read:

“Everything I do is devoted to one idea: to help people empower themselves through learning, so that they may lead more fulfilling lives.”

We loved this.

It seemed to suit our own mission as a company, too. Beeline is a learning platform, it aims to be your all-in-one learning solution — for life.

Also, the three of us co-founders are all from South Africa, where the triple threat of poverty, inequality, and unemployment has led to a challenging fiscal situation, and hardship for many, which we believe has many root causes in the country’s poor education system.

We decided to tweak Dylan’s original slogan slightly, so as to become somewhat of a vision & mission statement in one:

“Our purpose is to help people empower themselves through learning, so they may live more fulfilling lives. We do this by removing barriers* to effective learning — for everyone.”

We are currently happy with this. I wanted to get something in there on “enabling people to better strive for and reach their own potential,” but we couldn’t think of a way to add it without taking away from the “punchiness” (let me know if you can think of one! 😊).

*Some of the barriers we look to eradicate include ineffective learning practices, lack of motivation to learn, and access to the best content.

Discovering Our Values

If a company’s vision is what they want to achieve, its mission is how they achieve it; its values are the ways they promise to behave in achieving it (Stone, 2019).

When it came to our values — those things which, above all else, are most important to us — we decided to “split up’” and determine them individually, and then come together to discuss them and decide on Beeline’s values as a team.

We each worked out our own, individual values — making use of a 7-step process suggested by Scott Jeffrey:

https://cdn-images-1.medium.com/max/800/1*v0sdSRqJAUaW9DOvuBWlOw.png
7 Steps to Discovering your Core Values — by Scott Jeffrey (infographic by me on Canva)

After we each followed this process and compiled our own lists of values, we had a team meeting and roundtable (as round as Zoom can be) discussion.

Each of us got a chance to explain our values, and why we chose them.

Whenever one of our own, individual values rang similar to one that another teammate had previously mentioned, we grouped them in the Notion document in which we were taking minutes (almost like a group version of the steps above).

https://cdn-images-1.medium.com/max/800/0*TSAsLZqrzSdiwSL4
Taken from the book “Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies” by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras

The process was really rewarding. Not only did it give us the chance to reflect and consider what was most important to us, but it was also really insightful to understand better what seemed to make each of us “tick,” as well as to see where our similarities lay.

Also, as we are mostly a remote team, I was grateful to better understand and connect with our teammates from Saudi Arabia, who I’d never met in person before — and with whom discussions until then were mostly about work.

I was grateful to better understand and connect with our teammates from Saudi Arabia, who I’d never met in person before — and with whom discussions until then were mostly about work.

By the end of the meeting, we had a great-looking list of values as a group, which — with a little tweaking and deliberation — have now become our company’s values, too:

https://cdn-images-1.medium.com/max/800/1*ZHSI4gybaNDYfwFISE77Tw.png
The results of this exercise; Beeline’s vision, mission, offering, and values!

All in all, we thought this was a worthwhile and valuable exercise, and so I thought I’d share it with whoever happens to glide over it whilst surfing the internet. Many thanks for reading!

“If a man does not know to what port he is steering, no wind is favourable to him” - Seneca

Enjoy learning effectively

We’ll be keeping everyone updated through the Beeline mailing list and through articles here on Medium (also give James Mallett a follow!).

We are also always keen to talk, discuss ideas, collaborate, and try to better learn how to learn, effectively! Please reach out :)

by Peter Turner
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