For founders of early stage or fast-growing life sciences businesses, the early years are necessarily focused on getting the business onto a steady financial footing, growing your markets, and building a team.
You will have had a vision of what you want to achieve and bags of passion and energy to help you get there, but often this vision, and the values that underpin it, are not articulated – and this can create a challenge when you suddenly realise that your tight-knit team of four or five scientists is now a 30-person business and growing by the month!
In this latest blog from the strategic marketing experts at V Formation, we look at what is meant by ‘vision and values’ and share some tips on running a successful vision and values session with staff and colleagues.
Values (also known as brand values) are the beliefs, attributes and traits that define how we behave with clients, partners, suppliers and each other. Values are the words you would like your clients – or employees – to use when they talk about your business.
For example, at V Formation our values are ambitious; curious; committed; insightful; inspiring; spirited, and supportive. We don’t profess to be able to deliver on all of these values at the same time, but we do hope that we never act in a way that is counter-intuitive to any of them.
Values define an organisation’s culture; they inform our decision-making and our communications, and they give us a united sense of purpose.
Values are what make us feel comfortable with certain companies – and uncomfortable with others.
In your business you probably live and breathe a common set of brand values already, however these may never have been set out, shared or articulated. As your business grows up and gets bigger, you need to be able to articulate and share your vision and values, so both new and existing team members understand your purpose – your “why”.
What is difference between a vision statement, and a mission statement?
This is something we are often asked about at V Formation – and there can be a lot of confusion.
In simple terms, your vision is the outcome you desire, whereas the mission is how you are going to get there. So, for Microsoft, their vision was ‘a Microsoft computer on every desk and in every home’. For the Alzheimer’s Society, their vision is ‘A world without Alzheimer’s disease’.
A vision is intended to inspire; it’s your reason for coming to work in the morning – your ‘why’. A mission statement is the what, the who and the why – it is more action based.
So how do you begin to define your vision and values?
From our experience of working with fast growth (and generally time poor!) life sciences companies, we have honed the vision and values process to four clear and efficient steps:
- Conduct research and gather insights: the more you can find out about how your clients and customers feel about you, the better. Research can range from short online surveys through to more in-depth customer interviews.
- Run company-wide vision and values sessions: this step is essential to capturing a range of views and to securing future buy-in. Careful planning is required – we recommend:
- Keeping groups to around 8 to 12 people. This is enough for break-out sessions but not too many people to create anonymity.
- Involving as many people as possible, especially any tricky ones! Make it company-wide if you can, with people from different areas of your business.
- Allowing at least two hours. Ideally half a day.
- Recognising and understanding personalities – scientists can be more introverted, which means that important voices can be lost.
- Being prepared for scepticism, particularly from individuals who’ve come from big pharma, or larger corporates, where values may have been enforced by a remote marketing team.
- Planning thoroughly – set an agenda with clear timings.
- Making it interactive, focused and outcomes based.
- Capturing everything – if you’re using flipcharts make sure the writer is not editing what is said so that there is no bias.
- Allowing enough time at the end for feedback and reflection.
- Test the proposed vision and values: after the sessions you should have a clear (or at least clear-ish!) picture of your vision and values. Step 3 is to test these with employees, with clients and with suppliers to ensure they resonate.
- Engage staff and embed the vision and values: once the vision and values have been signed off by the management team, you need to keep up momentum and put in place a plan to enable the vision and values to flourish. A key part of this step is translating the values so that they come to life for each individual, whatever their role in the business.
Pharma and life sciences businesses are quick to assert that their most valuable asset is scientific capability and expertise – but this is a given and doesn’t necessarily create a point of difference. Having clarity in what the brand promise is, over and above the services you offer, is vital.
Led by Sue Carr, our specialist life sciences marketing team has worked with several life sciences businesses to help them to clarify the vision and values that underpin their success, and then articulate these to employees, clients, investors and other stakeholders.