May 24, 2017
By Michael Gottlieb


Bill Wiseacre has been operating his business for a while now, and despite the occasional bump or misstep, his company, Uh Oh Enterprises has experienced moderate growth.  However, Bill isn’t feeling overly positive about the business; in fact, despite that growth, he’s been feeling more and more disconnected from both the business and his staff.  A series of questions continue to flow through his mind: Why do they resist everything I suggest?  Why am I the only one doing X, Y and Z? We’re doing amazing stuff here at Uh Oh; why don’t they get it?


After several weeks of stewing in his own frustration – that his team seemed to lack a drive to grow Uh Oh into what Bill knew it could become – he went to his friend and mentor Duff McWilliams.  Duff has bought and sold numerous companies, and seemed to have a Midas touch with each, as he was able to build and sell each one for a handsome profit.


Duff asked Bill whether Uh Oh has a vision.  Bill responded, “A vision of what?”  Duff asked Bill whether Uh Oh had a mission, to which Bill responded, “A mission to do what?” Duff then questioned, “Well, I assume Uh Oh doesn’t have a set of core values, right?”  Bill told Duff that without a vision to guide the team where they are going, there’s nothing to strive for; without a mission, there’s nothing to focus the team. And without core values, there’s nothing to keep the team aligned. 


Bill pushed back.  He told Duff that all this vision, mission, core values stuff was fluff that companies pay consultants huge amounts of money to generate for them, and then they end up sitting in a drawer or sometimes get plastered to a wall, but no one pays any attention to them.  To prove his point, Bill stated, “Even Enron had core values, Duff.  They included respect and integrity!” Duff acknowledged that sometimes organizations adopt these concepts without actually buying in to them. 


He then asked Bill what he’d like to see Uh Oh achieve in the next five years.  Bill answered, “Well, I’d like to be the top service provider in our field, and be recognized as a thought leader by having our people be asked to speak at large conferences in our industry.” Duff smiled and replied, “Well, that’s Uh Oh’s vision.”


Duff inquired about who Uh Oh’s clients are, what value Uh Oh provides them, and what makes Uh Oh different.  Bill answered and then added, “Well, that’s when it’s all going well and we’re doing great work for a client.” Duff said, “So, Bill, that’s your mission.  That’s what guides Uh Oh’s employees’ day-to-day actions.”


Finally, Duff asked Bill, “What are the attributes that you want every Uh Oh employee to embody every day?”  Bill rattled off a bunch of generic concepts, like ‘hard-working,’ ‘honest,’ and ‘client-centric.’


Bill remarked, “I know, I know, those are our core values, but Duff, everyone says those things.  I see that our mission and vision are unique, but those core values – well, they’re generic.”  Duff agreed and told Bill that those descriptors probably aren’t Uh Oh’s core values and he referred to them as ‘table scraps,’ i.e., those things that every table would have on it.  Instead, he urged Bill to more carefully examine those characteristics that he really valued and wanted Uh Oh to exhibit.  As Bill did so, he realized that there were several values that were really important to him.  He values humility, humor, cleverness and maturity.  “Those are Uh Oh’s core values,” he told Duff. 


Bill asked Duff how these things impacted the company and how he could make his people to buy into them.  Duff told him that you can’t force people to have the values that you do.  “Each of you has to live these values. With regard to the mission and vision, if your team doesn’t believe what you believe, perhaps you have the wrong people on your team.”


These words hit home with Bill, because Duff was telling him something he’d already come to realize:  A nice person that doesn’t share the vision and doesn’t believe in the mission isn’t going to help the company achieve its goals. Perhaps through education, that may change; but if that cannot be done, it means that a difficult personnel decision must be made: to let that person go.


The Momentum Law Group Perspective:

  • Having a mission, a vision, and core values that your organization truly believes in and lives by will help keep your team aligned.
  • We believe that when you share your mission, vision, and values with your advisors, they will better understand your goals and objectives, and therefore can provide qualitatively better advice, which advances your vision and values.

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