Many fitness experts would say that building a strong core is the first step in making maximal gains in strength. Many business experts might say the same --- that establishing a strong core mission is essential in setting up a company for growth.
In business, while you may be 100% sure of your mission out of the gates, it may take a little time for it to coalesce. The first year of a new business may provide new insight as you hone your model and understand the marketplace. In the first year of Wanderlust, we produced a large-scale festival that contained a big line-up of expensive musical artists and highly recognized wellness leaders and yoga teachers. After limping through our first event, we realized that the resonant part of our event was the yoga scene and all of its lifestyle components. The music was the desert to the meal. This was a great revelation for us and it also aligned with our own values personally.
It took Wanderlust a year to create its succinct mission of creating community around mindful living: yoga, personal development, organics, sustainability and ethical consumption.
We understood that building a core mission was critical, but we did not initially understand its role as a means to manage rapid growth. Initially, we created our mission for the following reasons:
- To underscore our values-based approach to business
- To provide inspiration to our team
- As a means of centralizing values and decentralizing decision-making
We encouraged fluency in the core mission across the company. The imbuing of our values across company ranks allowed us to let go of making all the decisions. A decentralized approach to decision-making relieved us of the need to micro-manage and allowed us to focus on growth and business development. At the same time, it empowered individuals on our team as they felt trusted to make important decisions for the company. Sure, people made some mistakes, but, in the end, their confidence in their ability to lead grew.
Aligning Mission and Profit
Our mission was also inextricably tied to the profitability of our event business. The more mindful community we created, the more profitable we were and the more profitable we were, the bigger the mindful community we could create. This is an elegant feedback loop that removes obstacles. Often companies have a social mission that can be at odds with their core business and bottom line. However, if you can align your mission with profitability in an honest way then you’re set up for growth with compromise or moral dilemma.
Using your mission to make the little decisions
We spend all year planning and producing large-scale events. We’re making decisions all day and our core mission provides a constant lens. When we look at programming decisions, many answers are instinctual and some are not. Regardless, we always have the filter of our mission to guide us. In the end, we can ask ourselves, “Does this create community?” For example, our events are filled with incredible yoga teachers and thought leaders conducting large classes. Recently, we were approached by a respected acupuncture school with an offer to provide sessions at the festival. At first, it seemed like a good cultural fit. But, upon further examination, we realized that this experience only translated to one person at a time. It did not create community, so we respectfully passed.
Using your mission to make the big decisions
When Wanderlust began to grow, we found ourselves in an asteroid field of potential growth opportunities. As Sean, my partner, and I began to examine the verticals and potential new business segments, our mission became the principle lens that we used to evaluate each one. Growing events was in clear alignment with our mission. That was obvious to us. Apparel, for example, was a logical extension for a well-known yoga brand. However, we needed to ask ourselves, "Can you really create community with apparel?" It seemed like a stretch. So, for Wanderlust, it made much more sense to partner with lululemon around a co-branded line of apparel, as they are best in the world at apparel.
Through the process of analyzing opportunity through the core mission, we were able to successfully identify our business segments: events, studios, and media. Events built community at gorgeous destinations around the world, studios built community on a local level and media built community online.
When experiencing rapid growth, there are a lot of decisions to be made. And stakeholders may have different passions and opinions. A strong core mission can serve as a guiding light for the executive committee and board of directors, often creating unanimity and minimizing dissent.
My yoga teacher told me that core muscles are involved in virtually every activity you do. So before you go out and build your company’s bulging biceps, make sure your abs and back are strong and healthy. Pretty soon you’ll be in a handstand and you’ll need them.