Updated: Mar 23, 2022
In Part I of this series we explore what it means to be anchored and why it matters. If you haven't read it then I recommend you take the four minutes it takes to read before going any further.
If you have read it, then let's get into the details of how we get anchored.
There are 3 components to an Anchor: Identity, Vision, and Shipmates. Being completely anchored in each area is necessary for a business to be truly anchored. If, for instance, an organization is anchored in the areas of Identity and Shipmates but not Vision, the mechanism will not work properly. It will not create the precise balance that is strong and stable enough to keep the organization from floating adrift as unpredictable winds rage in times of abrupt change or uncertainty. Therefore, below is a guide to ensure that your anchor is in fact functioning properly.
First up is Identity.
Intention & Focus
Identity serves the purpose of keeping us intentional and focused. For any given business there are near infinite ways to deliver service. McDonalds, Wendy’s, Burger King, and countless other restaurants specialize in burgers and fries; however, each is unique in how they deliver services. Each maintains viable market share by focusing on its respective value proposition. Each has a unique Identity.
I have identified three components of an anchoring Identity: mission, habits, and values. Let’s define them! (I’m such a nerd lol)
The mission for businesses and organizations focuses on what it is working towards. What are you in business for? What is the reason employees come to work every day? People should not come to work to simply receive a check or to perform a series of tasks; people should come to work towards something bigger than their role, a mission.
There are a number of resources online that provide guidance on creating a mission statement, so I won’t beat that horse to death. I will point out that generally the most easily identifiable brands, based on consistent service delivery, customer experience, and employee satisfaction, have clear mission statements. When organizations are intentional about how it builds its company culture around its mission, it deepens customer loyalty by defining a company’s purpose. Evidence strongly suggests that customers buy why you do what you do more than what you actually do. An intentional, focused mission statement is an invaluable investment of time and effort for a growing team. I recommend keeping it clear and succinct.
Habits (Processes & Procedures, Traditions)
While the mission focuses on what we are working towards, our habits keep us intentional and best positioned to achieve that which we are working towards. I’m the first to admit that this has been a struggle for me in my entrepreneurial journey; however, I see the difference it makes for my own business, as well as in the businesses of those with whom I work. For a business your habits refer to your processes and procedures, and traditions.
Selling a product or a service is not necessarily the same as operating a business, even if you are selling as a legally incorporated entity. You may just simply be making transactions. Instead, an anchored business operationalizes how it executes and strategically manages and grows the value of its transactions. This operationalizing is achieved through processes and procedures.
Established processes & procedures allow you to not only ensure consistency in your service delivery, but it also makes it significantly easier to innovate. This is because it allows you to experiment with your products, services, and operations much like a scientist would. You can think of your processes and procedures as your control in an experiment. The control group helps you to attribute the reason for various outcomes.
Let’s say you believe you can lower your product delivery time to customers. If you already have an established process, you may make minor tweaks here and there and then test your hypotheses. Maybe you try the innovative idea with every 5th shipment. You are then able to test this innovation without the risk of jeopardizing the business. If it works, you now have evidence to guide decision-making; if it doesn’t work you can easily revert to business as usual, while having more information and insight about the viability of specific alternatives. Without established processes and procedures innovating is merely throwing spaghetti on a wall to see what sticks. These organizational habits are essential for sustainable and strategic growth.
Traditions, on the other hand, help establish your organization’s culture. Traditions influence teams by establishing norms. An anchored business is intentional about developing workplace traditions that cultivate understanding and regularly utilizing best practices. It’s through traditions that best practices are transformed into common practices.
I thought about Vorsight, an Arlington, VA based firm, which gave me my first job when I moved to DC. It was difficult work that I honestly wasn’t thrilled about doing – making outbound cold calls to senior level executives all day. It was a difficult job for me, with rigid monthly individual goals. However, I realized that our daily 5-minute team meetings where we each would share our top individual goals for the day was a tradition that was highly effective. I’m sure I would not have been as intentional about setting & brainstorming methods for achieving those goals without those meetings 1st thing in the morning. Plus, stating them in the morning created a built-in accountability and support system among my colleagues. It helped me turn best practices into common practices. It’s no surprise that they are regularly recognized as exceptional in their industry, given such intentional traditions.
Values are the spirit of the business, governing how to think and do. They are the principles that speak to the character, so to speak, of your organization. While they can’t be seen or touched, if implemented properly, they can be felt. For an anchored business, your values should be integrated throughout every inch of your business.
Values are among the more difficult of the components of Identity to implement in an organization. This is because, unlike mission and habits, there is no way to directly measure or quantify the impact your values have on your team, customers, and stakeholders - which, I don’t necessarily think is a bad thing. The value that company values provide is that they anthropomorphize your brand, giving it personality.
While this may seem inconsequential at first, and superficial at best, this matters for a very key reason: it allows your true Shipmates to identify you. Think about it…before you decide to have a personal relationship with someone you consider their personality. This is the same for brands. As the rate of entrepreneurship continues to accelerate and markets become more saturated, having a distinct brand identity that stakeholders can emote with is important. Values are essential to that Identity, and it requires moving beyond values that simply rest on your website, but rather values that come alive in the operation of your business.For instance, “collaboration” is one of the Ship and Anchor core values. It is reflected in how we execute non-client projects, by co-creating in partnership.
In February Ship and Anchor launches a new program for the After School Kids (ASK) Program at the Georgetown University Center for Social Justice Research, Teaching and Service. Now, our “What’s Your Anchor” curriculum is adapted for stand-alone youth programming, yet we were deliberate to host this program with one of our core Shipmates, Voices Unbarred, for reasons discussed in the “Shipmates” portion of this blog series. The program, called ANCRD Voices, has since grown to include partnership with The National Theater, allowing us to provide even more value for our Impact Groups on this project. That is because we truly believe in collaboration and intentionally incorporate this value into our operations. The habits get the work done, but the values determine how we get it done.
As we develop our processes and procedures and traditions for effective execution, we must be intentional to ensure they are enlivened by company values. When intentionally established, values go a long way in creating an authentic brand experience and finding your ideal Shipmates, which is the key to predictable and sustainable growth.
In summary, being anchored in Identity boils down to focus and intention, facilitated through your mission, habits, and values. The mission lets your team, target audience, and other stakeholders know what your focus is; habits keep your team aligned with your mission through intentional processes and procedures and traditions; and values are the intentional principles designed to preserve an authentic brand identity as it grows and evolves.
That was a lot, I know. Trust me, my eyes burned while writing it. Why don't we let that marinate for a few days then finish with the next two components of an Anchor. Subscribe here for Part III the final components of an Anchor, and to stay up with the latest from our blog!