Por Mauro Rebelo

Discovering values


Do we really need a mission?

For years I was annoyed when consultants asked us about mission, vision and values at Bio Bureau. They insisted on these aspects, but I was never able to offer a satisfactory answer. The solution often proposed was to draw up a strategic plan to clarify these elements. But it meant such a colossal effort that it took us away from the day-to-day operations of the business. The effort to have a purpose seemed greater than the purpose itself and we did nothing.

And I didn’t seem to be alone in this hesitation. Guy Kawasaki said in one of his presentations: ‘Who among us has never had the dreadful experience of a corporate event to build teamwork and draft a mission statement?’

The missions seemed to be a sign of virtue, much more than an expression of business. Guy proposed the idea of a mantra, something that could be expressed in three words and was absolutely aligned with the business.

The discovery of Steve Blank’s lean startup concept and the business model canvas ended up validating something I felt but couldn’t articulate: the essential thing for a startup, without a validated product or market yet, is not the mission or vision, but the validation of its value proposition with customers. A startup doesn’t fail for lack of a clear mission: it fails for lack of customers. This idea resonated deeply with me. The lack of a defined mission, vision or values has never stopped Bio Bureau from doing business or solving internal and external problems. However, many of our projects have failed due to the absence of a convincing value proposition.

Guy’s three-word mantra was more than a mission statement, it was a value proposition statement.

Despite the valid justifications and interesting alternatives presented by Kawasaki, I knew that part of my resistance was related to my difficulty in clearly defining our own business. And a lack of clarity about the business is not a good sign.

So when Moulin suggested a meeting dedicated to this issue, I was open-minded.

Defining Our Values

The discussion unfolded in an unexpected way. He began by pointing out that the mission must be established by the founders, the vision shared by the leadership and the values accepted by all.

We have therefore defined Bio Bureau’s purpose as enhancing, preserving and restoring biodiversity through the development of biotechnology products and services. We have also set ourselves the target of launching three biodiversity-based products, services or companies onto the market by 2026. To my surprise, the decision was accepted by everyone, with no apparent opposition or enthusiasm.

The discussion took place over the definition of values. They all proposed concepts: ethics, proactivity, effectiveness, joy, clarity, boldness, resilience, responsibility, innovation, camaraderie, a good working environment, purpose, commitment, challenge, planning, meritocracy. At the end of a vote, responsibility, proactivity and boldness stood out. The concept of accountability has emerged as crucial.

During this process, I questioned whether the values I had decided on would hold up in difficult times. Would they be compromised if things weren’t going well? Could they be sustained in scenarios such as the closure of the company? Failure to meet budgets or deadlines, the loss of essential team members or damage to the business’s reputation?

In the end, we decided that Bio Bureau’s values would be: accountability, proactivity, boldness, clarity and ethics.

When I compared these values with the actions we have taken in adverse situations, such as the recent pandemic, I didn’t find any action that violated these principles.

I concluded that the values were well chosen and faithfully reflected our modus operandi.