In my previous corporate life, I once worked for a company that experienced fierce disagreements over new initiatives and programs. It was challenging to move things forward, and morale was always teetering on the brink of downright hostility. The company had done well in organizing around a mission and vision, and set of values, but what it could have used was a true north statement.
What is a true north statement?
A true north statement is a clear and concise statement that defines purpose, vision, and values. Many companies use it to communicate their goals. But its real value is as an internal tool that serves as the foundation for a company's decisions and actions. It helps with alignment by providing a clear and consistent direction for the company, which can lead to better decision-making and improved performance and help align employees, stakeholders, and customers with its values, goals, and mission.
A true north statement solidifies your fundamental messaging.
My business is about empowering the doers out there making an impact for themselves, their families, or their communities. When I started to think about my true north, I knew that my clients differed in their approaches. What made it all click was understanding that they were creating businesses based on unpopular opinions, not just being different to be different.
This means to help them succeed in upending industry norms, I must help them value the long game over the energy drain of chasing hacks and trends. I want my clients to have the solid foundational elements they need, energy, and mental fortitude to reach unimagined heights.
My true north is about empowerment and demonstration. I prioritize self-care, fundamentals, continued education, and the development of new ideas. When new opportunities or difficult decisions come my way, I always ask myself:
Am I leading by example?
Does this have a real-life example of success?
Does this help me help my clients achieve their goals?
Doing the work on my true north made all the anchors—the mission, vision, value, etc. click into place. The outline of my target audience became a little less fuzzy, decision-making became more straightforward, and my content themes became more solid.
Developing your true north is a game-changer.
If you don't yet have a true north, you are missing a valuable tool. For a startup or a small enterprise, developing a true north can help you define everything about your company—its direction, culture, hiring, product and service development, customer experience, content creation, and reputation building. Here are some tips for creating your own:
Define your unique value proposition: Your true north statement should reflect what sets your business apart and makes it appeal to your target market. In other words, what is the value, benefit, and so what of your service?
Keep it personal: It should reflect your values, beliefs, and mission—not just your purpose but what you want to stand for along the way. It should reflect your passion for your business and inspire you to keep going even when faced with challenges.
Make it actionable: Your statement should guide your decision-making and help you prioritize your actions. It should be something you can refer back to when faced with difficult decisions and a reminder of what you are working towards. Identify the scenarios that would be a hard "no" and explore the if/then behind them.
Or, more simply: Where am I now? Where do I want to be? What do I need to do to get there? Think of your mission/vision/values as the map and your true north as the turn-by-turn directions.
Don't overthink this, and don't get stuck. Jot down a few ideas and give your statement room to breathe.
In a more aspirational sense, finding your true north means discovering your authentic self or the expression of the raison d'etre for your business. It's a combination of your driving purpose and your beliefs. Once established, it helps you lead with a clear mind as the lens you look through to make decisions that everyone can feel good about and get behind.
You don't have to go at it alone. And you don't have to be dependent on an agency. I can show you how to optimize your time and achieve your goals by getting the core message right first. Two ways I can help: