Bird Lovegod: What we can learn from company values

Last week I attended a seminar led by the author and tech entrepreneur Elizabeth Shassere. The theme was Vision, Mission, and Values, and it really got me thinking.

Darragh Brady from Edmondstown National School in Dublin in front of his doodle on stage at Google offices in Dublin after he won the Junior category in the 'Doodle for Google' competition. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday March 12, 2012. See PA story TECHNOLOGY Google Ireland. Photo credit should read: Julien Behal/PA Wire

The company vision is the idealised big picture of what’s being created. The mission is about the practicalities of how to achieve the vision, and the values are the rules and guides for the journey.

Every business should have a statement regarding their VMV, Vision Mission and Values, it facilitates decision making, it shares the big picture with employees and customers, and it provides a degree of transparency around what it is the company finds important.

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Vision Mission Values statements are often on company websites, so I thought to have a look and see what some of the leading tech and fintech companies are aiming for. It’s always interesting to google a company name, followed by the word ‘Mission’ or ‘Values’. You can tell when they’ve been written by a PR agency.

I decide to start with Monzo, one of the main challenger banks and from my experience a company with a very open and transparent ethos. They’ve given it a lot of thought.

Their tag line is “Monzo makes money work for everyone.” They explain this in terms of making things simple, functional, and inclusive. Tom Bloomfield, the CEO, is serious about building the next generation billion customer bank. He anticipates Monzo customers being able to automatically switch energy providers, automatically renew their car tax, and other helpful features. They’re building a bank that does a lot of the thinking and remembering for you. It’s a clear vision, well explained.

Revolut next, one of my favourite fintechs. Yet googling Revolut Mission Statement, Revolut Vision, Revolut Values, I find no actual statements from the company, no web pages explaining the company ethos and values, nothing like that at all. I find this slightly concerning, if they have a vision, or mission, or values, what are they? Or should we just infer from their words and actions?

In which case, it’s hard not to conclude their Mission, Vision, and Values begin and end with Scale Compete Win. There’s been a fair bit of negative publicity around Revolut working environment, sometimes described as toxic. To quote the CEO, Nikolay Storonsky: “It’s about whether they want to work super hard for three to five years but then never need to work again, or work for 30 years and then never really get rich.”

That, to my mind, is a worryingly old fashioned mentality, and highly likely to lead to mental health problems, plus it’s illusionary, there’s never an ‘out’. It’s a carrot on the stick approach to life, totally lacking in balance, and it’s how people burn out, lose relationships, and basically says ‘put money before people and life’. There’s a void of ethics in that statement. I’m a customer, and that bothers me. It suggests all they care about is making money, and that’s a terrible attitude to found any company with. Especially a bank. I’ll be writing to them about this.

Moving on before I get cross...Google themselves, what’s their Mission? “To organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” Well they’ve done that rather effectively. What are the Values that guide them? Try googling Google Values. It’ll bring you a page of ‘Ten things we know’.

Interesting, but none of them are actually Values, they’re more like commercial strategies. ‘Focus on the user’, ‘it’s best to do one thing really, really well’, ‘fast is better than slow’. These might add value in Googles business models, but they are not themselves Values. The closest they come to an actual Value is ‘You can make money without doing evil’.

Hardly inspiring, especially with the ‘You can’, it’s as if it’s optional and they’re talking to us, not about themselves. They also have a code of conduct, including a dog policy. It’s enjoyable, looking up companies values, and revealing, sometimes in their absence. Last one, Facebook. Founding Value. ‘Move fast, break things.’ Yep. That worked.