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Simplify Decision Making With The “M.V.P. Inventory” System

“The scale of your vision should dictate the scale of your business — and the scale of your life.”

This post stems from a C-level conference I had with Molly and Ezra back in April.

The goal during our 3-day meeting was to plan the future of Smart Marketer and sketch out a long-term vision for all the things we wanted to do in the next 18 months.

But before we talked about what products to build, what hires to make, or what website designs needed to be done…

I wanted to start our meeting by asking, “Why?”

Why are we doing any of this?

The M.V.P. Inventory

MVP is an acronym for mission, vision, and principles.

It’s a simple exercise you can use to nail down what really matters in your business, so complicated decisions like the ones we faced at our meeting become clearer and easier to make.

I know we usually dive into the tactical side of things on this blog — which I love as much as anybody — but sometimes you need to step back and think about the Vision powering your business, too.

That’s what I want to help you do here.

I’m going to share the MVP we made for Smart Marketer, then I’ll walk you through how to create the same thing for your business.

M = Mission

Your Mission is about the Who, the How and the What behind all the work you do in your business.

You’re determining who you serve, what you serve them with, and the means by which you will do this.

For Smart Marketer, the mission we created is to teach small to medium businesses how to leverage their agility and grow profitably with empowered people.

  • Who: We work with businesses of all sizes, but I found we make the most difference in smaller organizations between 1–1,000 employees. That’s where Smart Marketer is best leveraged.
  • How: One of the key ways that we help business owners is by empowering the people on their team. We teach their employees new skills, so they can take on new roles in the company and relieve the business owner of those day-to-day responsibilities.
  • What: That’s why we created our new line of mentorship trainings like Train My Traffic Person, Train My Email Specialist, and Train My Social Media Manager — because empowering people is critical to what we’re doing here.

It’s tempting to jump at every opportunity that pops up, but it doesn’t always serve you or the business to do that, right?

When you know what you’re doing, you also know what you are not doing — and your mission helps you determine if something falls outside the scope of your business.

V = Vision

If your Mission is about your day-to-day, then your Vision is about your future.

Where do you want the business to go in 5 or 10 years? What do you want your legacy to be?

At Smart Marketer, our Vision is to foster environments where meaningful work is balanced with personal fulfillment — for us, our clients, and everyone involved.

Work-life balance has become a buzzword that’s easy to throw around and very, very hard for most employees to fulfill…

But in a small business, people aren’t just cogs filling a role. Everyone is a builder and everyone feels empowered.

That’s why I believe small business is the best vehicle for promoting healthy economies and healthy communities where our lives at work and at home can both be meaningful.

And if we want that to be our legacy, then I think having a Vision that supports small businesses is the most powerful thing we can do to create this work-life balance for as many people as possible.

P = Principles

Finally, we have our principles which function as our core values.

These don’t just help you make decisions, they help you make the correct decision every time.

When you’re trying to decide if an opportunity is worth pursuing — or if you have a product problem or a challenge with personnel — you can weigh your options against your principles to determine what to do.

If one of the choices doesn’t align with who you want to be or who you want to serve or how you want to support your employees, then you can immediately eliminate that option.

Sorry for the long intro, but principles are the most actionable pieces of the MVP Inventory — that’s why we came up with so many of them.

Smart Marketer’s 5 Core Principles

“Serve the World Unselfishly and Profit.”
Our first principle is also the company tagline created by Ezra back in 2012. I won’t do it the justice that he does when he talks about this, but the idea is that if we focus on serving people and creating good products first, then profit will naturally follow from that.

“People Over Progress.”
When we make decisions day to day, we want to think about how they impact the customers we serve and the employees we work with. If we need to push a deadline to make the work feel better or release a free course update — then we will, even if it costs us extra.

“Transparency Is Our Most Powerful Tool.”
We really want to show people what worked in our business — but just as much, we want to show what didn’t work. Failure is a great learning tool. By being transparent in our results we can use failure to our advantage, learn from it and (hopefully) turn that knowledge into success.

“Be Okay With Failure.”
If you don’t take risks, you’re unlikely to succeed. But if you do take risks, sometimes you will fail, so we have to embrace that failure. The businesses that succeed are the ones that get good at failing, because it takes a lot of trial and error to figure out what actually works.

“Learn Like A Curious Scientist.”
I love this last one because we do so much testing in this industry, right? Nothing comes from on high. When we learn to ask questions and answer them with data, we unlock endlessly replenishing opportunities for growth. That’s what you get by embracing a scientist’s mentality.

How to Create Your Mission

To create your Mission, I recommend you block out a few hours to just sit down and answer a few simple questions:

  1. What is it that we do best?
  2. Who is it that we do this for?
  3. How do we serve those people with what we do?

A decent Mission isn’t something you can dash out because you’re trying to hit the deadline, right?

Before we created ours, I spent four hours reading through Smart Marketer blog posts, old Slack messages with Ezra and Molly, and customer conversations about what they found helpful and what they needed more of.

How to Create Your Vision

Once you know how the what, the who, and the how fit together, you can create your vision by thinking of the logical endgame of that Mission:

  1. If you are able to do your Mission perfectly for the next 5–10 years, where do you want this business to go?
  2. And what values do you want your brand to represent for your customers?

Be bold here.

The scale of your vision should dictate the scale of your business — and the scale of your life.

Imagining a bigger vision for yourself can give you more drive, more energy, and more focus to go out and create a larger impact in the world.

How to Create Your Principles

Deciding on your principles is a little harder, because there are hundreds of possibilities that may work for your business.

I suggest you make a list of all the guiding principles you can think of, then carry it around for a week and consult it whenever you make a decision.

This will help you figure out which principles you use — and which ones just sound good, but that you don’t actually practice.

And if you find yourself not considering one that you think is important…

Well, that’s a sign for you to start checking against it the next time you have a decision to make.

Use Brand Identity to Attract Customers

One of the most important things we can do in business today is create a strong sense of who your business is.

That’s something Ezra’s done very, very well for Smart Marketer.

Since 2012, he’s made it clear that Smart Marketer is driven by serving people — and it’s attracted customers who also believe the best way to do meaningful work is to make it all about the people you serve and the people you work with.

Understanding the Why? behind what you do is foundational to your business.

And exercises like the MVP Inventory will help you strengthen your brand identity and make decision making so much easier.

Want The Full Story?

I first introduced this topic in an episode of The Smart Marketer Podcast.

If you want to learn more about how to implement the MVP Inventory system into your business, including extended lessons on:

  • Why you should implement this today
  • How it can help you scale your team
  • Real world examples of this idea in action

Listen to the full story on episode 43 of the Smart Marketer Podcast.

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