More than words: Your vision, mission and values
More than words: Your vision, mission and values
22 SEPTEMBER 2011 8:18 AM

Thoughtful vision, mission and value statements clearly define your organization’s culture and help employees gain a wider understanding of your organization’s big-picture goals.

When a hotel’s vision, mission and values are aligned with the guest experience promised by the hotel’s branding, expectations are met or exceeded and guests leave with the intent to return and recommend.

Vision, mission and values statements are—or should be—more than words on a page in an employee handbook or catchy phrases on posters hanging on the break room wall. They may not be as profound as poems by Keats or Byron, but they shouldn’t be greeting card-like sentiments either, as the effects they can have on your business can most certainly be profound.

What makes vision, mission and values statements so special? You! By taking the time to consider both your guests and employees as you create your statements, you can provide guests with a better experience, clearly define your organization’s culture and help employees gain a wider understanding of your organization’s big-picture goals.

Statements that sound good but aren’t aligned with your brand or don’t support your organization’s overall mission won’t resonate with people. Well-developed statements give employees credos to work and live by. They provide employees with insights on how to handle situations that on-the-job training and training workshops can’t anticipate or cover. Whether they are making high-level decisions or looking for answers to everyday operational issues, everyone from the heads of your organization to your front-line employees should be able to turn to your vision, mission and values for answers and insights.

Your vision
To write your vision statement, ask yourself what it is that your organization wants to accomplish in the big picture. What do you want your organization to look like in two years? What do you want it to look like 10 or 20 years from now? Your vision statement should let everyone know how you want them to see your organization and where your organization is headed in the future.

The following vision statement from Terranea Resort, an oceanfront property located in Rancho Palos Verdes, California, is an example of a powerful vision statement: “An extraordinary destination, naturally inspired.” The words “extraordinary destination” imply that both the surroundings and accommodations are exceptional. They also say you shouldn’t just think of the resort as a place to stay when you’re in Rancho Palos Verdes, but as a reason to come to Rancho Palos Verdes.

Take the two words apart. The word “extraordinary” suggests the people at Terranea Resort are committed to keeping their resort remarkable and will therefore make continual efforts to ensure the resort remains extraordinary in accordance with the times. The word “destination” lets you know the resort isn’t only a place to go, but a place meant to be sought. Who knew two words could say so much?


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The words “naturally inspired” also are telling. They say that not only was the resort designed with the idea it should become a part of its surroundings, but everything about the resort, including its amenities and the level of service its people provide, should complement and reflect the resort’s natural and luxurious setting. The words “naturally inspired” also indicate the people at Terranea Resort want to arrive at service solutions and make high-level organizational decisions in a thoughtful, sensible and enlightened way, and this is what will enable them to provide an “inspired,” and perhaps even magical, guest experience.

When a statement or phrase is labeled a vision statement, it automatically takes on more meaning. After you write your vision statement, pick it apart phrase by phrase, word by word, to make sure you’re sending the right messages. Your subtext tells people a greater story than the simple definitions of your words. To write a vision statement that delivers the right messages, you have to dig deep.

Your mission
Recently, I stumbled across a Hard Rock print ad that contained photos of a bar, chefs in a kitchen, friends eating and celebrating, a hotel room, a woman giving the rock and roll hand sign and three different Hard Rock signs, one of which was in the shape of a guitar. The people in the ad seemed to be genuinely enjoying themselves. At the bottom of the ad was the tagline, “See the show.”

Hard Rock’s corporate mission statement is: “To spread the spirit of rock ‘n’ roll by creating authentic experiences that rock.” The ad I saw supports the Hard Rock mission statement in every way. It featured all of the things that make up a complete Hard Rock experience. The images, combined with the tagline, “See the show,” made it clear that the show isn’t just a band or a concert but everything that makes up the Hard Rock experience, including eating at the café, staying at the hotel and, perhaps most importantly, getting the chance to let down your hair and just be yourself for a change.

Hard Rock’s “You Know Who You Are” marketing campaign, launched in December 2005, is another great example of a marketing campaign that is in line with a corporate mission. Remember the commercial of the corporate type who was hiding a tattoo underneath his buttoned-up exterior?

Whether Hard Rock’s mission statement came before or after its initial marketing strategy was developed, we may never know. Regardless of whether the chicken came before the egg in Hard Rock’s case, what’s great to see from Hard Rock are clear examples of how a mission statement and marketing campaigns can and should be aligned.

If you are considering redeveloping your hotel’s mission statement, ask yourself: What do we need to do to achieve our vision? Then, look to your hotel’s branding for answers and inspiration. It will not only make it easier for you to develop your mission statement, but it will align your hotel’s mission with the messages being delivered in your marketing.

Your values
Even more than your vision and mission, your values tell everyone in your organization what behaviors you want to see both on the floor and behind the scenes. In just a few sentences or with a series of keywords, you can let every member of your staff know what is accepted, expected and what is inappropriate or will not be tolerated. The values put forth by MGM Resorts International are solid examples of values that stand a good chance of making a positive impact organization-wide. MGM’s ( values are:

• Value Others—Acknowledge and value the contributions of all people.
• Be Respectful—Everyone is worthy of your respect.
• Be Inclusive—Treat one another with openness and acceptance; leave no one behind.
• Be Understanding—Understand and appreciate the differences of co-workers and guests.
• Be Considerate—Use tact in dealing with everyone.
• Be First and Best—Your actions make MGM Resorts International a stronger company.

Each value you establish should support your hotel’s overall mission. What do you think should be most important to an organization with a mission like yours? Brainstorm to come up with a few words that might summarize your values. Do words like integrity, honesty, character or teamwork pop up? What about words like intelligence, timely behaviors, or respect? Number your words from most to least important, keeping your mission in mind.

Hiring the right people from the start and then training them effectively is important, but giving employees something more to fall back on than standards of performance, checklists and daily routines is what gives you a better chance of keeping the talent you have in place, more opportunities to develop that talent, and more opportunities to develop genuine leaders. Your vision, mission and values statements have the potential to change perfunctory performance into mindful performance. Develop and implement them wisely, and guests will leave with the intent to return and recommend.

Patrick O'Bryan is chief operating officer at FreemanGroup (, a customer service solutions provider that serves premier hospitality and tourism organizations around the world. Clients range from government and tourist boards to hotels, casinos, cruise ships, and airlines. In addition to offering a number of proprietary training workshops and follow-up training programs, FreemanGroup offers instructor certification programs and workshops specifically designed for human resource departments, leadership, and supervisors.

The opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the opinions of or its parent company, Smith Travel Research and its affiliated companies. Columnists published on this site are given the freedom to express views that may be controversial, but our goal is to provoke thought and constructive discussion within our reader community. Please feel free to comment or contact an editor with any questions or concerns.

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