The defining of a business’s mission statement seems to be a catchy practice in the modern age. It’s become more prevalent over the years and has become a staple of executive decree, right there next to visions. However, like most, they usually fall flat and fail to move the needle.
Does your customer know what your business’s mission statement is or even care? Do your employees even know? If you’re like most, then the answer is no.
It’s not that mission statement by themselves are what fails. It’s that they are usually relegated to being a bureaucratic process and have no life or practicality to it. But, when you create core values that are ingrained in your processes and even flow into your customer’s experience, you can create something more. It can be a part of how your customers see you, how your team operates and how you make decisions.
Don’t believe me? Just ask David Johnson Wood.
David created Virtus OutDoor Group or VOG, an extreme apparel company. Through its use of core values, he took his company from being just another international apparel company, and transformed it into a way of life that has grown through a hard-core fan base.
However, to create business core values that move the needle, you need two things: solving a critical need, and instilling ethos into your core values.
Here is how David did that.
Solving a Need: Chase Your Dreams through Your Core Values
As a SRIG (Surveillance Reconnaissance Intelligence Group) Marine, David found himself deployed in almost every situation imaginable. However, it was through these deployments that he discovered the inspiration and mindset to develop his multi-million dollar tactical apparel line.
VOG (Virtus Outdoor Group) is his brain-child. It’s a fully vertical company meaning everything is done in-house from design, production, distribution, and even marketing. Plus, it’s a shining example of a successful value-based activewear / functional lifestyle brand.
Raised the son of a pastor, David has always had a determined set of virtues which was among his motivations for joining the US Marine Corps. The camaraderie between his fellow warriors–his brothers–only exemplified his own values.
During his enlistment, David found himself in several tactical situations where his only forms of reliance were his fellow Marines and his gear. At the time, tactical gear selection was extremely limited both in terms of selection and practicality.
David recognized this issue and knew that he could do something about it.
When he came around to starting VOG, he didn’t do it just to fill a niche. He recalled his own times in the trenches and wanted to make sure that future generations of Brothers had practical, quality equipment available.
His primary goal was beyond profit. It was more about providing a proper solution to a serious issue. And that’s how he designed VOG to operate–because the best lifestyle brands are built upon true core values and purpose.
Defining Core Values: Understand Yourself and Your Brand
There’s no way you can build a lifestyle brand if you don’t first understand who you are or what you stand for. But knowing yourself is only part of the picture.
“You’ve got to know your business inside and out, you’ve got to understand and map your path and know it like you know your own reflection. If you don’t own it and love it, you’ll never be able to grow it as you develop yourself,” David says. He stresses that both you and your brand should grow parallel to each other.
David also believes in psychological ownership of his business through his core values. It’s apparent in VOG’s name. Virtus comes from the latin for ‘warrior virtues’–an idea that’s permeated throughout every aspect of his organization.
For instance, he understands the importance of believing in yourself and having a good self-esteem. Looking back to his early social media promotions, he’s proud of his direct involvement with them. Instead of pitching high-profile influencers and models, David created and starred within his own promotions.
As an extreme athlete and former Marine, he was able to lend real credibility to his line. This not only enhanced David’s own self-esteem, but added real worth to VOG as well.
Receive Trust by Giving It Away
Creating a global brand doesn’t just happen overnight. It takes real effort, patience, and a well-maintained network.
David admits that building his network was one of the most important steps to creating VOG.
After being honorably discharged from the Marines, he pursued his college education at the University of Tennessee–double majoring in Philosophy and Religious Studies. Just before his graduation ceremony, David received an offer of a lifetime: to perform sensitive NGO work in the People’s Republic of China.
There, he met with many local officials and leaders helping to solve major issues such as human-trafficking. And this is where his network started. Many of these local units had ties to production resources–metals, textiles, etc. Through the bonds David established with them, they respected and trusted him with their contacts.
But that’s not the only place David expanded his network. While living in Hong Kong, he created other contacts through another shared value: physical fitness. He would work out in gyms in Central (the business hub of Hong Kong) and often rubbed elbows with private equity managers and bankers–many of whom became friends, mentors, and partners.
Through the mutual exchange of trust, David was able to build a large global network of both buyers and sellers which was able to jumpstart his future endeavors.
Incorporate Values into Team Members
At the time of VOG’s conception, David knew he wasn’t going to do this alone. He partnered with Tim Scott, a dear friend and mentor. Much of their partnership’s success came from having shared values. A concept that David still requires when making deals concerning VOG.
Since they were able to build the company fully vertical and self-sustainable, VOG doesn’t need to rely on investors. This allows David to be very selective on who VOG gets to work with. For him, it’s not about the upfront dollar. He chooses partners based on who understands, believes in, and are willing to pursue the company’s values. For David, tracking success isn’t strictly about profit, but how they managed to get there.
And he’s not afraid to stand up for what he believes in either. He’s dismissed partners from the VOG organization for violating and selling out company values. An act that may have had a brief monetary setback, but further solidified his brand’s reputation. And that’s led to more growth both financially and structurally.
Be Prepared to Weather the Storm
As with most entrepreneurial endeavors, it wasn’t an easy task. In fact, David’s journey was rife with hardships, struggles, and failures.
He was among the first boots on the ground after 9/11 which led to his military service being extended 2 years. His extension and deployment cost him witnessing the birth of his son Jaden. And after David returned home and went back to college, he did so as a single-father student.
When he moved to China, he had to face the challenge of being a stranger in a strange land and deal with culture shock. Even when starting VOG, David had to surmount the difficulties of starting his own brand. But something important had stuck with him from his times in the Corps.
Adapt, Improvise, Overcome.
He faced his struggles head-on and persisted. And in doing so learned a valuable lesson–humility. David says, “As an entrepreneur, it is the biggest balance between absolute drive and knowing what you need to do, and the humility to listen to people who know how to do what you can’t do and want to see you succeed.”
Now, he is expanding VOG apparel, accessories, and camo/tech patterns B2B in over a dozen countries around the world–with no plans to slow down anytime soon.
David’s taken up stock in many other projects including venturing into Spartan Extreme Endurance and other brands that fall within his own core values.
Apart from his own ventures, David is extremely proud to be fortunate enough to give and make an impact for those who need it most. Following his virtues, he’s active with a number of charitable organizations dedicated to really making a difference. These include the Nomi Network–a group fighting against sex slavery–and veterans’ therapy organizations dedicated to combatting the struggles of PTSD.
“In order to make it happen, entrepreneurs need to truly believe in themselves and understand what and why they’re doing what they’re doing. And if the numbers make sense, be prepared to weather the storm and make it work.” –David Johnson Wood
Core Values as a Way of Life
David’s path showcases the importance of core values in an emerging brand that thrives in a competitive in market. It’s a part of who they are, how their customers see them, and even how they make decisions as a partnership. Without it, VOG may be just another apparel company. But not to David, his customers, and his team. It’s a way of life.
So, ask yourself, is your mission statement helping your business define itself or is it another bureaucratic process that serves no purpose to your or your team? Ask yourself what your core values are and look to see how you can weave it into your operations.
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