Yes, Even Small Dance Businesses Need Vision, Mission and Values Statements

We often associate vision, mission and values statements with big nonprofits or corporations. But the truth is such statements can guide businesses of any size through challenging moments and help them stay focused on what’s important—especially now. Dance Business Weekly asked three small dance businesses how they’ve used their vision, mission and values statements.

Four women in cloud and victory attire pose against a green screen. Min, the founder, stands in front of them at a monitor, her back to the camera
A Cloud & Victory photoshoot. Photo courtesy Cloud & Victory

This year has likely prompted a deluge of questions for your small business, many of which you never dreamed you’d have to think about. How do I transition my business online? How can my brand be more equitable? How do I reopen my studio safely in the middle of a pandemic? And in spite of all this uncertainty, how do I continue to serve my customers—and my bottom line?

It’s enough to make even the most experienced owner feel lost at sea. One process often ignored by small businesses but essential to helping you answer these questions: Creating vision, mission and values statements. Vision statements remind you of where you want to be as a company, mission statements keep you focused on how you will get there, and values statements ensure that your business is guided by what’s most important to you.

A common misconception about these statements is that they are for larger, more established businesses, and that small or new businesses remain more nimble and grow with fewer constraints by not committing to them. And while a quick Google search shows that there’s plenty of guidance out there about how to write these statements, we rarely hear about how businesses (especially small ones) actually use them.

But these three small dance businesses show that these statements do have powerful practical applications, and can help weather the challenges of today’s climate.

Other Space Innovation: A Vision for Growth

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FOOD FOR THOUGHT – A different way to look at mission and vision statements from one of our favorite 📖, The Art of Possibility. Drop a 🦄 in the comments if this gave you anything to think about! “The term ‘mission statement’ is often used interchangeably with the word ‘vision’…but, by and large, mission statements are expressions of competition and scarcity. A mission statement characteristically draws a picture of the company’s future, including its position in the marketplace… That design is more often than not some version of the aspiration to be Number One; by definition an exclusive — and excluding — objective. This kind of statement may motivate people competitively, but it does not provide a guideline…nor does it inform people as to its meaning and direction… Inside the framework of a vision, goals and objectives spring from an outlook of abundance. A goal — even the goal to be Number One — is invented as a game to play. Games call forth a different energy…They draw out the creativity and vitality of the players, without denying that the level at which they play may have something to do with whether the team qualifies for the next round. Under a vision, goals are treated as markers thrown out ahead to define the territory. If you miss the mark — “How fascinating!” Neither you nor the vision is compromised. In the pursuit of objectives under a vision, playing is relevant to the manifestation of possibility, winning is not.” #otherspaceinnovation #ballettobusiness #thebusinessofdance #dancemedia @dancebusinessweekly #theartofpossibility #possibility #mission #vision

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When Maria Montanez and Susan Riefenhauser were creating their new dance-focused consulting firm, Other Space Innovation, they found themselves asking a series of questions about how to ensure their personal values were congruent with their business: What do we believe? What overarching concepts are important to us? What impact do we want to have? From there, they worked backwards to create a vision statement.

This process has been invaluable, and it has even helped them draw in potential customers—because they’ve been public about what their vision is and why. “It has drawn others with shared values to us,” Montanez says. “When you’re open to talking about what you believe in, beyond just ‘Dance is cool,’ you naturally attract others who believe in similar things, or who are looking to employ you for those very reasons.”

Wilmington Ballet Academy: A Mission for Change

As small dance businesses strive to make and keep their commitments to equity and inclusion—especially after a summer that was a wake-up call for so many—mission statements can be a powerful guiding force.

Wilmington Ballet Academy, led by executive/artistic director Benjamin Sterling Cannon and associate artistic director Christopher F. Davis, has this:

“To nurture and support the inherent creativity and personal development of aspiring artists, and to provide resources that will assist them in creating a multifaceted, sustainable arts career.”

They say their mission statement has been a lifeboat in a sea of uncertainty, and has helped them navigate conversations around race and inclusion as queer, Black men themselves. It also guided their Nutcracker preparations this year: Cannon and Davis decided to partner with three other local dance studios (two of which are run by Black women and the third is an Irish dance studio) in order to put on a production that would reach a majority-Black audience that has had minimal exposure to dance. It was an opportunity for their students to expand their creative horizons and collaborate with other students and teachers in the region who may have come from different backgrounds.

Cloud & Victory: Guiding Values

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Good ballet juju. ✨ I want the Every Body Dance collection to make you feel good, and I also want it to do good. Ethically made products benefit the workers in our supply chain, but here is how else we plan to pass on the good juju. From Oct – Nov, a portion of proceeds from our collection will benefit several nonprofits and charities nominated by myself and my friends. ⠀ ⠀ This way, I hope C&V can help pay it forward to bring some good ballet juju to the people who need it most. ✨ 〰️⠀ #ethicallymade #dancewear #balletwear #ballet #dance #balletleotard #ballerina #adultballerina #adultballetcommunity #sgballet #pointe #cloudandvictory #ballett #balletdancer #balletinspiration #balletbody

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Singapore-based dancewear brand Cloud & Victory’s values statement includes spreading good ballet juju through honesty, positivity and compassion. Known for her body-positive approach to marketing and product sizing, as well as her commitment to sustainability, founder Tan Li Min was faced with a dilemma when her longtime shirt manufacturer, who used sustainable production methods, dropped her without any warning to focus on larger accounts.

“I was faced with the real dilemma about having to compromise on some of my ethical standards and how much compromise I was willing to accept,” she says. “I decided I wasn’t comfortable with compromising unless I had absolutely no other options. It was a moment of reckoning for me of where my line with my business principles were.”

In this case, Cloud & Victory’s values statement acted as a guardrail against going against the company’s ethics: After an exhaustive search, she was able to find an alternative sustainable manufacturer. Having that deep engagement with her values also helped her identify the areas where she was willing to be flexible. “No company is able to be 100 percent ethical at every level, but doing something is better than nothing,” she says. “For example, I’d love for our leotards to be made from recycled material, but that’s not feasible at the moment. So even if our material is not as eco-friendly as I’d like, I make sure the fabric and craftsmanship are high-quality and long-lasting, and I work with a manufacturer in the region—this helps reduce our carbon footprint.”

Phil Chan is an arts administrator and former dancer. He has written for Dance Magazine, Dance Europe, Dancer Magazine, The Huffington Post and FLATT Magazine, and is the author of Final Bow for Yellowface: Dancing between Intention and Impact.