If you go to any corporate website in the Philippines, one of the most prominently placed pieces of messaging is always their mission and vision. The company might put the mission and vision under the About Us section, or dedicate an entire section to them, but what their subtext says is always the same:
This is what we hope to achieve through our organisation.
While I find nothing wrong with adopting a mission and vision, I find the way we typically promote them to be misleading. When we plaster them somewhere on our website, the company mission and vision become outward-facing documents. We assume that someone will visit our website, read through them, and walk away in agreement.
This is of course never the case for any mission and vision worth pursuing — the best ones are always provocative, and in extension, divisive. When Tesla Motors, for example, sought out to redefine the public’s conception of electric vehicles, there were many people against them, including not just car manufacturers of gas vehicles but also government regulators and skeptical journalists.
Because the best mission and vision statements are provocative, they should not just sit statically on your site, like some sort of web-based headstone. You must turn them into living documents that you actively work to build consensus around, from your supporters as well as stakeholders who may oppose your mission and vision to varying degrees.
This is what I’ve had to experience with my taxi-hailing platform, Micab, whose mission and vision is achieving what I have called “Taxi 2.0” — a re-envisioning of the taxi-riding experience that Filipinos know today with cabs that are safe, clean, and modern, and most importantly, driven by well-trained drivers who are kind, generous, and polite.
While this mission and vision may sound agreeable, it is actually quite divisive. On one hand, we have the obvious stakeholders who would support the Taxi 2.0 mission and vision, including my co-founders, Micab employees, Micab taxi drivers, taxi drivers in general, and Micab partners, like Hallohallo business, who we recently launched MiAds with. Yet there are just as many people who oppose our vision to different levels, including ride-hailing companies, ride-hailing car operators, ride hailing drivers, and a broader mass of Filipinos who may have had one or two bad experiences with taxis and remain convinced that it is impossible for them to improve their service.
Micab’s mission and vision — like I advise other founders and entrepreneurs in the Philippines — should be as much for your supporters as for your detractors. I’ve tried to accomplish this goal with Taxi 2.0, wherever I go out to advocate for it, be it when I give a talk at a conference, interact with people at meet-ups, or write to a broad audience, as I’m doing here.
My goal is to not preach to the choir of those already converted into believing Taxi 2.0. Creating that sort of echo chamber will only drown out what you really need to hear. No, when I advocate for Taxi 2.0, I am aiming to reach our detractors.
I try to explain why a revitalised taxi industry would benefit the entire transportation sector, including even our ride-hailing competitors, and I try to show skeptical Filipinos that it is possible for taxi drivers to improve. They do, after all, want to get better as professionals — most just have not had the means or the opportunity to do so.
Such consensus-building is not easy. In the Philippines, our communities are very important to us, and we can get emotional when we talk about commuting within and across them. I’ve had many negative things said to me, both online and offline. But such unpleasantries have been well worth it. By aiming to communicate Micab’s mission and vision of Taxi 2.0 to our detractors, I learned much more than I would have by just keeping it an internal rah-rah document.
I’ve discovered, for example, that some Filipinos assume taxi drivers top-up fares because many of them are former criminals. As a resort, we’ve had to orient some of our marketing toward explaining the fare system that pressures some cab drivers to lapse into disingenuous behavior, and what we’re doing to solve it. Such education has helped us gain support — even new users — from Filipinos who formerly thought that cab drivers simply cannot change.
I think other founders and entrepreneurs in the Philippines will similarly learn more about their space and other stakeholders, if they make the effort to transform their mission and vision into a living document, one they share most especially to those who may oppose you. In the startup and tech world, founders are always advised to show empathy for their users — we need to learn to extend this to everyone.
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