A large picture frame haphazardly hung on the wall with the company's mission statement printed on low-quality copier paper inside.

This was the first thing customers saw when they walked into the office of a company I used to work for. After months of contemplation, thousands of dollars spent in design work and consulting services, the company solidified their mission, checked the "mission statement" box off their To Do list, printed it, threw it up on the wall and resumed daily operations.

To be fair, company executives referred to the mission statement during presentations as part of their story. The mission appeared in brochures and on their website. But beyond that, there was little other evidence of the mission in action. Not because the company didn't live up to the mission, they did. They were just really bad at bringing their mission to life.

And they are not alone.

Creating a compelling mission statement is a necessary step in the business development process. However, it's downright foolish to invest time, effort and resources into developing a statement and then never leveraging it. The question is, how do you make your values come to life? How do you engage your employees and customers in your mission?

The simplest way to maximize the power of your mission statement is simply to story-ify it. Break the lofty promises down into bite-sizes and then tell the stories of when those promises were fulfilled. Big brands like Airbnb and Amazon are using small stories to bring their bold statements to life and here are three steps you can take to do the same.

Step One: Take inventory.

Write out your company's mission or vision statement. Make a list of the values you are committed to. This step sounds simple, and if you're reading this article, it's likely you've already completed this step.

The problem? Most companies stop here. They make the list. They post it on their website, print it in brochures, add it to a power point and call it a day. Stopping here is why most mission statements never reach their full potential.

Step Two: Find stories that show this mission in action.

This is where the magic happens. Launch an all out search and leave no stone unturned. Take time to recall specific moments when you yourself saw your values at work. Talk to employees at all different levels; ask them to share a story about a time where they saw the mission statement in action. Reach out to your customers and, if the relationship allows, ask them when they have been on the receiving end of your mission. Once you find these stories, the last step is to tell them.

Step Three: Tell your mission and values stories.

Years ago, companies were limited in the information they could share. Traditional channels like radio, television and print were cost prohibitive. Today, you have unlimited opportunities to share your stories. Blogs, content hubs, social media -- oh my! Whether via video or text, your audience is hungry for content and your stories are a perfect fix.

Big brands are taking advantage of these options to bring their values to life. Airbnb has a page dedicated to telling the stories of hosts; who they are and what they love. The stories are raw, authentic and bring the Airbnb mission to life as each story evokes strong emotions of "feeling at home" and finding joy in "providing hospitality."

Amazon Services also hosts an entire page dedicated to telling the inspiring stories of individuals who use Amazon to sell their products. You can lose hours on this page listening to story after inspiring story, each of which reinforce Amazon's commitment to "building a place where people can come to find and discover anything they might want to buy online."

Mission statements are more important now than ever. People want to know they're doing business with a business that stands for something, that has heart, that is committed to excellence.

But a statement isn't enough.
Words alone are empty.

If you want people to care, that you care, about what you care about, a statement isn't enough. No one cares about your company values unless you tell them the stories of the values that drive you.

Published on: Sep 28, 2017
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.