Did that grab your attention?
Maybe. Maybe not.
A few years ago, I would have been in the ‘maybe not’ category—let me tell you why.
A mission statement? Why do I need that? I was in Corporate America forever and the only time I ever bumped into mission statements was when I saw them in etched glass over the receptionist’s desk or on the back of our business cards.
I come in to do my job—that’s my mission.
Au contraire mon frère!
A truly well-thought-out mission statement is a thing of beauty—think of Ronco product. I remember from childhood hearing the ads about a Pocket Fisherman, the Inside-The-Shell Egg Scrambler, Rhinestone Stud Setter, etc. These products would literally save mankind through all of the countless benefits they provided to normal humans.
Mission statements are kind of like that—they provide overarching guidance and elegant language for your business.
“But wait, there’s more!”
I’m not saying your company will definitely fail without a mission statement, but it sure doesn’t help. Here are three ways the lack of a truly well-crafted mission statement can make a company fail:
1) Hiring Selecting the right person for your company is hard work. Ensuring the correct technical competence and personality fit is a time-consuming effort that is costly and frustrating, even if it turns out well (sorry, but the image from the commercials on TV is popping up in my head: the Ginsu knife that prompts you to consider cutting a tomato with a karate chop and then with the amazingly efficient Ginsu knife…). Hoping to accidentally back into the right hire is pretty stressful. Using your mission statement to determine the type of people you want—and don’t want—provides clarity so that you “know it when you see it.” If elements of your mission statement talk to curiosity, it would be a mistake, to hire someone that is more of a “Steady Eddie” who just wants to come in and not have to figure things out on a daily basis. Similarly, organizations that value collaboration and have enshrined the essence of this in their mission statements will drive a “lone wolf” crazy, and vice versa. Some of our clients even put their mission and values on all job descriptions, so that potential candidates know upfront who they’re dealing with.
2) Scope Creep Over a decade ago, I was involved with the turnaround of a company. This company offered services in the health information industry and, for a host of reasons, they were in trouble. Without a mission statement to guide them, the heightened sense of urgency (of which I provided tractor-trailer loads) was manifested in odd ways: “we need cash—can we sub our staff that is technically competent and under-utilized out as consultants to our clients?” Wait, what?! Well, a client was looking to them to provide some functionality to some software that they had been trying to debug. Yes, it would put them into a completely different vertical, distract all of the developers, and provide nothing but a possibility that the client would actually buy it, but they were desperate. If the only direction that is available is personality- or circumstance-driven, people will grasp at straws and seek short-term relief to try and make something happen. A mission statement is a filter: if a decision doesn’t fit with the mission, change the decision or change the mission. I once had a client call me to say thank you—shortly after his strategic planning session, he turned down a huge deal because it didn’t jive with his mission statement! Short-term, unguided thinking would’ve gotten him involved in a project that was at odds with the whole purpose of his company, but his mission statement kept him on track.
3) Client selection “Alex, I can’t afford to be picky with which clients I should or shouldn’t have. I’m just grateful I have clients!” Fair enough. I’m not necessarily advocating draconian measures. However, when do you draw the line? How do you draw the line? At what point do you stop wasting hours and hours and hours with the client who views you as not only his service provider but also best friend/therapist/dog to kick/dining buddy who will always pay the tab? While you don’t have to fire your clients that are a bad fit, you must begin actively searching for ones that are going to “get” you and that you will enjoy helping. This is possible! Over time, the good will push out the bad. The clients who are a fit with you and your mission will pay more (because they truly get value from what you do), will require less of your time (because they value what time they do get), and will refer you to others because you have made a difference in their lives.
I can tell you that the clients who get this make all of the difference between a successful growing business and one that barely ekes out an existence (or is on a downward trajectory). We do this for a living—we drive the creation of strategic plans (where the development of mission statements is front and center) and then generate results by implanting the strategic plan for those clients that want help in getting to their goal state fast.
In our strategic planning sessions with clients, we have a presentation we like using that guides discussion and development of company Mission, Vision, and Values. Check out the presentation here or below. If it helps you, great! If you have questions—or objections!—drop me a line.