Do you know your company mission statement? Is it on your website? Do your staff know it and live by it in everything they do for your business? What do you say when people ask you what you do and why you do it? Why does your company even exist? The core purpose today becomes more and more important as companies with services and products depend on community sales to rise above the noise of all that is on offer.
This is not the time to say “er… yes… we want to help people” or worse: “we want to make lots of money” – neither of those is a mission statement, and neither will help you on your mission. More than ever, the imprtance of value and purpose need to be woven into the fabric of growing companies. No longer is it good enough to simply serve. People expect more, will voice these expectations and are happy to pay for the better, the different, the original, the experienced, the memories and the ability to share stories. How can you genuinely build conversation without a meaningful purpose to share?
I believe that a company mission statement is just as important as a business plan, and that as a business owner you should articulate your purpose like a religious zealot. This goes so much deeper than just helping people or making money; it’s about the reason you stay up late and get up early to work on your business; the reason your staff jump out of bed in the morning and get to work early. It’s the reason you chose this particular line of business, this particular niche, instead of a desk job pushing paper for someone else’s dream. In my first company my purpose was to be the best in our field at what it was we did, from the very earliest delivery to the end results of representing gorgeous brands under licence. My goal was to build a great company delivering a promise that reasonated well so that we retained repeat customers and built on good foundations where recomendations really did help us accelerate our growth. Ironically I did not feel as strongly about the really huge value of the products that we offered as they were not my brands, but I did know and hugely respect the wonderful institutions, hospitality brands with wolrd class repuations that trusted me to deliver their products in the reight quality at the right time with reliable service and innovations to maintain an ongoing valued partnrship. Together we won.
Early in every business year we revist the core underpinning of reasons for being. dryrobe, one of my investments, exists to keep provide the best outdoor change robe keeping people warm and able to change conveniently. Their purpose though is to enable people’s greater enjoyment of outdoor activity and hence wellbeing. Some brands nail their purpose so early on through a unique proposition that you never need change. To be the best outdoor change robe in the world is a good place to be. Another of my investments is KitBrix, offering robust outdoor equipment with no fuss, just time saving through really organised kit, (whilst having a less muddy car). They know why they exist, and so do their customers.
Much the same as writing a business plan can help to focus the mind on exactly what it is you’re doing in business, coming up with a mission statement can be a very helpful process. With feedback and input from the whole team, understanding that they are contributing to a great goal and really meaningful purpose, these conversations matter in the motivation for the year challenges ahead. Spending time working on the ethos behind your company can really help to solidify in your mind why you do what you do. Bringing your team along for the ride can help to inspire them much more than any team-building event I’ve ever taken part in.
Here are some tips for coming up with a robust company mission statement to drive your company forward:
- Put aside as much time as you can – ideally a full day – and get your team together to really look at this in depth: why does your business exist? What do you aim to achieve? What are you striving for? Notice here that I did not suggest you should sit in a room on your own and figure it out; if you have a team around you they should be a part of this process. There is no point in bursting out of a meeting room alone and declaring: “I’ve got it, this is what we’re working for!” It should be a team effort where everyone feels involved in the process. If your staff are engaged in the process of agreeing the mission statement they are more likely to be engaged in sticking with it on the bad days as well as the good.
- Establish beforehand that everyone in the room has an equal voice, and that no idea or question is stupid. If anyone fears ridicule they will be afraid to speak their minds, and you never know what gems people might be hiding, thinking it’s a silly idea.
- Look at other companies’ mission statements for inspiration. These companies don’t particularly need to be within your niche; you can get just as much inspiration from the well crafted mission statement of a company with which your business has nothing in common. Look at the language they use and what they are aiming for.
- There is nothing wrong with being hugely ambitious in your mission statement; in fact I would encourage you to do so. What is the point in aiming to be “pretty good” at what you do? Surely we should all be aiming to be the world leader in our particular field, otherwise why get out of bed in the morning?
- Ask yourself some key questions about your business: Who is your customer? What can you do for them to enrich their lives in some way? What image of your business do you want to convey? Fun-loving? Professional? Eco-friendly? Are you aiming to provide the best possible customer service? If so, do your customers think you’re hitting that target? How do you differ from your competitors or others in your field? What is your USP? All of these things will help to determine what your mission statement should be.
- Remember that every word counts. Don’t fill your mission statement with lots of fancy decoration or superfluous words just to fill space or make it seem “fancy.” Your mission statement should clearly state what it is you are aiming to be, do or become.
- Each time someone makes an amendment or suggested improvement to the statement, they cannot make their change with out explaining why it brings more value to the meaning of the mission statement. Get agreement before moving on.
Your company mission statement, once you have decided and agreed upon it, should be proudly displayed on your website and other marketing materials. It should be included as part of the staff training process and regular appraisals: is everyone living up to the ideology of the company mission statement? For example, if your company mission statement revolves around being happy, active and upbeat but one of your staff is in the corner moping like Eeyore over their coffee in the mornings, do they really understand the ethos of the company? I would argue probably not, and that both parties would be better off if that situation changed.
Do not fear making these changes; the aim is that the entire company, from the CEO to the warehouse picker, all live by the words of that mission statement in everything they do for the company.