Your business needs a “why”. It needs a purpose or mission statement that drives it. The term mission statement gets a bit of a bad reputation as it calls back to stuffy business plans and for some of us, essays and papers at school.
But that’s not what your mission statement should be; it should not simply be a statement of what you do – it should be a statement of what drives you, what makes your business unique, it’s putting down in words the deeper reason of why your business exists.
A clear mission/purpose/why statement (we’ll refer to it as a mission statement for the duration of this article) drives everything you do. It’s not just the focus of your work, but it sums up all of your core values, the drive of your strategies, and it contains your vision.
Simply, when you have a defined mission statement, everyone in the company will know how to make the right decisions.
You don’t have to overcomplicate it. Think of it this way, if you were a private healthcare provider and your mission was to “make private healthcare accessible for young professionals and families on lower income”, everyone from the call centre staff to you/the CEO would make relevant decisions.
The receptionist or call centre staff who answer enquiries will be able to tell customers the best way to get the treatment they need for the best price. When someone over 60 calls to ask about your services you can direct them to a suitable competitor – I know, gasp, why would you do that? Because they aren’t your ideal customer. You don’t have the resources to serve them.
Instead, you have a stream of under 40s with kids under 10 who want to make sure their worries are seen to quickly. When you or your marketing team has to make a decision they refer back to the mission statement: is it going to be worth putting an advert on TV during the day? No, not unless it’s a kids channel, and let’s be honest, most people under 40 who want private healthcare are using Netflix and other internet services, or are out at work.
A clear mission statement makes you a better company. Everyone understands what you do and if you can help them. Your employees don’t have to ask you or superiors if something is right because they have the compass that is the mission statement.
So why won’t your business succeed without one? Well, it’s not that it won’t succeed, but it won’t grow. The world is full of jack-of-all-trades businesses who haven’t niched down or specialized, and though they make a living, they don’t grow. For some businesses this is okay – they just want to make enough money to pay the bills, go on holiday once a year, and have evenings and weekends off.
But if you want a business that grows to more than just you and a couple of employees, you need to be known for something. That is the power of the mission statement. It gives you your purpose, your why, and it will give you growth. It will make you the provider for what you do.
Think about all the big companies you know – in your own industry or simply household names. Why are they big? Because they know their market, they have a defined mission statement. Even stores that sell everything (Walmart/Asda) do so at the lowest price. They can’t and won’t start providing a premium line at higher price points because that’s not what they do. You can look back in history and see the times businesses who have a great mission statement have tried to step outside the box and been slapped down by their consumers.
So if you haven’t got a mission statement spend some time figuring it out. Sometimes this means you have to take a hard look at your business and realise that you are trying to be everything to everyone, and slim down. If this is the case, pick your three best clients and try and multiply them. That doesn’t always mean the three who pay you well, it’s the three who you love working with and pay you enough to make it worth it.
Once you’ve got it, chant it. Make sure everyone in your company understands it. If you use it whenever you (or your employees) need to make a decision, they’ll make the right call.
That’s the power of a mission statement.