Successful entrepreneurs and mission statements: creating them is only step 1
You’ve taken the entrepreneurial leap and are serving a few core clients with your services. And, really, you just need a few more clients and then all should be good – but it’s a struggle to reach that level. You then get a request from prospects for other services, ones you don’t really perform but . . . you guess you COULD . . . and that might bring in the revenue you need . . . after all, what harm could that really do?
Does this sound familiar? If so, know that you’re not alone. “But,” says Tara Goodfellow, the owner and managing director of Athena Educational Consultants, Inc., “if you take whatever comes your way, rather than staying true to your own mission, then your expertise becomes muddy. Yes, it’s tempting to do whatever it takes to bring in revenue. And it can be hard to stay focused but it will ultimately be beneficial when you can.”
Athena Educational Consultants helps people and businesses with career and college planning decisions nationally – and other experts from a wide range of industries bear out Tara’s advice about staying true to your mission. For example, in Key to success: Stay true to mission, published by Tulane University, leaders from widely diverse companies say that success comes from mission focus. These experts include Laurie Ann Goldman, who helped to build shapewear manufacturer Spanx into an international company with $250 million in sales, and David Dunlap, the head of the $4.6 billion Superior Energy Services that specializes in hydraulic fracturing and oilfield services.
Meanwhile, Inc.com warns that straying from your core mission can seriously impact growth, saying that, “One of the hardest parts of growing quickly is staying true to your original intent and vision. New people, changing product sets and the inability to keep your hands off every aspect of business operations can all lead to a slow, dangerous shift away from what made your business special to begin with.”
Creating a mission statement
Before you adhere to a mission statement, you (obviously!) need to create one. If you don’t have one yet, then Forbes recommends that, when you create one, it clearly answers these four questions:
- What do we do?
- How do we do it?
- Whom do we do it for?
- What value are we bringing?
The article suggest that you review well-written mission statements created by other companies, using that of Advance Auto Parts as their example: “It is the Mission of Advance Auto Parts to provide personal vehicle owners and enthusiasts with the vehicle related products and knowledge that fulfill their wants and needs at the right price. Our friendly, knowledgeable and professional staff will help inspire, educate and problem-solve for our customers.”
Here’s another important tip: “Your mission statement doesn’t have to look the same as everyone else’s. Figure out what’s important to you and your clients and go from there.”
Entrepreneur.com offers additional questions to consider, such as:
- Think about the spark that ignited your decision to start a business. What will keep it burning?
- What can you do for them [customers] that will enrich their lives and contribute to their success–now and in the future?
- How will you use technology, capital, processes, products and services to reach your goals?
- What do you do better, cheaper or faster than other competitors? How can you use competitors’ weaknesses to your advantage?
Find more intriguing questions at Entrepreneur.com and remember that your mission statement isn’t intended to answer all of these questions. Instead, use them to spark brainstorming.
My mission statement doesn’t work
Maybe the mission statement that got you all excited is causing your prospects to yawn. What could have gone wrong?
First, make sure that it isn’t “too generic, confusing or long. In an effort to cover everything in a couple of sentences, mission statements can become disconnected from the company’s core product and purpose. As a result, they simply alienate the public and confuse employees.” So says BrightHub.com in Examples of Mission Statements That Don’t Work.
The article warns, too, against the “committee syndrome.” See if this process sounds uncomfortably familiar:
- A facilitator stands in front of the room. You’re probably drinking some bad coffee. For sure, you’re trying to cover up a yawn as the unsatisfactory mission statement is written on a whiteboard.
- People in the room then begin “tweaking” the statement, adding in more powerful words. Information about specific products and/or services are broadened – after all, isn’t bigger better?
- This word might offend someone. Let’s take it out.
By the time you’re done, the mission statement looks eerily similar to the old one – and the coffee never got any better. To avoid committee syndrome, BrightHub.com says, keep the group of people working on it tight and lean.
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