Raise your hand if you have looked at a company’s mission statement in the last 5 years when trying to decide if you’re going to do business with that company. Anybody?
As a college student working on my undergraduate degree, I helped create a leadership development program designed to help students get engaged in their community, learn how to create positive change, and become our future business, local, state, and national leaders. The committee that I was on spent months working on the perfect mission statement to set us up for success. Looking back, I remember that we were all very proud of what we came up with, but for the life of me, I have no idea what that perfectly worded mission statement said.
The idea behind a mission statement is a noble one. It is supposed to set the guidelines for product quality, customer service, and help cast a vision to build a corporate culture. But let’s be honest: who cares! Our customers don’t care about our mission statements. Our employees most likely don’t know we have one. Really, the only people that really benefit from them are the paper companies and filing cabinet makers, because all we do with our mission statements is print them out and file them away so that we will never forget what we are all about. Sure, we dust them off once in a while, to add to our website’s “about us” page, or to highlight at an annual employee training, but what good do they really do?
Today, people are not inspired by a few well-thought-out words hung in a cheap frame on the wall. Today, people want action. If you really want to get people excited about what you do, you don’t need a mission statement: you need a mission. Remember when you used to be passionate about your business when you thought you could change the world? It’s time to bring back that excitement.
Business can’t just be all about budget meetings and marketing plans. Yes, those things keep the business healthy, but what really keeps it alive? Every good business on the block has a solid 5-year plan, but the great businesses have a 5-year mission to go where no business has gone before (OK, so the geek in me just came out a little). In order for a business to stand out, it has to stand for something. If your goal is simply to increase sales in the next quarter, you are competing with every single business in the world. But what if your goals could be bigger, more profound? Could you rise above the fray of hundreds, even thousands of other businesses if you had a mission instead of a mission statement?
The answer is a resounding YES. Your customers don’t care about your sales figures. They care about the passion behind your product or services and about the impact that your company makes in the community. As business owners, executives, and professionals, we have a unique opportunity to create positive change around us. Whether we are inventing the latest tech tool that makes life easier or creating jobs for people who had none, our responsibility is so much bigger than simply increasing our profit margins.
Profit is a byproduct of doing something great. If your mission is simply to rake in as much dough as possible, you will fail. People will not buy that. Instead, make your mission more meaningful. For example, Common Sense Development’s mission is to help small businesses tell their story through great design, while simultaneously growing to a point where we can provide first-time job experience to energetic, but often overlooked, recent college graduates. Yes, our goal is to make money, but we want to make money while providing an affordable service to an often ignored sector, the small business, by offering an ignored group of people, recent college grads, the chance to prove themselves and gain needed experience and skills.
What’s your mission?