Marketers have done a pretty good job of destroying mission statements over the years. The very idea of a mission statement these days is often frowned upon so badly, that marketers are scared they will lose all credibility just for suggesting one, let alone actually writing one.
You are now probably more likely to see mission statements gracing the strips of your favourite business cartoonist, or featuring in a scene on Silicon Valley, than you are emblazoned across the walls of your favourite brand. I was told by one startup recently,
“We don’t need mission statements anymore ~ we have culture!“.
I have no idea what that meant but the guy who told me seemed pretty convinced.
For the most part, mission statements have (rightly) got a bad rap because we have seen so many [pointless/useless/meaningless] ones that the very thought of creating a good one leaves most marketers fleeing for the hills shouting, “I’d rather work on my klout score than write a mission statement”.
The biggest problem with mission statements, and probably the main reason that we enjoy poking fun at them so much, is because they are actually really important. People fail SO BADLY, often because they tried too hard, and tried to please too many people, to get it. Too many cooks and all that… The sure fire way to kill a good mission statement is to give it to a committee. (“A camel is just a horse designed by a committee” etc. etc…)
Good mission statements, on the other hand, can be things of beauty. Hubspot wrote this nice piece about 12 Inspirational Mission statements.
So why am I writing about it and why should you care?
I spent hundreds of hours studying mission statements for my book Survival to Significance, and I found that all the good mission statements consisted of 4 parts. The main problem was that most of them we too long. It’s easy to write a long mission statement. It’s really hard to write a short one.
“All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.” So finally I would write one true sentence, and then go on from there. It was easy then because there was always one true sentence that I knew or had seen or had heard someone say”. Ernest Hemmingway
So rather than just poking fun at everyone else’s efforts, here’s what I would do if I was you. I call it the “One Sentence Business Model” but it is really just a mission statement that explains why you do what you do. And this doesn’t just apply to businesses – you can do this for yourself. Salesforce have a great process for helping employees write their own mission statements called a V2MOM ~ it’s a lengthy but worthwhile process for mapping goals and measurable objectives.
Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff originally worked on the V2MOM process with Tony Robbins.
But instead of writing a long blog post of a statement, the version I want to give you is the 140-character twitter version.
I think it’s one of the best ideas I’ve ever had. I’ve not actually had that many great ideas, but that’s beside the point, I’ve seen many companies and business leaders find huge value in filling out their own mission statements in this format.
Like all decent ideas. It looks really easy. But filling it in (properly) is actually pretty difficult.
** If you’re going to attempt this, for maximum returns I suggest you turn off your phone, take your favourite beverage into a quiet corner, and arm yourself with only a new notebook and a sharp pencil **
I’m going to do ____________ , to make ____________ better, as measured by ____________, and is worth ____________.
Why does this work and why do I believe in it?
I’ve thought for a long time that what you stand for is more important than what you sell, but I’ve always struggled to find a way of putting such a big concept into just a few words. After I first read The Art of Public Speaking by Dale Carnegie, a great book about communication written in 1913, I was astonished to discover that in his training courses, Dale challenged all the business leaders to share their business plans with the group in no more than 75 seconds. (Dale reasoned that this was the maximum attention span of the average business leader ~ and this was over 100 years ago!)
Another Carnegie, the great 19th century industrialist Andrew Carnegie said this:
“As I grow older, I pay less attention to what men say. I just watch what they do“.
(Carnegie gave away 90% of his wealth and built 2,500 libraries which makes him a pretty cool character in my book. In the early 1900’s this equated to roughly $350m ~ about $78.6 Billion in today’s money).
Filling in the silly little blanks on my business plan seems simple enough but is actually a pretty daunting exercise, mainly because it forces you to ask yourself a lot of BIG questions. You may think it’s playful and over simplified (which of course it is). You may want to relegate it to the mission statement rogues hall of fame along with all the other ones you don’t like. But that OK. Especially if you think you have a better model.
I like it. And as a concept I believe in it. If you have your own version, I’d love to see it. But as I have spoken at conferences to thousands of people about it over the last few years, my experience has been that very few people would feel confidence filling in those little boxes themselves.
“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it”. Simon Sinek
I think if everyone knew what they own one sentence business model was, and could explain it in less than 60 seconds, the business world would be better for it. Writing your own one sentence business model is quite a brave thing to do because it forces you to put your money where you mouth is. Sadly in today’s socially powered world, putting yourself out there with your own mission statement leaves you pretty vulnerable to critisism and sarcastic comments, but that’s still not a good enough reason to not have one.
Everyone needs a purpose, and finding one that connects with your job isn’t easy. I have no idea who originally said it (the quote was been stolen by so many people over the years), but a wise person once said,
“There are two great days in your life. The day you were born. And the day you discover why”.
So… what’s my one sentence business model?
Since I threw it out there it would be unfair not to share. So for what it’s worth, (and feel free to [poke fun/tweet ridicule or throw rocks] but this what gets me excited about my work…
“I want to SPEAK, WRITE and TEACH ABOUT TECHNOLOGY, in order to HELP MAKE THE WORLD’S BEST MARKETERS EVEN BETTER, as measured by THEIR HAPPINESS AND THE SUCCESS OF THEIR BUSINESS and (for me), is worth GETTING OUT OF BED FOR“.
Why do I want to help more businesses make more money? Because where businesses which have a purpose are concerned, the more money they make ~ the more they can give away, and in doing so they create business models that others want to copy. I don’t just want to help more brands sell more stuff, I want to help them communicate their purpose. To steal a line from Arianna Huffington, “businesses need to create profits with purpose“.
But I think it was Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard who put it best,
“Businesses need profits to survive. The less we make, the less we will have to give away, and the less other companies will think we have a mission that is worth imitating”.
Now that is a good mission statement.