It’s the end of 2016. Regardless of the type of year you’ve had up (maybe more downs than ups) to this point, this time of year is always a good time to reconnect with why you’re doing what you’re doing. It’s a great time of year to simplify, plan and connect. That means it’s also a great time to work on your business’s mission.
The process of working on your mission is a process I’ve developed and also use quite a bit. I wanted to make sure that I was taking my own advice and that it made sense before I just started dropping what could be conceived as just trite generic business guru nonsense. Not giving you nonsense is really important to me because mission is one of the strategy concepts that gets lost in buzzwords, jargon, and empty language.
Your mission, your why, is supposed to be the guiding beacon for your business. How then can you run a sustainable business if what you say you do is very different from what you actually do?
In terms of thinking about 2017, it’s still early. Very early. This provides you with an opportunity to dig in a bit through the month or in some quiet thought whenever you happen upon this post. What you’re digging for is clarity for two of the simplest and most difficult questions about your business:
1. Who are you serving?
2. How are you serving your customer in a way that matters?
Now comes the part where I challenge you. You’re going to see some bullet points that I believe are the most critical things you should be considering when you are (re)sculpting your mission and setting up your business for 2017. Remember, it’s your mission that will weigh in on every decision you make, every resource you allocate and how you serve everyone of your customers.
1. Who are you serving?
Get as specific as you can and try to make it about one person.
- What are their experiences?
- Where are they emotionally?
- What kind of values to they have?
- What are their demographics: age, professional level, marital status, etc.
- What kind of social or cultural environments do they exist in?
- What is important to them?
- What are they afraid of or what’s frustrating them?
- AVOID AT ALL COST PHRASES LIKE: “small business owners”, “stay at home moms”, “entrepreneurs”, “people looking for a restaurant”, “students”...You get the picture, right?
2. How are you serving them in a way that matters?
You created your business because you identified a problem and figured out a way to offer a solution. It gets easy to get bogged down by all the day-to-day to-do’s to lose sight of why a customer would still choose you.
- Why do your customers choose you? (Price is the worst thing to compete on by the way.)
- Is your solution simple to understand and implement?
- Is the problem you’ve identified changing with customer tastes, expectations or improvements in technology?
- Is there something so special about what you do that it would be tough for competitors to imitate?
- Are you serving customer needs or wants? (Your customers motivations will be different for each.)
- Are you clear on how your customers measure success? Is it money saved, time saved, headaches avoided, education provided, etc.
- Are you providing a solution that resonates or matches up with who you’ve identified your best customer to be?
I know making trade-offs and focused decisions are hard but when you are clear on who you serve and who you don’t serve your business has an exponentially greater chance at success.
After you think about those questions for a while and get your thoughts articulated your last task is to distill all that information into a sentence or two. Your mission should not be a paragraph or worse an entire page. It’s also not the how to manual on how your business does the business of its business. (Yes, I did that on purpose because a good mission statement is serious business.)
If you’re looking for a little inspiration one of my favorite mission statements of all time comes from Starbucks. Pulled from their corporate website the Starbucks mission is:
To inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.
That’s a mission statement. Yours might not be as eloquent as that one on your first go around and that’s OK. Working on crafting your mission so that it reflects you and your business might take time. What’s important is that your mission means resonates with you and stands for something in your business. Get there and you’ll be ahead of most entrepreneurs I know.