“Find yourself, and be that.” – Anonymous.
A recipe for success in any aspect of life, regardless of industry, culture, continent, religion, race or color, is finding the most authentic version of yourself and expressing it.
Look closely at the most successful people in different areas of life and you’ll find a common thread that runs among them. They all have a keen awareness of who they are and what they are about.
As a result, they are able to approach life authentically and with purpose, and that’s one of the key reasons for their success.
This same fact is also true in business.
Name any successful business that has withstood the test of time – CocaCola, Disney, Walmart, Guinness, and others – and I will show you a business that knows who they are and what they are about.
That’s what I define as the “soul” of a business.
The journey of an entrepreneur is often fraught with different challenges. It’s often filled with a lot of bumps and more often than not the entrepreneur spends a lot of time trying to keep it together.
If you’re trying to start, run or grow a business, you definitely know what I’m talking about. There is no short supply of challenges. Time and again, it seems like you are putting out one fire after the other. This is especially the case if you’re trying to build a business in Africa.
But here’s the thing though: there will be many dark days in your business.
A lot of times will come when you would feel like throwing in the towel. In those dark periods, the only thing that will help you hang on is clearly reminding yourself why you started the business in the first place, and what you set out to achieve.
I get that often times businesses usually start out as plain hustle. You spotted an opportunity to make extra bucks and before you realized it, you got sucked into trying to keep it all together.
The best part is, no matter how far gone you are in business, it’s never too late to sit down to clearly write down what you intend to achieve with your business. In other words, craft your mission statement.
Many entrepreneurs think mission statements are only for big and mature companies.And this is exactly why we get it all wrong.
So, what is a Mission Statement, and why do you need one?
A mission statement explains to your customers “why” you exist and “how” you aim to serve those people who are important to your business.
In fact, research shows that companies with a good mission statement usually perform better than those without them.
For example, Amazon’s mission statement says that they want “to be Earth’s most customer-centric company, where customers can find and discover anything they might want to buy online.”
Today, Amazon is one of the world’s most successful companies, and its CEO Jeff Bezos is now the richest man in the world(as of December 2017).
This is a clear example of a company with a soul that is finding full expression.
Our mission at Smallstarter is “to provide aspiring and established entrepreneurs with a refreshing flow of information, inspiration, insight, tools and guidance they need to exploit business opportunities, make money, create jobs, and impact millions of lives in Africa.”
This is our soul and it guides every single decision we make about the website. It guides the type of articles we write. It guides the kind of entrepreneurs we feature. It guides how we relate with the world and express ourselves.
A business is really like a baby.
As a baby grows into maturity and adulthood, it develops its own uniqueness.
Every entrepreneur is a parent who is building a business that will likely grow from a baby into a mature and independent business.
Most of the successful businesses in the world today are not run by their founders – that is, the entrepreneurs who started them.
Google and Microsoft, for example, are doing extremely well even though they’re not run by their founders. A strong reason for this is that everyone in the company clearly knows what Google and Microsoft is about.
Both companies have an identity – a soul and DNA – that’s independent of their founders. That’s what a good mission statement seeks to achieve for a company. It defines the company’s purpose and how it expresses itself, regardless of who’s running the company.
A good mission statement also moves your business a step further from just hustling. It helps to introduce quality and clarity to the hustle.
A good mission statement helps a business find its soul. It takes your business on that journey of self-discovery where you are able to clearly define how you want the world to distinctively define your business.
The world should be able to link your business to a particular identity(DNA). You can guide the impression you create in the mind of your customers. And you do this by knowing and telling them your mission – what your business is about, who you are trying to serve, how you plan to serve them and doing just that.
Once you’ve defined your mission, your life gets easier.
Your mission guides every decision you take about your business from that point. And once at maturity, that unique identity makes the business separate from the owner and other similar businesses.
A major problem with African businesses is that the business doesn’t have a separate identity from the owner. As a result, once the owner is no more, the business dies a natural death.
Every business that has lasted for a century has a unique soul that clearly shows everyone what the business is about, and what the business does. This creates independence from the owner and lays the foundation for continuity in the business.
This is exactly how companies like The Coca-Cola Company and Guinness have survived for a century, and have outlived their founders.
So, how exactly do I craft a mission for my business?
Based on the examples and analogies I’ve given so far, I’m sure you are beginning to see how important it is to define your business’s soul or, better still, craft your business’s mission statement.
The next question on your mind is probably “How do I craft a good mission statement?”
I’ll answer this question in the subsequent paragraphs of this article.
The first important point to note is that the statement should be short.
It should express your business’s purpose in a way that inspires support and ongoing commitment to it. It must be concise and specific so your customers understand your purpose and how you provide value to them.
A great example of a mission statement is that of a company called Bizilla. Of all the different mission statements I read it resonated the most within me.
The company’s mission is “to help connect people who want to sell a business with people who want to buy a business.”
Can you see how well this mission statement sounds?
There isn’t anyone who’ll read this kind of statement and will be vague about what the company does, who their customers are, or how they serve their customers.
There are four important questions (though not exhaustive)that you will need to answer in order to craft a good mission statement.
The questions are:
“What do we do?”
“Who are our customers?”
“How do we plan to do what we do?”
“Why do we do what we do?”
Step 1: Describe what your company does, and keep it simple.
The first thing you need is to define what type of business your company is into. Do you provide services, manufacture your own products for sale, or just sell other people’s products?
Using the examples above, it’s clear that Bizilla’s business is about “connecting people who want to sell a business with people who want to buy one.”
What Amazon does is “sell goods to everyone.”
What Google does is to “organize and provide universally accessible information.”
What we do at Smallstarter is“provide information, inspiration, insight, tools and guidance.”
So, think of the unique service your company as a whole offers to the world and write it down in a language that is simple enough to understand.
Remember, it also has to be believable. If it’s not, there’s no pointing crafting a mission you don’t believe in. It just won’t stick.
The whole point of a mission statement is to define a purpose that your business is going to live by.
So, if I wanted to describe what my imaginary shoe company does, for example, I can start by writing that I want “to provide shoes.”
Keep it as simple as you possibly can.
Step 2: Define clearly who your customers are.
This is the point where you define who you are in business to serve.
Some businesses like Amazon provide services to everyone. Here at Smallstarter, we serve“aspiring and experienced entrepreneurs.”
At Bizilla, their customers are “those who want to buy businesses (buyers) and those who want to sell (brokers and sellers).”
Google’s customers are “everyone in the world” since their search engine seeks to provide universally accessible information.
Even if your mission statement does not directly state who your customers are, you should still be able to answer this question just by reading the statement. This would guide a lot of the efforts within the company to build the business.
So, let me try to tailor the mission statement for my imaginary shoe company. Let’s say I decide that women are my customers. I’ll continue by saying “To provide women’s shoes”.
Step 3: Define your uniqueness
This part is a little tricky because you are not necessarily looking for a detailed description of your business’s operations. Instead, you are looking to include a word or phrase that communicates the uniqueness of your business.
For most people this could mean including the unique value your business provides to the market. This often comes in the form of qualifying words or expressions like: excellence, quality, innovation, leadership, teamwork and integrity.
It’s very important to focus on what your business is really good at before you decide which value you include in your mission statement.
For example, Amazon believes the customer is more important than anyone else in its business, so they have reflected this in their mission statement.
That’s why Amazon’s mission statement contains the qualifier: “most customer-centric”
Here’s the full mission statement again: “to be Earth’s most customer-centric company, where customers can find and discover anything they might want to buy online.”
So, to Amazon, being customer-centric is what makes them unique. That’s why they want you to see it in their mission statement.
So, continuing with the mission statement for my imaginary shoe business, I’ll include my unique angle to it and edit it to read: “to provide quality and affordable women’s shoes.”
Step 4: Describe why your company does what it does.
This part of your mission statement reflects the passion behind your business.
It’s true that most people go into business initially just to make money. However, to create a legacy there must be a “why” behind your mission.
Why does your business do what it does?
In order to answer this question you might need to really think back on why you started your business in the first place.
Amazon’s “why” is to help customers “find and discover anything they might want to buy online.”
Google’s “why” is to make information “universally accessible and useful.”
Our “why” at Smallstarter is to help entrepreneurs “exploit business opportunities, make money, create jobs, and impact millions of lives in Africa.”
So, applying the same rule to my imaginary shoe business, I’ll reflect my “why” as follows:
“To provide quality and affordable women’s shoes so every woman can find a shoe she loves.”
There you have it, a full-proof process for crafting your mission statement!
The experience is beautiful and magical.
As you can see, when your mission statement is finally done, it creates beautiful magic. Nothing beats a business whose actions, thoughts and attitudes are focused on a single defined purpose.
I can’t say enough about the importance of a mission statement.
A mission helps to ensure that all the decisions you are making about your business is intentional, focused and leading to an end goal. Without it you are probably going around in circles.
A mission is a vital ingredient for the magic your business needs, no matter the size of your business – big or small. Unfortunately, most businesses hardly have one on paper.
Put in the effort to craft a good mission statement for your company today and you’ll improve your odds of success, and watch your company become your dream.
Another must read! Why Do Businesses Fail Even When Funded
Don’t craft your mission tomorrow, or next week, or next year.
You should have done it yesterday.
Yes, right now.
And yes, on paper!