When it comes to insightful conversations on the necessity of a mission statement, it’s hard to beat the one had by Alice and the Cheshire Cat. As Alice was struggling to find her way through Wonderland, she happened upon the flickering feline and asked where she should go.
“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?’
‘That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,’ said the Cat.
‘I don’t much care where -‘ said Alice.
‘Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,’ said the Cat.
Purpose and direction are crucial to the success of a business for many reasons. Not only does having a clear directive for your business give you guidance in the decisions that you need to tackle on a daily basis, but it is also crucial in communicating the core principles of your business to your clients and prospects.
In competitive marketplaces, like the financial advisor arena, a clear direction is not just an essential tool for operating your business, it is also the critical point of differentiation that prospective clients will consider when deciding whether or not to engage your services. The vehicle that conveys this direction is your business’ mission statement. But how does one create a mission statement?
In his 2015 book, Start With Why, Simon Sinek answers this question by subverting the typical sequence of inquiry. Instead of defining ‘what’ it is you do, the key, Sinek postulates, is first to answer ‘why’ you do what you do.
By following this sequence, you can define three separate elements of your brand direction all of which can then be combined into a cohesive mission statement that will provide you with clear direction as well as communicate your core principles to interested parties like your current clientele and the prospects who are considering engaging your services.
Define Your Brand Values by Asking Why
Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos once said:
“Your personal core values define who you are and a company’s core values ultimately define the company’s character and brand. For individuals, character is destiny. For company’s culture is destiny.”
Why do you do what you do? The answer to this question is the key to your mission statement. If you don’t understand what the driving force behind your business is, you can not expect anyone else to. The reasons behind your actions should reflect what is most important to you.
These priorities are your “core values.” Not only are they important for your understanding of the direction and purpose of your business, but they are incredibly powerful signals to others that your goals align with theirs.
To help determine your core values, personal and business development coach Scott Jeffrey suggests examining three elements of your business:
- Peak Experiences – When are times you experienced success and fulfillment? What values were you honoring in those instances?
- Suppressed Values – Consider times when you felt angry, frustrated or stifled. What were the values that were not fulfilled in these instances?
- Code of Conduct – What are the values that guide your decisions day to day?
By merely identifying your core values you are well on your way to defining the character of your company. To successfully capture your values in a mission statement however you will need to understand a few more aspects of your business.
Define Your Unique Value Proposition by Asking How
In their book Blue Ocean Strategy, W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne define the process by which a company can identify its unique value proposition.
“We call it value innovation because instead of focusing on beating the competition, you focus on making the competition irrelevant by creating a leap in value for buyers and your company, thereby opening up new and uncontested market space.”
When you begin to investigate the “how” of your organization, you will start to see exactly what it is that makes you unique. By focusing on the elements of the process you follow to achieve your core values, you will begin to understand your own unique position in the market.
Three areas of your business to consider when defining your unique value proposition are:
- Where you resonate – What are the elements of your process for which clients have expressed appreciation?
- Where do you differentiate? – What are the elements of your expertise that put you in a class of your own?
- How can you substantiate your claims? – What are your successes that have validated your unique value?
By exploring the aspects of your process that put you in your own “blue ocean,” you will define a crucial part of your mission statement.
Define Your Features and Benefits by Asking What
In their book Guerilla Marketing in 30 Days, authors Jay Conrad Levinson and Al Lautenslager define the difference between features and benefits:
“A feature is a factual statement about a product or service. Factual statements aren’t why customers buy; benefits are… Benefits sell. Benefits clearly answer the customer questions “What’s in it for me?” or “What results will I get that will improve my current situation?” or “Will it make me healthier, wealthier or wiser?”
One of the best examples of the difference between features happened when Apple released the first iteration of the iPod. They were faced with the challenge of educating the populace about a product that was unrivaled to that point in music listening technology.
The main feature of the iPod was that it had a Gigabyte of storage. At the time, however, a gigabyte was not a measurement of storage that very many people were familiar with. So as a way to illustrate the benefit, the iPod would provide to users they began saying it was like having 1000 songs in your pocket. Feature vs. benefit, that simple.
When you focus on the ‘what’ of what you do, you are focusing on the features and benefits. It is easy to get wrapped up in the technical features of your offering. Remember to map each aspect of your service offering with a real need or pain that your clients have and illustrate that by focusing on the benefits you provide.
Combine Why How and What to Create a Mission Statement
“Your mission statement becomes your constitution, the solid expression of your vision and values. It becomes the criterion by which you measure everything else in your life.”
After you define the ‘Why, How and What’ of your service offering, you are ready to combine them into a mission statement. While there is no one right way to construct a mission statement, a good template to use to ideate your final statement is:
For the client who is looking for (your core value) my company provides (unique value proposition) by delivering (features and benefits).
If you spend the time and effort to ask yourself these three questions and find the answers that ring true with the spirit of your advisory you will be in a good position to create a meaningful and potent mission statement which you can use to find your way because it really does matter which way you go. But first, you must define where you want to get to.
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