Why Does Your Company Exist?
Posted by Kevin Respress on Jul 25th, 2011
As Biblical Christians, we believe that “We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do”(Eph 2:10). We also view ourselves as stewards of the resources and opportunities He has entrusted to us. This helps us to see our firm and our own roles much differently and more expansively compared to most business leaders. If we personally believe that our purpose in this life is to honor, glorify, serve, and forever enjoy the Lord, how should this impact our mission?
Our company’s purpose or mission deals with much more than just making money or simply describing our products, services, and markets. ‘Boilerplate’ mission statements produced for external PR purposes that merely regurgitate a company’s business charter (i.e., specific markets and offerings) or make bold but empty performance promises (e.g., top-ranked, best, lowest, highest, etc.), don’t really persuade or lead anyone; internally or externally. Our purpose statement needs to capture the ‘soul’ of the firm by describing our overarching motivation for being in business beyond simply “making money.” We want the statement to be a helpful ‘invisible hand’ that represents the mind and heart of company leadership. Let’s think about the stated purpose of a few well-known companies:
- Disney: To make people happy
- 3M: To solve unsolved problems
- Wal-Mart: To give ordinary folks the chance to buy things that wealthy people buy
- Cargill: To improve the standard of living around the world
These statements are much more internally motivating and self-directing in driving both strategy and execution than a politically-correct statement such as, “To be the finest contractor, reliably complying with all project requirements in a win/win manner, while producing an excellent return to our owners.” How useful is this sweeping statement in shaping behavior and decision-making when compared to these famous expressions?:
- Ritz-Carlton Hotels: “We are Ladies and Gentlemen serving Ladies and Gentlemen.”
- Newport News Shipbuilding: “We Build Good Ships Here; at a Profit if We Can, at a Loss if We Must; but Always Good Ships”
- Nordstrom(their one-card ‘employee manual’): “Our number one goal is to provide outstanding customer service. Set both your personal and professional goals high. We have great confidence in your ability to achieve them. Use your best judgment in all situations. There will be no additional rules.”
Although the statements above provide clarity in the midst of swirling changes associated with growth, offerings, markets, technology, global competition, and economics, they’re still missing the clear sense of transcendent purpose that stirs Christian CEOs who embrace their higher calling through business. C12’s purpose statement is a constant reminder of the eternal purpose and God-given calling for which we exist and serve our members:
“To change the world by bringing forward the Kingdom of God in the marketplace through the companies and lives of those He calls to run businesses for Him.”
Ideally, our purpose or mission statement will have the following characteristics:
- Timeless: Able to weather changes in business circumstances by capturing enduring tenets and helping your team to ‘stay the course’ based on common core ideology.
- Inspirational: If it doesn’t inspire you and your key team, it won’t inspire others!
- Decision-making Tool: Useful as an arbiter or plumb-line for accountability and decision-making, an ever-present ‘invisible hand’ to guide all team members.
- Short & Concise: Must be brief to be memorable… ideally one carefully-crafted sentence (two at most). To aid recall, use ‘bullets,’ acronyms, or alliteration.
- Personal/Visceral: From the heart and reflective of your personal core values and commitment. Not generic, but distinctive to act as a ‘guiding star’ and excite our team toward unified action in all circumstances. Consider the U.S. Marine Corps motto: Semper Fidelis (Always Faithful).
- Sense of Ministry: Stirs our heart for the God’s main purpose in our life and work –lives turned toward Christ – capturing our eternal purpose and inspiring ministry.
So, how well does your current mission or purpose statement measure-up when evaluated against the above criteria?
As it currently sits Is your company’s purpose statement “close,” perhaps needing only a little fine-tuning. How about those with a mission statement that really needs a major overhaul? Finally, how many don’t have a mission statement or can’t remember it well enough to rate it?
If your purpose statement needs a little sharpening, it’s time to engage your team in clarifying your firm’s purpose. What are you waiting for?