Coincidentally this is my 300th blog post. Somehow I am subconsciously compelled to impart something remarkable. So I thought I would share some wisdom that I find compelling… I’ll leave it to you to determine what it is worth to you.

Mission Statements

This is a topic that generates a lot of confusion about the difference between mission, vision, values, goals, etc.

There are a lot of really bad ones out there too. Blah, blah, blah, value to shareholders, blah blah, customers are important, blah, blah, employees, blah, and ethics… blah.

Why This Is Important

I know a number of people who started businesses to make money, build a product, focus on technology or the product details and service a particular customer segment. At first it is really exciting. You are creating a business, creating a product/service and finding new customers.

Then after 3, 5 or 10 years you are doing pretty good (assuming you survived) but you are not very pumped about your business any more. In fact, I know a number of entrepreneurs who then start figuring out how to have the business run without them. Presumably this is so they can then focus on more meaningful things like giving back to humanity.

These are all variations on: “Someday” I will do what I really want”,  “I will work really hard for 3 years and then spend more time having fun”, “Start your business with an exit strategy”, “We are going to go IPO and then sell out”, etc.

Business is work. Fun is fun. Personal life is something you do when not working. Giving back is rewarding.

They are all kept separate.

The Mistake

From the perspective of privately held small and mid-sized businesses this is plain dumb.

You spent 40-50 hours a week working (minimum). Another 10 to 20 hours a week going to and from work. Maybe you travel. Maybe you think about your business when not working. You are spending the majority of your waking hours in some aspect of you business.

You (and maybe a few others) own it. You built it the way you did.

Why did you build it this way? Why don’t you change it?

The Lesson

Align your business’s mission around something that serves humanity AND resonates strongly within your heart.

In social web terms this is a Tweet. A short compelling Tweet that pumps you up.

In “Built to Last” and “Becoming a Category of One” they talk about mission statements that transcend current products and services and focus on timeless service to humanity. Some good examples:

  • Merck – To preserve and improve human life.
  • Walt Disney – To make people happy.
  • Mary Kay Cosmetics – To give unlimited opportunity to women.
  • Lenscrafters – We will be the best a helping the world to see better.

There is no right or wrong answer. The key is that is something beyond making money or your short-term product vision. Something that gives you “wow” and satisfies the the real you, not the one that someone else expects.

After all, your working time is not a separate part of your life… it is your life. You don’t need “balance” in your life if you build your business to serve your life.

Then align everything in your business with the core of your mission. Your values, culture, vision, goals, products, services, employees… everything.

Oh and by the way. If you decide later that it no longer resonates with you… change it. It is your business. You might not want to do it every day but don’t put up with a business that sucks the life out of you.

Your business is there to work for you. To give you the life you want and need.

Build yours the way you want (and enjoy the journey).