Empty words - why Mission Statements are for business dinosaurs

September 17th, 2013

Mission Statements

When a business takes their pursuit of a Mission Statement seriously enough, it’ll often lead to something much more serious than just ‘the boss’ scratching his head late at night, trying to come up with some meaningful paragraphs that his staff can look to when they’re feeling lost, times are tough and their compasses need re-calibrating. After all, if a Mission Statement applies to everyone in the business, then surely creating a Mission Statement should also involve everyone in the business, right?

So it’s widely accepted that in order to create the perfect Mission Statement, a united effort is required, along with a solid investment of time. Not just any time, but quality time, away from the office. And that’s why staff retreats at inspiring locations are often chosen as the crucibles of creativity that help fire imaginations, get everyone together and boil everything down to one compelling page of words around which a whole business can work, grow and prosper.

‘Business is dynamic. Communication is the key to progress, not some unchanging slab of words on the wall.’

If you don’t mind me saying…what a load of horseshit all of this is!

They say there’s none so passionate as a reformed sinner, and I am one of those sinners. That’s right, some years ago I created a Mission Statement, and even had it up on the office wall for all to see…and possibly discreetly giggle at. Over time, my belief in its magical powers of inspiration was eroded to the point that, I’m embarrassed to say, I actually hung one of those silly ‘demotivational posters’ alongside it. At least the staff got a laugh from the demotivational poster, because let me assure you they got nothing at all from the Mission Statement taking up wall space alongside it.

In my humble opinion, Mission Statements are a bit like those big shoulder pads that trendy executives used to bulk out their business suits back in the 80’s. They’re a passing business fashion trend that achieves nothing at all, and just like suits with shoulder pads, the longer you insist in having them around, the sillier they look. Yet Mission Statements refuse to go away, and many small businesses grimly cling on to the belief that if they don’t have their Vision and their Mission carved in granite like some sort of corporate altar there on the wall to be worshipped at, their staff will lose their way, forget how to relate to clients, and possibly just blunder around, walking into walls.

I think Mission Statements fail on all sorts of levels. Here are just a few:

  • Staff don’t buy into them. Speak with your staff, engage them, compare notes and targets. Business is dynamic. Communication is the key to progress, not some unchanging slab of words.
  • Business, really, is mostly about common sense and hard work. The best businesses usually have a lively staff atmosphere and a down-to-earth feeling about them. The more grandiose the words in a Mission Statement, the less it sounds like the place you’re actually working at.
  • When you read most Mission Statements, staff are repeatedly called upon to exceed their client’s expectations three times over, then take their clients out to dinner, wash their car and buy them flowers. It can be genuinely demotivating to constantly try to measure up to a document that sets standards unrealistically high.

Now, on the positive side, Mission Statements are … no, actually I can’t think of anything good to say about them. In fact I have to say that I feel like the vast majority of small businesses would be far better off without them. Leave them where they belong – back in the past, or possibly hung on the walls of huge corporates such as Pomp, Ceremony, Irrelevance and Partners. You know, the sort of businesses where everyone is compelled to call everyone else ‘Sir’, and the same tea lady has been doing the rounds since 1939.

I’ve probably upset a few people with my opinions, but of course this blog is just that  – opinions. So if you have something to say in defense of Mission Statements, by all means join in right here and let’s get a conversation started. I’m always keen to hear what readers have to say, and under extreme duress I have even been known to admit to not being right 100 percent of the time.

In closing I’ll say this; grand gestures are all very well, but it’s important to remember the primary reasons we got into business in the first place. And if making a profit isn’t among those reasons – or isn’t mentioned in your mission statement – perhaps it’s time for a rethink! The right reasons to be in business are a mission unto themselves, but there’s no reason to frame them and hang them on the wall. That’s what art is for, surely?

If your business needs any help with working capital management via a business line of creditdebtor financing, or asset financing,  contact Earlypay’s helpful team today on 1300 760 205 or visit our sign-up form.

If you'd like to learn how Earlypay's Invoice Finance & Equipment Finance can help you boost your working capital to fund growth or keep on top of day-to-day operations of your business, contact Earlypay's helpful team today on 1300 760 205, visit our sign-up form or contact [email protected].