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Start-up Advice

Create a Winning Mission Statement

A good mission statement is a powerful marketing and management tool.

Bertie du Plessis

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Don’t underestimate the power of words in making your business work! Your mission statement can be one of the most powerful tools to market your business and keep your employees (and yourself) focused and motivated.

This is what David J Collis and Michael Rukstad said about mission statements in the Harvard Business Review of April 2008:  “The value of rhetoric should not be underestimated. A 35 word statement can have a substantial impact on a company’s success. Words do lead to action. Spending time to develop the few words that truly capture your strategy and that will energize and empower your people will raise the long-term financial performance of your organization.”

Unfortunately there are mission statements and then there are mission statements. The majority of them are appallingly bad.  We’ve all heard the smug declarations that “This company’s mission is maximising shareholder value.”  Uggghhh!

Of course companies must maximise shareholder value, but it is meaningless as a mission statement, unless of course you are an investment company!  It’s about as informative as saying “good morning” when you meet someone.

Surely what we as clients and your employees are interested in is “how?” And the “how” shouldn’t sound like a legal document, covering all bases. Coming to think of it, the expression “maximising shareholder value” is pompous. Why not simply: “We want to make money for our shareholders?”

Short, sweet, effective

Here is a (thankfully!) short version of the ‘maximising stakeholder variety of mission statements’: “The Company’s primary objective is to maximize long-term stockholder value, while adhering to the laws of the jurisdictions in which it operates and at all times observing the highest ethical standards.” Would you have guessed that ‘they’, Dean Foods Corporation, were a food and beverage company?

Compare those statements with Fortune 500 Company ADM whose business is agricultural products: “To unlock the potential of nature to improve the quality of life.”  Short, sweet, effective! Please, remember, you needn’t say it all in your mission statement.

There are other elements of your corporate profile, such as your slogan or strapline, your values and your vision statement that will tell the whole story. Keep every single element of your profile, such as the mission statement, focused and crisp.

The problem with all these “maximising shareholder value” mission statements is that they don’t sit well with clients. To the client it sounds too much like “we will fleece you to the last Rand.” Or: “Look at our smiling shareholders, how happy they are after we have squeezed the last drop of blood from you!”

The mission statement is your opportunity to explain to clients why your business exists at all. And no matter how important it is to make money for your shareholders, that is not the reason why your enterprise exists. Your enterprise exists because it addresses a need in the world out there.

Meeting clients halfway

Real people of flesh and blood need groceries. That’s why SPAR, Checkers and Pick n Pay exist. An enterprise’s reason for being is in the needs of their clients. Only by fulfilling clients’ needs efficiently and to their satisfaction can you make money for yourself and your shareholders. See?

So this is where you begin to craft your mission statement, by asking: “What needs do my enterprise fulfil?” What is our reason for being?  If I had to close my doors tomorrow, who else in the wide world out there would miss us and why?

Would anyone except employees and shareholders burst into tears if we had to cease to exist tomorrow? Your mission statement must tell your clients how you are going to help them.

The beauty of it is that your employees will also know what they are supposed to be doing and why they are doing it!

The perfect mission statement

In my consultancy I always use Winston Churchill’s statement to the British people after a disastrous start to World War II, as the ultimate mission statement:

“You ask, what is our policy? I will say: It is to wage war, by sea and land and air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us; to wage war against a monstrous tyranny never surpassed in the long and lamentable catalogue of human crime. That is our policy.”

Well, no doubt hey? No room for misunderstanding, everybody knows what’s to be done. You are in for a helluva fight; don’t even think of raising the white flag.

Now, not all of us live in such exciting times and with such a historical mission to accomplish. Most of our businesses won’t be defined by fighting for a cause. Don’t expect your corporate cleaning services business to have such an exciting, heroic tone to it. But you can be just as explicit, clear and convincing.

The following is a thankfully short, but inappropriate mission statement: Our goal is to be the leader in every market we serve, to the benefit of our customers and our shareholders.” The Dover Corporation is an equipment manufacturer.

What they have here is not a mission statement, but a strategic goal, to be the leader in every market. As a company you have more than enough room for telling all and sundry what your strategy is, but in the mission statement you must tell everybody what need in the real world out there you are addressing.

Let’s compare it to the mission statement I have helped to create for corporate cleanings services company, Libera: Our mission is to create hygienic, aesthetic, productive environments that comply with all regulations.”

This tells us that our premises will be both germ free and pleasing to the eye so that we can get your work done with a smile. Also, you won’t be surprised by the health inspectors, because all the paperwork will be in order.

You can imagine the presentation to a prospective client ticking these boxes one by one. You can imagine when walking the CEO through the premises pointing out why this spot is hygienically clean, not only appearing to be clean; pointing the finger to how esthetically pleasing that corner over there is, once a horrible eyesore.

Then indicating how productivity is enhanced in this clean and pleasing environment. Then, finally quickly running through the list of regulatory requirements and putting the CEO at ease that all has been taken care of. You can also imagine the supervisor doing inspection with the cleaners and asking:

“Here are the results of the tests, this is not hygienic. Look there, do you think the people who work here will want to face that every day? How are they going to work here, if we leave it like that?”

The mission statement must keep you and your employees focused on the reason why you are being paid by your clients. Good to remind shareholders too, where and how the money comes from. The mission statement must focus the clients’ attention on the reason why their cares have been relieved and why they can sit back, happy and content.

So, what’s my mission for my consulting business? “I help you to differentiate yourself from the opposition.” This is the main purpose of strategy and branding. Need I say more? Follow my advice, get a mission statement that reminds your clients how lucky they are to have you help them and you will be different from the herd in both in marketing and management!

Bertie du Plessis founded his successful consultancy firm, MindPilot, 17 years ago. He names several of South Africa’s blue chip corporations among his client list and has taught as a lecturer and guest lecturer in six different disciplines at tertiary institutions. His fin24.com blog is the most read business blog on the 24.com domain. Visit Bertie Du Plessis's website for more information.

Company Posts

3 Companies With Memorable Slogans, And How To Create Your Own

Three companies that have enjoyed these benefits as a result of creating memorable business slogans are Nike, Carlsberg, and Apple. Let’s look at each one now.

Jeff Broth

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A good slogan serves many valuable roles in business. First, it reinforces recognition of your brand. After hearing it a few times, your consumer instantly thinks of you when hearing it again. If it’s catchy enough, they may even find themselves saying or singing it in their head, reinforcing your brand even more.

Slogans also share a little bit about your company. For instance, if your slogan is funny, it says you have a sense of humor. If it contains your goal or mission, it tells the consumer what is important to you. Some slogans share the problems the company is trying to solve or the consumer its trying to help, making it easier to identify the target market.

Finally, a slogan sets you apart from your competitors. It differentiates you from all of the other companies who offer similar services to you. And if it’s memorable enough, it puts you ahead of them in your consumer’s minds.

Three companies that have enjoyed these benefits as a result of creating memorable business slogans are Nike, Carlsberg, and Apple. Let’s look at each one now.

Company #1: Nike – Just Do It

nike

Though many people use Nike’s ‘Just Do It’ slogan as a reminder that they can do amazing things if they just put their mind to it, its author, Dan Wieden, reports that this line actually has a grim beginning.

In fact, it was an idea he derived from a statement made by Gary Gilmore, a double murderer who, before being executed by a firing squad exclaimed, “Let’s do it!” Still, it has stuck in consumer’s minds and is undoubtedly one of the most memorable slogans of all time.

Related: Registering a Trademark

Company #2: Carlsberg – That Calls for a Carlsberg

Carlsberg

Initially, Carlsberg’s slogan was ‘probably the best beer in the world.’ Many consumers came to know and love this slogan; however, in 2011, the company rebranded and created a new slogan: ‘That Calls for a Carlsberg.” The goal of this new slogan, according to CEO Jorgen Buhl Rasmussen, was to encourage the consumer to do good things and then enjoy a Carlsberg after as a reward for a job well done. Both have stuck in the minds of consumers, albeit with some discrepancy as to which one is most preferred.

Company #3: Apple – Think Different

apple

Apple is a company known for thinking (and creating) outside the lines, so its ‘Think Different’ slogan fits it perfectly. According to Rob Siltanen, creative director and managing partner at the company that helped design this Apple pitch, though there are many accounts of how this slogan was created, its true inventor is Craig Tanimoto. Siltanen says that Tanimoto came up with the idea to use black and white photos of some of the most revolutionary people and events of all time and, atop each one, simply display the words ‘Think Different.’ Catchy, right?

Related: Smart Marketing Ideas For Small Businesses

How to Create Your Own Memorable Slogan

These are just three examples of how creating a memorable slogan can help your company get — and stay — in the minds of your consumer. So, how do you come up with this type of campaign?

One option is to get some of your company’s best talent together and see what slogans you can come up with. Have everyone submit one or two ideas and talk them out. See if any jump out at you and, if not, use them to inspire you to come up with even more possible ideas.

Another alternative is using a slogan generator. This enables you to come up with a simple, memorable slogan using keywords related to your brand. Just go through the list and of results and see which ones stand out. You could even pick your top two or three and let your social media followers vote as to which one you should select.

If you find yourself at a dead end and unable to come up with a memorable slogan, or if you lack the creativity or the time, you can also hire a marketing firm to help. Give them a little insight about your company and see what slogans they create. It may cost you some money to take this route but, as companies like Nike, Carlsberg, and Apple have taught us, a good slogan can really propel your brand.

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Start-up Advice

Dear Family And Friends Of Entrepreneurs…

Young entrepreneurs often struggle to establish their businesses as they are not getting the support they need. Sometimes it is not only the obvious support of financiers and supply change developers which is lacking –but also not having that critical “home-ground support” can negatively affect the success of your venture. How can family and friends support entrepreneurs?

Lusanele Mahlutshana

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Entering the market as a newbie entrepreneur is a brave step, and having your family and friends share in your vision for success is critical.  Once you have convinced them that being an entrepreneur is in fact “a real job” – one that requires a lot more sacrifices and hard work than a salaried worker – you can continue to encourage them to support your journey, to ultimately share in your success.

Get a job

In some communities, being an entrepreneur is not recognised as a profession. Therefore, those who pursue enterprise development are seen as irresponsible or lazy as it is not regarded as ‘real’ employment. Societal pressure to attain certain material possessions thus prevents them from pursuing their true passion.

This kind of resistance discourages a lot of entrepreneurs, making their pursuit for success even more difficult.

Related: How To Deal With Unsupportive Friends And Family

Finding out who your real friends are

Financial support is the most obvious support needed by entrepreneurs due to a lack of capital and start-up funding, as well as irregular payments and long periods of being cashless due to procurement holdups and fluctuation in the market for your product or service. Not everyone will stick with you in these times – and that’s OK. You may end up finding out who your real friends are, and these are the people who will give you emotional and social support to keep you focused and motivated.

“I know a guy….”

Another issue is friends and family looking for discounted prices as they know the owner. This means that they don’t see the value of the product or service, nor do they respect the owner. By asking for products and services for free, or at a reduced price, they end up taking advantage of their relationship with the entrepreneur and do not financially support his/her the business.

Related: How To Immigrate With Your Family By Starting A Business In The UK

So, if you have friends or family who are business owners, set an example by supporting them in the following ways:

  • Be willing to pay the full price of the product or service offered.
  • Be kind when giving negative feedback – make sure it is constructive.
  • Compliment them on good products or service. Share positive reviews on your social media pages.
  • Share and promote their business among other people.
  • Be patient and willing to help them establish their businesses.

Be prepared to listen to their dreams, hopes and frustrations. Sometimes, they just need an ear to vent about a bad day. Support them with a word of encouragement to keep going.

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Start-up Advice

Why Embrace The Struggle?

Entrepreneurial success hinges on your ability to approach challenges with the right mindset.

Gil Sperling

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Self-help and business coaching advice is littered with platitudes, which makes it difficult for entrepreneurs to know what they should take to heart. However, one universal truism that most successful entrepreneurs attribute to their success is their willingness and ability to endure the struggle.

It’s a lesson I learnt first-hand when building our ad-tech and Facebook Marketing Partner business, Popimedia. One of our sternest tests came when we moved into new premises and took on more staff to accommodate our exponential growth. Then, amid new and significant financial commitments, some of our pipeline never materialised.

It was at this time that my son was born, and our family had just moved into a new house. To preserve the business, we were forced into retrenchments and directors didn’t take a salary for a while. And, with a lower head count it became difficult to deliver on client deadlines. Needless to say, my personal and professional level of discomfort was at an all-time high.

We reviewed our operations and streamlined where we could. More importantly, though, the experience taught us a number of invaluable lessons.

Lesson #1: Reframe your context

Our leadership approach, our business mindset and our attitude needed to be drastically reframed.

There is a quote that has always stuck with me, which is: “The antithesis of comfort is struggle.”

Related: 6 Of The Most Profitable Small Businesses In South Africa

I believe a person is moulded by the way they deal with struggle. That’s why I’ve always been inclined to welcome a proverbial punch to the face, and use as a mantra the phrase, “comfortable being uncomfortable”.

Being “uncomfortable” forced Popimedia into rapid innovation – and it was this innovation that led to a sea-change in the business. We learned how to scale, how to improve service levels, how to do what we do better, faster, more efficiently.

As a result, and without increasing our staff complement, our year-on-year growth has topped 100%. What was, at the time, the business’s greatest challenge became its greatest ally, and our biggest lesson.

Lesson #2: Fail fast, and learn from it

Obviously, this approach is not about making life difficult for the sake of personal and professional growth. It’s about understanding what is: expecting it to be difficult and taking a constructive approach towards failure and struggle.

There is one guarantee in business: you will experience failures, and you will struggle.

Central to this is your ability to recognise your failures for what they are, and quickly. This allows for a rejigging of processes, attitudes, operations, and sometimes even objectives.

My personal attitude to failure was reframed by simple sales stats. I came to understand that rejection was inevitable – but when it does happen, it brings with it opportunities. I always ask: “Why don’t you want my product? How is it not meeting your needs?” This way, “failure” is transformed into an opportunity to better understand the market and my clients.

This feedback loop has proved crucial, and allowed us to become what we are.

As an entrepreneur, the pressure never ends and you’ll never ‘arrive’. At Popimedia, we’ve come to embrace every opportunity that takes us out of our comfort zone. Working through failure is the foundation on which the entrepreneurial spirit is forged. It is the willingness to try again following a rejection, or to keep grafting knowing that there’s no guarantee of a pay cheque at the end of the month.

And doing so with the ‘chutzpah’ – the sheer audacity – to endure the hardship through mental toughness and a passion for what you do, becomes your greatest asset, because when you get comfortable, you become complacent… and complacency will work you into irrelevance.

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