We’ve all worked for places that have mission statements.
Big, long statements that are developed by a committee seek to drive production while saying absolutely nothing.
That’s not what I’m talking about.
Something drove you to start your business, get your license, or go the direction you are going. What was that?
Do You Still Know What Your Purpose Is?
When the weight of the world falls on our shoulders or when we get so busy we can barely stand it, sometimes we lose that focus. We get buried in the minutia of the tasks and we forget how it all comes together again.
Paying the bills, handing out business cards, keeping up with licensure requirements, etc. those are important — but they are important because they enable you to do what you originally set out to do. Being aware of how everything flows back into your purpose keeps these tasks in perspective. It also makes it easier to see which tasks are necessary and which aren’t.
Nailing down your mission
Fill in the spaces: My name is ________, and I help ________ do _____________ by (or through) ____________________________________________________________________.
My name is Lora, and I help mental health professionals reach and keep clients by developing resources that inform and educate them.
Yours could be: My name is Tom, and I help addicts in recovery rebuild their lives through counseling and life skills.
Spreading out your purpose
If you’ve started your own business or head an organization, your mission continues to create a framework that guides you. Michael Gerber, the author of The E-Myth Revisited, uses a scenario in his book where he is coaching a woman named Sarah who runs a pie shop. Sarah has been doing it alone and is burned out. She’s lost her focus.
In his story, he leads her back to remember why she started the shop; the love she had baking with her aunt and how she wanted to share that joy and deliciousness with others. Then he shows her how to re-infuse that love throughout her business, letting her vision guide her.
Putting Out Fires
Whether you have a product or a service-based business, it gets very easy to fall into the habit of putting out fires. Plans get thrown aside in order to deal with the daily emergency. The thing that was due yesterday is much more urgent than the work that needs to be done by tomorrow, and there’s a whole pile of things waiting to be done in the next few days.
Putting out fires means that something is always urgent and needing your attention. It never seems to get easier. You never get ahead.
Discovering Your Mission and Letting it Shape What You Do
The first step to creating a clear path is to really nail down the Who, What, Why, When, and Where of your business, practice, or organization.
- Who are your clients?
- What do you offer them?
- Why do you want to do that?
- When do you offer this service or product? When do they need it?
- Where? In a clinic, private practice, online?
Take some time to really explore this. Get a clear idea of who your client is, first and foremost. Think of one person and make that person your avatar — your ideal client. Give that client a name.
Think about who they are, what their needs are, what kind of jobs do they do, what problems do they have? What brings that person to you?
Let your purpose inform your answers
Sarah’s purpose to give happiness and warmth to those who eat her pies should inform her location choice, her decor selections, her hiring choices, training methods, and how she markets her business. And if you keep your mission in mind, it will inform yours, too.
Just an example of what I mean by that:
- Location selection: If Sarah knows who her ideal customers are, she’s going to pick a location where they will be.
- Branding and marketing: What kind of advertising will reach her customers and make them want to try her pies? What message, graphics, etc. will convey the experience that she wants them to have?
- Decor: If Sarah wants to create an enjoyable experience, she’ll design an atmosphere they will enjoy.
- Hiring choices: Her job descriptions, interview questions, and then who she decides to hire will be based on whether she thinks they can share her goals. Also, even the positions Sarah decides to hire for will be those that will help her serve her customers best and will complement her strengths.
- Training methods: As Sarah defines the job roles and trains her employees, she will set up descriptions and procedures that ensure her customer’s needs are met. Her focus will flow through, and will also shape how she evaluates her employees.
Don’t Forget Yourself
Your client may not be the only reason you do what you do. Maybe you started your own practice or business so that you could be the boss or so that you could spend more time with the kids. Perhaps you want to travel more.
Those reasons should be determining factors as well.
For instance, I have a few personal reasons why I started my freelance work.
- We homeschool my daughter and she only has a couple of years left. She probably could handle her lessons herself, but I don’t want to miss that time. I love this age.
- I have mast cell activation disorder, and most of the time I do okay, but sometimes the energy drops right out. While being a therapist has always been my dream, there are days I wouldn’t be able to go to the office because of how I feel. That’s not fair to clients. Freelance work lets me work with my health issues, not against them.
- We want to pay off our debts, be able to travel, and enjoy this great world.
So not only am I focused on helping mental health professionals and other businesses serve their clients, I also shape my business to serve my needs as well. It’s a work in progress, but it is coming along.
Bringing it All Back
So when I say “what’s your mission?” I don’t mean “what pithy saying have you hung on your wall?”
I mean “What defines you? What drives you? What do you love?”
Make sure it contagious — make it flow through what you do, that your clients feel it and your employees share it.
In the next couple of posts, I will make it clearer how you do exactly that.
Why do you do what you do?
How do you keep from being overwhelmed?