Ain’t Technology Grand?

My friend Steve, visiting Taiwan on business, posted this picture on facebook of a Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse.  It’s been a long time since I’ve been over there, but even back in the ’90s, American businesses were all over the island.  Even so, traveling to Taiwan and China was about as lonely an experience as you could imagine.

It’s not that the people weren’t friendly, not at all.  The Chinese are very friendly, hospitable people.  But it’s their home, not mine, and it’s normal to crave contact with your loved ones.  But in those days, phone calls were very expensive and we were allowed to expense only one call home per week.  Besides, there’s a twelve hour time difference between there and here.  I don’t know about you, but when I’m away from home I’m always wondering what Jan and the kids are doing.  When you’re in the Far East the answer is almost always the same.  They’re in bed.

The time change is still the same.  As I write this it’s 10:30 in the morning in Saint Louis and it’s 11:30 at night in Taipei.

But, thanks to the Internet, the communications gap is gone.  Facebook, Twitter, even video chat make instant communications possible.  A person in Taiwan can actually see live images of family and friends for just the cost of an Internet connection.  No time limits.  No bad connections.  Just instant communications.

There are a lot of things wrong with the Internet, but when it comes to staying in contact with family, friends, and business associates, there’s nothing like it.

 

Missions and Mission Statements

OK, I admit I’m the Prince of Procrastination.  I know I’ve been very lax in posting to Mining the Store, but I had no idea it had been FIVE MONTHS since I posted last.  Mea culpa!  Mea Culpa!  I guess I’d better start with a short explanation before I get into what I really want to tell you today.  Here goes.

I’ve been busy.  Several personal setbacks this summer and some other projects have used up a lot of my time.  But the big thing is that I’ve been focusing on my ministry.  In fact, I wasn’t sure if I was even going to continue MTS.  But two weeks ago I was on retreat at the Trappist Abbey in Kentucky and it occurred to me that the two aren’t mutually exclusive at all.  I had this insight while I was listening to an audio program by Matthew Kelly, a well-known Catholic speaker.  His words actually led me to what I’m going to say today.

To quote Matthew (Kelly, not the Apostle) every successful relationship must be built around a common purpose.  That’s why so many marriages fail around the twentieth year or so.  The couple’s common purpose was raising children.  The children are all grown up and they suddenly realize that they have nothing in common.  They don’t really even know one another.

To put this into a business perspective, every successful business must also have a common purpose, a mission.  Your business has a mission.  The question to ask yourself is what is your mission and is it something your employees, and even your customers can rally around?

Let’s say your mission is to sell more widgets than anyone else in town at the highest price possible.  Don’t laugh.  It’s not that uncommon a mission.  Is this something that your employees and your customers can embrace?  Will your staff come to work each day excited to sell the most widgets possible at the highest price the market will bear?  What about your customers?  Will they be excited by your plan to enrich yourself by squeezing every last dollar out of them?  I think you know the answer.

Let’s try a little more benevolent approach.  Let’s say you’re your a vacuum cleaner dealer, something I know a little bit about.  Your mission is to provide your customers with the cleanest possible living environment by offering them the finest cleaning products on the planet at affordable prices.  Much better, don’t you think?

But how do you let your stake holders (staff, vendors, customers, family) know that’s your mission.  Easy!  It’s called a “mission statement”.  But hold on.  What we said above is a little too long.  A mission statement has to be short enough that your people know it by heart.  It has to be something that they think about every time they do something.  They, and you, should constantly be asking “what’s the one thing I can do right now to advance the mission?”

In spite of their recent problems, Ford has a great mission statement.  “Quality is Job 1″.  Even better, it can be represented by a simple :Q1”.  Awesome.  Here in Saint Louis, a local company called Fabick has their mission statement posted prominently on their headquarters building:  “To ever serve our customers better.”  Brilliant!

So let’s get back to your mission.  You might go with “clean homes for more customers” or even “healthier homes for more customers.”  You get the idea.  Short and sweet so everybody can remember it.  Positive in nature so you can share it with your customers.

One company I know has a very long mission statement, much too long for anyone to commit to memory, but it begins “To profitably grow our business…..”  Can you see where your customers might not appreciate such a statement, especially on their invoices.  But, I digress.

The point of all this is very simple.  Your successful relationship with your stakeholders is built on a common purpose, or a mission.  Everyone has to know it, get behind it, and use it as a yardstick to measure everything they do every day.  Your GOAL may be to profitably grow your business.  But that’s not a mission.  Not yours or anyone else’.  It’s a rare situation where other people’s goal is to make YOU more money.

Next time:  Customer Care or Customer Service?