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?

Undercover Boss; “must see TV”

I just finished watching an episode of Undercover Boss, a new series on CBS.  The premise is simple.  CEO’s go undercover to do the front line work of the companies they run.  The episode I just watched featured Dave Rife, the owner and CEO of White Castle.

Rife, and the other CEOs that have been featured learn very quickly that it ain’t as easy as it looks.  Leaving a trail of slider destruction in his wake, he (and the viewers) see that the job of making the little hamburgers requires a lot of hard work by a lot of people and that things don’t always go as planned.

Every episode that I’ve seen ends with the boss developing a whole new respect for the people who do the actual work.  I wish every CEO in America would watch this show and learn some valuable lessons.  But even if you only have employee, there are some good lessons to be learned.

The show airs on Sunday evenings on CBS and you can watch past episodes at the CBS web site.

New Year’s Resolutions-Better Late than Never

One of my resolutions for 2010 is to not procrastinate.  Sadly, just thirteen days into the new year I’ve already realized that this may be more of a challenge than I thought.  That having been said, I was catching up on my blog reading today and I came across a great post by Annita Brazzes on her On the Job blog called  Eat Your Salad First and Other Career Strategies

On the subject of New Year’s resolutions Anita offers this sound advice:

The key is not being too ambitious. After all, most people are doing more work than ever, and you don’t need to add to the pressure. Don’t make such sweeping plans that you would have to clone yourself a dozen times in order to accomplish a goal. At the same time, don’t try to tackle too many things at one time.

To get us off to a good start, she suggests these five tips:

  1. Get more organized.
  2. Improve skills.
  3. Network.
  4. Focus on quality.  (My favorite)
  5. Take the high road.

Take a few minutes to check out Anita’s blog and get the detail of the five suggestions.  Meanwhile, I think I’ll go have some lettuce and an Almond Joy.  Then I’ll get back to reading the 8.117 posts sitting in my blog reader.

Merry Christmas!

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happy holidays

season’s greetings

Merry Christmas!

Show Me Quality


Monday (December 7), the winners of the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award were announced. And the winners are:

Notice anything about the winners?  Let me help you out.  Three of the five winners were from the state of Missouri.  I don’t like to brag, but it is my blog so I’ll brag if I want to.  Quality improvement is running rampant here in the Heartland of America.

It’s the first time in the history of the award that three organizations from the same state have won in the same year.  The three awards tie Missouri with Texas (a slightly larger state) for the most award recipients.

All three Missouri Baldrige winners are past recipients of the Missouri Quality Award.  Did I mention that I’m an examiner for MQA?

Congratulations to all five winners!

The Baldrige is no beauty contest.  It takes a lot of hard work by a dedicated team and committed management to win the nation’s top quality award.  But the trophy is secondary to the impact that the Baldrige process has on an orgaznization.  There’s a lot of good information on improving your processes and results on the Baldrige web site, the MQA site, or on the site of your local award program.  If you have any questions, please leave a comment here or you can email me.

It’s All About the Mission

I spent the last two mornings helping set up for a charity auction.  The Poor Clare nuns hold an annual auction to help pay for the expansion of their monastery.  That’s right.  They’re actually expanding.  Reports of the demise of religious orders is greatly exaggerated.  Some orders are actually doing quite well.  But that’s a topic for another time and another place.

Here’s the thing.  There were more people helping over the last two days than there are nuns at the monastery.  How does this happen?  Why are so many people willing to give up their time to help out?

Obviously the volunteers support the nuns’ mission.  The Poor Clares are a Franciscan order and they have a lot of friends.  Their mission of peace resonates with people all around the world.  A lot of people are willing to give their time, their talent, and their treasure to support it.

So how’s this help you?  Unless you’re running a nonprofit, it’s not likely that people are going to work for you for free.  But how often have we seen friends and neighbors rally around a business that’s in trouble?  In times of disaster it happens.

On a day-to-day basis your employees and your customers will do what they can to support you, if they believe in your mission.  The question is:  Do you have a mission that people can support?  If you do, does everyone know what it is?

You may not be looking for volunteers, but you are looking for a staff that works hard and customers who are willing to patronize your business.  It all begins with a solid mission statement.

We’ll be talking more about mission statements soon.  For now, give this question some thought.  Why are you in business and why should I care?

Small Business Myths

[This post originally appeared at Mine Your Own Business on November 2, 2006.]

In this past Sunday’s (actually 10/29/06) Napa Valley Register, writer Beth Pratt exposes 8 myths about starting and running a small business.

1. Over 95% of small businesses fail. In the 1990s there was a report that said 95% of all new restaurants fail. Somehow, like the old “telephone” game, this statistic somehow got applied to all small businesses. According to the Small Business Administration 2/3 of new small businesses survive at least two years. Over 1/2 survive at least four.

2. The government will give you cash to start a business. The SBA will guarantee a loan, but the government isn’t in the business of making loans.

3. My favorite. Small business owners are rich and get to take it easy. No comment needed.

4. I’m a good cook so I should start a restaurant. Feel free to insert any specialty in place of the word “cook” and any type of business in place of “restaurant”. As we all know, there’s a big difference between doing any other type of work and running a business.

5. Failure is bad. Most successful business owners will tell you that they failed many times before they became successful.

6. Small business owners, with few employees, don’t really have to worry about federal and state labor laws. As you know, it just isn’t so. In fact, lacking human resource and legal departments, small business owners may have more to worry about than their larger counterparts. This is one you’d better take seriously.

7. You need a lot of money to start a business. It depends on the business, but getting the money is usually not an obstacle to getting started.

8. Money will fall out of the sky if you have a great idea. Money’s never easy to come by, but hard work and persistence are usually more important than the idea. Edison had lots of great ideas, but he had to work awfully hard to make any of them successful.

Telephone Etiquette

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What with high gas prices and time pressure, your customers and prospects are using the phone more than ever to get price and product information.  How you and your staff handle this important means of communication may well determine whether you ever get a chance at someone’s business.

Jeff Mowatt provides an interesting telephone test on the business know-how web site.  Questions include how long your phone rings before it’s answered, what you say when you answer it, and how you put a caller on hold, among others.

One point that’s very important is how you juggle a phone call and a customer who is actually in your store.  I recently waited several minutes, cash in hand to make a purchase while the person behind the counter looked things up for someone on the phone, never even making eye contact with me.  I eventually left and went to the competitor down the street.

You want to turn callers into customers, but you can’t ignore the people who have taken the time to make the trip to your store.  It’s a delicate balance, but one that can have a big impact on your business.

[This post originally appeared at Mine Your Own Business on October 2, 2006]

Small Business Bailout?

[picapp src=”0301/0000301345.jpg?adImageId=5829324&imageId=304673″ width=”234″ height=”156″ /]According to an article from Bloomberg.com, Senator Mark Warner (Dem-VA) is calling on the Obama administration to do more for small business. Warner believes that more of the $700 billion TARP funds should be used to give direct help to small business.

“The original notion of the TARP was, we were going to help Main Street by bailing out Wall Street,” Warner said in an interview. “We’ve seen Wall Street recover, but we have not seen Main Street reap the direct benefits.”

Hard to argue with that.  With the DOW topping 10,000 this week, maybe it’s time for Uncle Sam to step in and help businesses who actually create American jobs.

Read the full article here.

New Year’s Resolutions

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OK, I know it’s only October 14 and New Year’s resolutions are made at the beginning of the new year. But wouldn’t it be great if January 1 rolled around and you had a 78-day head start on self-improvement? Talk about hitting the ground running.

In this spirit I offer you a link to Brian Tracy’s post, “Unlocking Your Productivity.”  Back in my sales days I spent many an hour on the road listening to Tracy’s tapes.  I’ve always found his material to be not just positive, but actually useful in day-to-day life.  Don’t get me wrong.  We can all use a daily dose of positive motivation, but all the enthusiasm in the world is pretty useless if we don’t know what to do when we get out of bed in the morning.

Unlocking Your Productivity” is all about goal-setting.  There’s nothing new about goal-setting, but admit it, you’ve probably filled notebooks with goals and objectives (I know I have) and then stored them away never to be seen again.

We’re living in a unique time.  We face challenges personally and in business that we may never have seen before.  Following Tracy’s advice on setting goals and solving problems will help us survive and even thrive in this difficult economic climate.

The challenge is to get out yet another notebook and follow Tracy’s advice.  But this time, instead of filing our goals away for some future archeologist to find, how about keeping them on our desk, reviewing and tweaking them every day, and actually making something happen.

To sum it up, in the words of the famous shoe-maker,

Just do it!