"The most important thing in business – indeed in life – is to understand your purpose."
So said our first business coach, who urged me and my fellow founder, Robert Hadded, to document our business ‘purpose’ for The Practice – also called a mission statement.
Now for two 24-year-old upstarts in their first year in business, it would have been easy to dismiss this as fluff. But we had our eyes on a bigger prize – building a business that transcended the two founders. We wanted a business that our team could drive, and we wanted to attract fantastic clients that we loved working with. So we could see the far-off benefits of articulating our purpose.
Our coach told us the best way to develop our mission statement – in fact, to conduct any meaningful strategic activity – was to get away from the business and go offsite for a few days. We figured why not do it in style? So like half of Melbourne, we flew north for the winter and went to Port Douglas.
Our family and friends thought we were crazy. We’d just been operating for 12 months, we only had a handful of clients, and were drawing the princely sum of $100 each a month. Who did we think we were, going to Port Douglas? It was a fair point – we barely had two coins to rub together. But we had a dream… and we knew we needed to articulate that dream into a mission statement and a business plan.
Because for us, business ownership was about 3 things:
- being the boss (let’s be honest);
- making good coin – otherwise what’s the point, right? – so our business plan had to focus on profitability; and
- enjoying a flexible lifestyle (this is the toughest to get right, as it’s hard to let go of your baby and have others run it… but if we ever wanted to sell our business one day – which we knew we did – it needed to operate without us).
Our mission statement has stayed the same since that first strategic planning weekend:
To help our clients achieve their business and personal goals through proactive service and ongoing advice.
I don’t exaggerate when I say that creating our mission statement was the single most important action we’ve taken as business owners. It’s been critical to our growth and development, and kept us on track when things (inevitably) have gotten rough. Importantly, it’s also signalled – loud and clear – what clients can expect from us, and what we expect from our team members.
Not bad for 16 little words huh?