Starting a business starts with your mission statement

About two weeks ago, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg made an announcement that made headlines for only one or two news cycles, but was extremely important. He changed Facebook’s mission statement.
Anyone who has read John Kotter will immediately know the impact this can have on an organization and its customers. Mission statements are at the core of organizations. They are the center pins of the flywheels. They are baked into everything from revenue models to job descriptions.
So if a company with a market cap north of $400B and an audience of 2b changes the mission statement, people ought to take notice. Especially if you’re trying to make money for your own business from it.
Let’s zoom out for perspective for a moment. Let’s say you’re an auto manufacturer. What’s your mission statement? “We make cars.” Ok – but so does Ford, Toyota, Mercedes, Ferrari, and Saab (or did, in that case). And if you try to build work processes and make hires for people to just ‘make cars,’ you will eventually end up with something that Kotter refers to as “a list of confusing and incompatible projects that can take the organization in the wrong direction or nowhere at all.”
What if your mission is to build the ultimate driving machine? Well, whether you were building an X-series SUV or an M-series monster, the expectations are still consistent. It’s supposed to be the ultimate version of whatever you build. That dictates where you’re willing to spend money and where you aren’t, what you will focus on and what you won’t, and what you incentivize and what you don’t. It’s the difference between offering a bonus for a #1 award versus getting a certain number of cars off the line.
The mission statement – pardon the lengthy metaphor – is the engine of the car.
So if you’re Facebook, and you change your mission statement from ‘Making the world be more open and connected’ to ‘Giving people the power to build community to bring the world closer together,’ then you’re taking out an old engine and replacing it with a new one. When you have two billion people at your fingertips, that’s not a slight tweak of an algorithm.
That’s designed to fundamentally change the way people consume the product. So if your business has an audience on Facebook, it would be in your best interest to start building a community of customers around your products. The platform will try to push people toward those behaviors anyway. It’s better to be on the front edge of that so someone else doesn’t steal your community.
But on a day-to-day, your own mission statement will make or break you. Let’s say you’re a local restaurant just getting started. What’s your mission? To serve food? To make money? To provide the best customer experience? To make a better burger than the other guys? To offer the quickest breakfast? To be a social hangout? To be the premier spot for sushi in the area? Depending on how you answer could change your menu, who you hire, your hours, your location, and even the design of your place.
Don’t take your mission statement lightly. You should live it. Breathe it. Say it 10 times a day. And most importantly, you want your employees to internalize it and believe in it with you.
Just not in a “You need more flair!” type of way, but in a “Don’t be evil” type of way.

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