Last month an article was written and widely circulated about a former employer of mine, the who is not important, what was important was the assertion that they lost their mojo because they shifted focus from being all about the “mission” to maximizing shareholder value. These types of articles always cause me to pause because the downward spiral of a business is not one decision, but a series of decisions. But, the fact remains when you stop delivering value to your customers; you are exponentially less likely to follow a growth trajectory.
Please do not read this to say shareholders and investors are NOT important. They are important. Very important. Without investors, it’s hard to make a product and bring it to market. Without shareholders, it is challenging to grow. But, in my experience, you maximize shareholder value by being monomaniacal about the mission of solving the customer’s problem. When you do that, people buy and they buy again and again and again.
The customer should always, always, ALWAYS be at the center of your business. And the mission is what supports the customer in the center. Having a mission means you care enough about the customer that you have built solutions and tools for them to make their lives better. When you have the customer at the center, it makes you listen to them because solving their problem and supporting the mission are one in the same. When you listen to the customer, you find new ways to innovate the product or service to be better at delivering on the mission. Without customers, you have no sales, without sales, you have no shareholders. It is a simple equation. The fact is; one begets the other.
About that Mission
Chances are, your brand has a mission statement. Which technically is different that being a mission-driven business. Either way, my question is: How are you living that mission? Does every decision you make as a brand support the mission? Do you sometimes make decisions that are easier but not aligned with the mission? Probably. And here is where I say: You must be monomaniacal about your mission. Making sure that everything you do and decide supports your mission is the only way to put the customer at the center. Being monomaniacal about the mission is about doing the things that may be hard or un-scalable at first to support the customer and the mission.
If it Doesn’t Support the Mission, it’s Crap
Our mission at SME Digital is to “Help marketers become business Rock Stars by proving marketing’s effectiveness.” We know that too much in our profession is not measured and we think that sucks. We believe that you must measure your efforts. And you should have a seat at the C-Suite table because you know what’s working and what’s not and are nimble enough to make a change in line that will support the mission that is measurable. So, when I write strategy, I am never pitching something that we cannot measure. Yes, there may be something that is bright and shiny in the marketplace, and we will try it with a client IF it is measurable. If it isn’t, we simply won’t do it and will recommend someone who will. At CredHive, it’s all about building world-class tools for talent to manage their career. If it isn’t contributing to talent having better tools to manage their career, we ain’t doing it.
In both instances, the client/customer is at the center of the business. They matter most. The mission is critical and if something comes up that is new and interesting as a company, we develop it to support the missions we have. If it doesn’t support the mission and the client/customer, it’s a non-starter.
With my rose-colored glasses on, these two examples are examples of small, lean companies who have the flexibility to keep the focus on the customer. Because, this is where things fall apart when businesses grow. We all start out from a place of solving a customer problem and as we grow, we lose focus on their problem and make it all about the brand. And that, my friends is the slippery slope of shifting from mission-driven to shareholder-driven. It is a path that is not sustainable and there are countless use cases to support this assertion. We can all name them. It’s important to be hungry enough to be focused on the customer. Try not to lose that. Stay with the mission, it pays off.