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There’s a widely used acronym that you may have heard of: KISS — keep it simple, stupid. But it’s an old saying, and it needs updating. How about, “Keep it simple, smarty”? Simple is the new smart, and it is, in fact, exactly what most people need to focus on when starting a business.
Let’s talk about some key ways you can set up your ageless startup’s mission, values and goals in a way that provides simplicity and clarity for both you and your customers.
Determine Your Mission
At the heart of every new enterprise is the organization’s mission. A mission statement is a short, succinct statement about how you’ll position your organization to interact with the world. What is your business purpose, its meaning and the basis of how you want your new enterprise to serve the field in which it operates?
A mission statement isn’t just an outwardly focused marketing statement, though it is that to some degree. A mission statement is also a very important internal tool for running your business. When you come to a fork in the road, such as deciding whether to take on a new customer or provide a service to another company (for the money or for its relevance to your mission statement), you have the guidance in hand to make that decision. You’ve put up the guard rails to help your future self live up to the potential of the opportunity. You know what your mission is, so you can create partnerships that reflect your values.
A mission statement should motivate you, inspire you and be your key tool for presenting your opportunity to the world. Large businesses often write mission statements to please a wide range of stakeholders and end up pleasing no one. Because you’re an artisan entrepreneur focused on niche markets, you can hone your words to speak to specific problems that inspire action in your own heart and mind and in the responses from customers you want to serve.
A mission statement should specifically cite the purpose of the organization, however inelegant and confusing it might be to others not in your target market. For instance, most people would not care about or even understand the mission statement I use for my current startup. It leaves out almost everyone. My current mission statement is, “I want to make this region the artisan food manufacturing capital of North America.” The people who matter to this project will know exactly what the goal of my current work is and appreciate its importance.
Lastly, it’s important to remember that mission statements aren’t written in stone. Adapt them carefully as your circumstances and markets change. Your mission statement will be your guiding star as you sail into the future. Choose it carefully and rely on it.
Identify Your Values
The new best practice in business is to emphasize your personal goals, values and ambitions for changing the world in your business plans. By doing so, you’ll attract the customers you need and send those with discordant value systems off to where they belong.
These are the values you need to use to steer your enterprise. Keep these simple. Be direct. Don’t use extra words. The values you build into your new enterprise are values you must live by yourself. A sample values statement might be, “We’ll treat every customer as though they’re our family, with respect and understanding.”
Keeping your value statement simple and direct also allows you to be true to yourself and true to your business mission. You’re working to share the values you’re passionate about. Be clear, and keep it simple. The purpose of a values statement isn’t to impress. It’s to educate people about what’s important to you and your business.
Think about what makes you angry with business practices you encounter. What frustrates you about the way people are dealing with subjects you care deeply about? How would you approach the issue differently? Business practices are driven by the value systems behind them. Let this guide you.
Set Your Goals
With your mission and values in place, you can establish goals for the journey. How will you combine your passion, mission statement and values statement to get the results you want? You establish metrics you can measure. What steps can you put in place to meet your mission and the values behind it?
Following KISS principles, you’ll want to identify realistic goals that have meaning and consequence. As solo entrepreneurs, we need to include goals that benefit ourselves and our businesses. Your business goals should be simple, clear, and transparent. Your KISS approach calls for answers that are easy to understand for all who see them. A KISS version of business goals might look like these:
- We will grow and maintain a sustainable, profitable organization.
- We will add one new client per month for the next 12 months.
- We will answer all new inquiries within 24 hours.
Goals help you complete your mission and put your values into action. Goals make your new enterprise work. What problems lay in the way of completing your mission and the values that drive it? How would you get around those obstacles? How could you create a better system that would avoid or solve those problems? Those are your goals.
How do you know which goals will be most effective to help you carry out your mission? Reverse the design of your products and services. Reverse the design of your enterprise. For the specific problem at hand, start with your answer.
Build your goals with this result in mind. How have you made the solution simpler? How have you made the process easier? If you want sustainable work, think simple.
Mission statements, values statements and goals should be written in service of honoring your passion. Get that right, and you’ve got a high-value ageless startup.