Who are you?

It’s a question we get asked in one way or another throughout our lives.  Perhaps the only one we get asked more often is “How are you?”  (We’ll get to that one later.)

So…who are you?  If you asked me that when I was a teenager, I would have had a different answer depending on the week or on who was asking.  When my kids were young, I truly could only answer that I was their mom.  That was the only clear identifier I had in the midst of the sheer chaos and adventure that is part of raising kids.  My answer now ranges from “I’m a strategic business developer” to “I’m an entrepreneur” to “I’m a member of the board”.  But no matter which answer I give, it carries with it a very specific picture for whoever asked the question.  It defines who I am for them and suggests what kind of relationship we will likely have.

A Mission Statement is simply an answer to that same question.

“Who Are YOU?”  It defines your organization to the person asking the question.  So why are so many Mission Statements impossibly worded and so completely boring that we tune out before we actually get the answer to our question?  How do you write a Mission Statement that works?

At Strategic Dynamics, we’ve helped hundreds of people answer the question “Who Are You” for their organization.

We start with three simple questions:

What do you offer?  To whom? In what way that is unique?  Answer these three questions and then write 2 simple sentences that incorporate your answers.  The next time someone asks who you are, or what your business is, or what your organization does, try out those sentences.  If they still don’t get it, go back to the three questions and figure out what part wasn’t clear.  If you have employees or board members, try it out on them.  Have them try it out on their friends and family.  As soon as you find the sentences that get a clear ‘aha’ from the questioner…that’s it.

That’s your Mission Statement.  At that point, put it up on the wall, add it to your annual report, put it on your website, and make sure all your employees are really clear about it.

And now the fun part starts.  There is a kind of magic that comes with knowing very clearly who you are, of defining what you offer, to whom, and in what unique way.

First, Increased focus

Combined with your Vision Statement, your Mission Statement provides a clear roadmap to what kinds of actions, activities, and projects you’re going to do.  Any activity or expense that’s up for consideration should be able to clearly define how it will move you closer to your Vision and fit within the Mission Statement.  This sounds deceptively simple.  In reality, it’s an amazingly effective tool because it lets you clearly say NO. Ask any two-year old how immensely powerful that word is. We are constantly bombarded with opinions and opportunities about the next best thing, the new marketing strategy you have to use, or the new available funding.  This is your first defense to screen out anything that doesn’t fit so that you have energy, time, and money available for the things that do.  When you’re focussed with a clear, simple Mission Statement…magic happens.

Second, More people come to you

Remember how I said to put this on your wall, your website, and your annual report?  That’s just the start.  Your Mission Statement is a powerful component of your marketing strategy.  Whether you’re a business or a not-for-profit, you need to do some sort of marketing to make sure people know why they might want to buy something from you or use your services. They have to know you exist and they have to know the answer to the simple question –  who are you?