Most business professionals have gone through the exercise of developing mission and vision statements. For some, it’s a rewarding and purposeful experience. Others find it tedious and of little value. Personally, I think they can bring direction and clarity to an organization, but we must not stop with just Mission and Vision. If you’re an entrepreneur, there’s a very key piece of this equation missing.
It’s great to establish what the world will be like as the result of your efforts, and what you set out do better than anyone else to construct that reality. However, your mission and vision are not why you got into business in the first place. When you first started your business, you were likely occupied by dreams of financial freedom and driven by that elusive ‘setting my own schedule’ musing.
Then, your business starts to get some traction and those dreams quickly get replaced with a harsh reality: you’ve become a slave to the very thing you created to give you freedom. I get it. I’ve lived it.
If ‘being your own boss’ has evolved into ‘being your own facilities manager, marketing manager, electrician, strategist, CSR, recruiter, bookkeeper, IT consultant, collections agent, janitor, and therapist’, then I’m willing to bet you may have lost sight of the true purpose of being an entrepreneur. And that is exactly the third piece of the puzzle: mission, vision, purpose.
I use ‘purpose’ here, different than your cause, core values or, if you’re familiar with the work of author Simon Sinek, your ‘why.’ I’m using it in the more linear, mechanical context.
A purpose statement – sometimes called your entrepreneurial objective – frames what the business needs to do for you, as the key stakeholder behind it. It won’t be a customer-facing statement, and will be shared with your team only in a pared-down state, but it’s critical that you take the time to document this, and revisit it regularly.
Think of it as setting key performance indicators (KPIs) for your business to deliver back to you as the majority shareholder. One of the best perks of being an entrepreneur is that you get to pick what these targets look like. As with any KPI, keep them measurable in real-time and use these benchmarks to gauge whether your business is holding up its end of the bargain.
In addition to the financial targets you set, it’s key to also include some measurable work-life balance metrics. How the business will support your personal core values, hours of your time the business should require per week and the number of weeks of vacation you desire to take each year are a great place to start. Ideally, you’re looking for 6-12 bullet points to comprise your purpose statement.
Entrepreneurs sometimes struggle with this. All too often we feel as though we need to be the first one in and last one to go home, if our team is to look up to us as an effective and motivating leader. The reality is, if your team would not want the lifestyle you’re currently leading, then you’re not truly an inspiring leader. It’s considerably more effective leadership when you have some clearly defined rules of engagement.
This is also a great exercise if there are multiple partners in the business. Individual purpose statements will quickly illustrate whether you are in alignment for anticipated hours to be invested and expected returns.
The final, and perhaps most important step to crafting a purpose statement is to distill it down to key metrics you can share with your team. If they are to be an effective support system and contribute to the growth of the business, it’s critical they have a clear understanding of what you expect from the business in return for starting and backing it.
Once your team understands your priorities and the lifestyle you aim to lead, it takes the pressure off from being the workaholic martyr and instead, gives you permission to balance your work with your life. With a snapshot of what that balance looks like – whether it’s lunch hour workouts, philanthropic endeavours, or Friday afternoons with your kids – your team will help you hold those KPI’s sacred.
Gavin Harrison is co-founder and lead strategist at Compello and the creator of ATLAS™: The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Transformative Strategic Planning. firstname.lastname@example.org