I know it sounds stupid, but let me ask a simply question...

Why Does Your New Company Exist?

Congratulations! You're an entrepreneur! You've made the move. Taken the step. Formed your own company. You've created a business plan, cleared everything with the attorneys and accountants, signed the lease, designed the logo, and even plugged in the coffee pot!

I know you're excited, and eager to get on with it, but so is every other entrepreneur...particularly your competitors. And as we all know, the mortality rate of startup companies is astronomically high.

So take a deep breath...pause...even if it means your competitors get a step or two ahead for just a moment! Before you go any further, let me ask a deceptively simple question...

What is the mission of your new company?

Quick, what's your answer?

Did you answer, "To make money"? That's exactly what many...maybe most... entrepreneurs would say. And certainly creating wealth was probably a key reason you took the leap. But maybe that's exactly the reason why so many startups fail!

Here's a simple...but well-kept...secret that can save you a lot of grief as you grow your business: "making money" is not the mission of any organization...with the possible exception of the Federal Bureau of Engraving and Printing...and even that's doubtful! Money is an outcome of being a mission...it is not the mission.

So if making money is not the mission of your company, what is?

The secret is in the true nature of a "mission." A company's Mission is the single, core, solitary reason the company exists. It's best expressed in a very few words... 2, 3, 4 or 5...10 at the most. Your Mission is the specific purpose of your company. Its reason to be. Mission is not something the organization is going "toward" or going "to do." That would be a goal or objective. Mission is what the organization is. The very being of the company. Mission is the core of the organization. If this distinction is not absolutely clear, nothing really holds the organization together.

Let's look at an example. When Tom Monaghan and his brother attempted to "put themselves through college" (That was their "mission" at the time...and really just another way of saying "make money." ) their business wasn't very successful. Eventually his brother left the company. It was then that Tom got very clear about his real mission...the reason his company existed: "A Pizza in 30 Minutes!"

That's right...that mission not only separated Domino's from every other pizza company, it actually defined who they were so precisely that people think of them more in the delivery business than in the food business...yet today, they're the second-largest pizza company in the country!

Why is Domino's mission so important?

Tom Monaghan wasn't successful until he figured out his company's mission...the reason it really should exist. Domino's was successful because they were the mission... from the very first pizza they delivered...to the last one they delivered a few minutes ago. In other words, their mission was not something they were going towards...a goal. They did not say, for example, since our mission is "a pizza in 30 minutes," let's see if we can get this first one there in the next couple of hours! No, the first pizza, and the last pizza, all went as fast as they could get them out the door. That's what made them so successful.

Domino's doesn't hire gourmet chefs to bake their pizzas, or build fancy dining rooms to enjoy them in. Domino's never promised you a good pizza. Did you hear them promise you a hot pizza? In fact, they didn't even promise you the pizza you ordered! They only promised you "a pizza in 30 minutes!" They hire folks with fast hands who can get them in and out of the oven, and into a delivery box . When they need to hire new employees they don't look for talent at another restaurant...they look for it at Federal Ex-press! In fact, Federal Express is more of a competitor than Pizza Hut!

Just consider how many people are absolutely certain of Domino's mission. Virtually every American! Don't believe me? Take this test. What do you do when you're driving down a narrow city street, and see a beat-up old Volkswagen coming at you full-tilt...with the lighted Domino's bucket on its antenna? I bet you, like most people, get out of the way! Now...what do you do when you're on that same street, and you see a Pizza Hut delivery truck coming at you? Do you think nothing of it, and assume the driver will follow the rules of the road? Most people do.

Well, it's likely that both drivers are 16 years and 2 weeks old. Both have had their driver's license for a week, and they sat next to each other in history class this after-noon. The Pizza Hut driver has probably had several hours of safe driving instruction...the Domino's driver has been told to get that pizza there on time...no matter what! That's the mission. He or she knows it. You know it. And most of the time a Domino's driver successfully is that mission! As a result of these alignments, Domino's is the second largest pizza company in the country...and most people insist they don't even like Domino's pizza!

What's the secret here?

Successful entrepreneurs have clear, very short, and easily remembered missions. They concretely express the core, underlying reason the organization exists...no "fluff" or platitudes. Unless this common mission is clear, people will naturally be going in different (albeit sometimes very subtly different) directions... and no company will be very successful when that happens!

Missions can be very elusive.

Unfortunately Domino's also provides a clear example of what happens when a company looses its mission. As you probably know, Domino's has been sued several times because their drivers were involved in fatal accidents. In the end, Domino's has formally "retired" their promise to deliver in 30 minutes. That sounds reasonable...not to mention physically and financially safer...but it's slowly destroying the company! That seemingly smart and inconsequential decision actually eliminated the core reason Domino's exists...its mission.

"But wait a minute," you're saying. "They were loosing law suits. They couldn't go on having their drivers involved in fatal accidents." Of course not. In fact, they should have cleaned up their act a lot sooner. But they did have other options besides dropping their mission. "Such as?" you're asking.

Well here's one that's off the wall...but very entrepreneurial. Domino's exists to deliver the next pizza in 30 minutes, right? Their existing methodology couldn't continue as it was. What if, instead of just abandoning their mission, they had closed down every store front...used that money to equip trucks or vans as mobile kitchens with ovens and refrigerators...and cellular phones. With a staff of only a cook and an order-taking delivery driver, they could cruise any neighborhood...take orders and bake them on the road... and deliver their pizzas in 20 minutes! Take that, Pizza Hut! That's being your reason to exist as a company!

Identify your company's mission today.

What's the real reason your company exists? What's the core "glue" that really aligns everyone? You can't afford not to be absolutely clear! Figure it out today!

© 1995 Dick Barnett, Barnett & Kutz, Inc.