Yesterday I was at a monthly meetup of entrepreneurial CEO’s where we ask questions and share advice on business issues. It was a treat that this time the incoming founders in the 2011 Techstars program (which was just named the top startup accelerator and incubator program in the U.S.) were there. Advising Techstars companies is one of the best parts of my life because nothing compares to experiencing the challenges of innovation and creative triumphs these companies go through in very fast cycles.
One of the biggest challenges entrepreneurs face is how to stay true to their core business. When you are an innovator and surround yourself with other innovators it’s easy to hear a new idea that can take you away from the main focus of your business. Companies see uses for your product that you hadn’t thought of that could be fun to work on, mentors see directions for you to take the business that look like great money makers but do not speak to your passions, and you take showers where your mind starts to swim in ideaphoria of dozens of new things to do. It’s easy to get off track.
Mission statements are an old standby, but most people forget them and wander off to manage whatever seems urgent to do today with little thought towards how today’s actions are affecting their future or the company’s future. This is where a company mantra comes in.
A company mantra is a short statement that says what the soul purpose (and maybe sole purpose) of your business is. For instance, I know someone who is building ‘the Netflix (or Amazon Wish List) of iTunes.’ It saves a queue of songs you like and expect to buy in the future. If someone offers him a great deal to use his technology to build a shopping list app instead, he won’t do it. That doesn’t align with the goal stated in his mantra so he’ll pass, and then get back to work on building his passion product even though it may be a profitable pivot for him to go in that direction instead.
Federal Express: “Peace of mind”
Nike: “Authentic athletic performance”
Target: “Democratize design”
Mary Kay “Enriching women’s lives”
So what’s your business mantra?
And more importantly, who is the best customer for your mantra? …go get ‘em!