• Christa Dhimo, Impono LLC

The Every-Business Series: Center On Your Mission


In answer to our Impono Followers asking for guidance on "every-day matters," like how to get started with a new business, growing a bootstrapped small business, and paths to generate or augment funds, we created "The Every-Business Series," a short-read series created specifically for Impono's followers. Keep your feedback coming so we can be sure to continue addressing your questions!!

Premise: The Need for Honesty About Mission

For startups, the Mission is often the Heart from a Founder's perspective. What else keeps Founders going through endless no's, not yet's, and I-just-don't-get-its?

Mission, fueled by passion and based on reality (your Vision can be loftier), can accomplish anything. It is your True North and drives the objectives you will commit to, execute and then measure, so make sure that True North is indeed "true."

Mission defines a company from branding to goals, from budget decisions to hiring decisions. Some companies are founded with the inspirational tone of a Mission Statement at the ready, or at the least an impressive means of capturing mission language. Other companies are founded, funded and driven by a brass-tacks Mission to make a lot of money, quickly.

There's no judging here, but we do impose on leaders that they are honest and can live by their Mission. You are outed on your sense of mission (or how much you buy into a published mission) the moment you approve a budget. Mission aligns to your spending trail. It's that simple.

Below are three points and two real-world examples about getting real about your mission, geared toward start-ups and smaller organizations.

Point #1: Mission Confidence, Not Funding, Builds and Sustains Your Business.

When your mission is truly a part of your company's fiber, "in the DNA," you are untouchable. Of course, functional organizations support Mission with competent leadership, a debate-friendly culture, and sufficient talent to support both, among dozens of other factors.

BUT! When you look at the most successful start-ups and small businesses (any business, really), success is driven from a single source: Mission Confidence.

Here at Impono, we partner with clients who are passionate about their extraordinary missions. Some are in pioneering fields with business models that do not fit the neat, existing start-up or funding equations. Others are in existing industries and are so incredible at what they do, are looking to grow, and anyone would be happy to be a part of that growth. We certainly are, and in both instances, we feel fortunate to be a part of teams so obsessively focused on Mission.

Real-World Example #1: McClure's Pickles and Mission Confidence

We recently learned about McClure's Pickles from our friend Gary Bredow, co-founder and executive producer at Arcadius Productions and creator and producer of the smash PBS show "The Start-Up". As Gary says, "Small business is the foundation of growth in America, and it truly starts with one person, with one vision." Indeed it does, Gary!

At Impono, we collaborate with our start-up and small business clients in for-profit and non-profit sectors to launch new or transform existing organizations, transferring as much of our expertise as possible to meet our clients' current and future goals. This includes spending a big part of our time seeking out then boosting small businesses into mainstream discussions.

We know that mid-sized and larger companies have a lot to learn from small businesses-- in fact, it amazes us how much large and enterprise-sized companies want to be just like small businesses so as to benefit from the wonderments of what a small business can do.

In a recent conversation with Gary, we asked him for an example of an intriguing small business that he believes emulates much of what business success is all about. His answer? McClure's Pickles.

As usual, Gary was right. McClure's Pickles is Mission Confidence.

The Debrief: The Power of Mission Confidence

What does McClure's Pickles have that successful companies have? A passion that makes pickles personal, because in this family pickles are personal. It is part of their legacy, part of their lives, the basis of their courage to enter a highly regulated industry where most investors would claim there is no growth.

But they did it. And it wasn't because they were looking for a quick buck.

Can other start-ups or small businesses say the same? Some. Not most.

What drives them? Their family story, other people's family stories, and the value of connecting people in that way around the world.

And pickles. Pickles. We just love them.

Intrigued? We urge you to learn more: here is their Start-Up TV episode, galvanized forever as "Episode 1," and here is a link to learn more about their culture.

Your Founder's Action

Pay attention to your Mission. It is your "I think I can" mantra, a means to cast out the darkness and remember why you are doing this crazy thing to begin with. Remind yourself of it several times a day, and remind others of it every chance you get in a way that is genuine and right from your heart. If you are honest about your Mission, it will be the air you breathe.

Point #2: Align to Your Mission.

After achieving Mission Confidence comes the hard part: assuring it sustains. Confidence will waiver, very smart wise people will challenge, and margins will decrease as you reach your flying altitude and regulate your supply and demand.

Your decisions, your goals, and how you support your business to perform and achieve those goals must align to your Mission. Must

Real-World Example #2: Epic Systems Corporation and Mission Alignment

In 2012, Epic Systems-- and specifically, Judith Faulkner, its fearless and forward-thinking founder who blazed more than several trails when she founded Epic decades ago-- was profiled in Forbes.

The article is called "Epic Systems' Tough Billionaire," and throughout the article you will see a pulsing theme of how Ms Faulkner leads: with Mission Alignment and a focused-commitment to it. Though the article was published nearly six years ago, one browse of Epic's website will reaffirm their alignment to Mission: Founded in a basement in 1979 with 1½ employees, Epic develops software to help people get well, help people stay well, and help future generations be healthier.

The Debrief: The Power of Alignment

With nearly 2K Glassdoor ratings, an overall 3.5 stars out of 5, an employee recommendation rate of 68% and a CEO approval rate of 81% amidst a $2-5B revenue brag and 5-10K employees, it's a wonder that Epic isn't talked about more frequently-- but not surprising. It simply doesn't tie into their mission, and it certainly isn't how Ms Faulkner leads.

In the Forbes article, Ms Faulkner's motto of “Do good, have fun, make money” is easily referenced throughout the anecdotes and stories of how she quietly founded and grew Epic without outside capital, with no marketing, and with a mission confidence that "rebuff[ed] an attempt by her biggest client... to get a piece of equity, when Epic was much smaller."

By the way, Ms Faulkner founded Epic before start-ups had the resources available to them as they do today, before the personal computers or microwaves or VCRs were mainstays in people's houses, before software and healthcare were considered essential to each other, before people even thought about systems-management of medical records, and nearly 10 years before the H.R. 505 Women's Business Ownership Act of 1988 championed startups and small businesses owned and controlled by women. For example: this act made it illegal for a financial institution to require a male relative to co-sign a business loan for a female-owned business.

Epic's website proudly displays a contrarian and super smart business model, with a section of "Business as unusual" listing their steadfast in-house IP, their high rate of R&D investment, their employee-owned structure with development-lead focus, and their #1 Rank for Best in KLAS (notably last in their list, because if it's one thing you learn about Epic from their webpage, is that it really is about the patients and not about Epic).

Your Founder's Action

Never ever underestimate the power of Mission alignment or mis-alignment.

We have all been in companies where the Mission seems to be more about making money than [enter eloquent Mission Statement here]. How are decisions made in those companies-- if they are made at all? What kind of goals follow-through (or any follow-through) does that organization have? What are the performance standards and how are employees supported to achieve them? Do budget decisions support the mission?

Align your mission to your people, then align your mission to your objectives and spending trail. It's that simple.

Point #3 and BOTTOM LINE: Further Alignment Means Executing Strategy Based On Your Mission.

Everyone loves talking about Strategy, but the real dynamite is in its Execution.

As with most Impono consultants, I was once with a company that didn't understand the term "Strategy & Execution." Despite the many discussions during my interview process, and even a sit-down with a board member to talk in depth about Strategy and Execution, I sadly found out during my first day that the company saw strategy execution as "project management," where even the "project management" piece was simply required to fill out pages and pages of status updates. Now, as a PMP myself I fully value the discipline of project management, but organizational execution is not singularly about project management and must align with organizational Mission (vs a project charter).

As we said in our last Every-Business post, for the Entrepreneurs and Small Business Owners who savvy to the notion that culture, leadership, management and performance all tie together, there are usually HR structures available to support the whole.

When that happens, there is usually also an unmistakable, unshakable, and uncompromising confidence about Mission-- the actual Mission.

If you know you aren't the kind of leader to put a lot of energy toward Mission, or if your Mission is about making millions as quickly as possible for you and your investors, at least be honest about that in your internal goals and activities. Own it.

It's no accident that McClure's Pickles have done as well as they have. It's also not surprise that Epic Systems is where they are today, way ahead of its time for decades and scoring enviable public ratings on Glassdoor. In both instances their honesty and Mission Confidence remains there for everyone to see, and for employees to count on.

Center on your Mission. You won't go wrong.

We know that launching a new or transforming an existing organization isn't simple, but it can be easier with the right advisors and doers. If you have additional questions about this topic or how it can impact your business, contact us. Let's see what we can do for you.

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