Do you have a mission statement? You know, something like, "We strive to offer the best in customer service at the lowest possible price," or "We put our customer needs ahead of our profit with state-of-the-art technology."
Whatever it is, it might be time to get rid of your mission statement. It also might be time to chuck the core values of your operation.
Actually, I'm serious. Change can be good. Sometimes mission statements, core values and business cultures can be destructive rather than constructive. Sometimes they put our businesses in boxes that start to defy change. They inhibit our ability to keep current and to go forward. They erect walls and create rigid thinking patterns.
You may have started out trying to create consistency and common goals and that's good. But, now, you may also be cultivating an environment of stale thinking. You start to think if it worked before, it will work in the future. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Look at IBM, Apple, Amtrak, General Motors and Encyclopedia Britannica as examples of the fact that no business can simply stand still and stay "king-of-the-hill" forever. IBM is shifting gears like never before. Apple came up with a new Mac design, made it in funky colors and gave it a hip, cutting-edge name like "iMac" to regain lost market share. Amtrak lost service to the regional airlines and deteriorated big time. GM is no longer dominating the auto industry, and is trying to play catch-up. And Encyclopedia Britannica got blasted by the Internet.
Some king-of-the-hill hopefuls hung on to the very end until the revelation came: "You change or you die." When the parade passes, you have to march.
In the case of Britannica, you no longer need 70 pounds of books in your bookcase. The entire set became available on CD-ROM, complete with pretty packaging and a hefty price tag. Then the Internet brought everything into consumers' homes for free. At first, Britannica tried to sell its 30+ volumes on-line at $5 a month. That didn't work. Then it went free, and 10 million people visited the site on the very first day. Basically, the company found that if you give it away, people will want it. So with such a huge response, Britannica is now attracting advertisers. I bet the company's original mission statement said nothing about the way the company is conducting business now.
A clear definition
Management guru Peter Drucker teaches organizations that they only perform well when their purpose is clearly defined, and when profit is not a purpose, but a result.
I bet all of the country's little hardware stores and kitchen/bath dealerships really appreciated that when Home Depot and Lowes moved into their towns. They had to tap-dance really fast just to keep up. They had to refocus their energies to capitalize on their experience and their reputations as "the folks with all the answers." They had to concentrate on giving advice and instruction while still keeping a close eye on competitive pricing. They had to find out what their niche really was, instead of trying to be all things to all people.
Today's business is more than just "find a need and fill it." It's figuring out what your business really is this month, and what it might be next year. It's figuring out who your customer is, and what your customer values the most . . . even though your customers change constantly and, with the Internet, your customers are not only local, they're national and global, as well.
And it's not just about price. Today's customers look for speed, convenience, quality, accessibility, enjoyment, aesthetics and problem-solving solutions. They will give you their business in return for value over and above cost and time.
Maybe you're a small showroom that has the same customers day in and day out. Or maybe you're a multi-store operation that has a highly structured way of doing business. Well, hold on to your cash register. The new millennium is here; you ain't seen nothing yet.