The Must of a Mission Statement
A banner for your distributors to follow!
by Michael L. Sheffield
CEO The Sheffield Group
For an Multi-Level Marketing (MLM) company to remain stable in an ever-changing market, it must have a strong sense of mission — and be able to communicate that mission to its manufacturers, employees, distributors and retail customers.
A company can have it all together — visionary leadership, competent management, adequate funding and a powerful product line. But without a cause, without a worthy and credible mission, without a banner for their distributors to follow, the company will eventually fade into mediocrity and ultimate failure.
You see, it is that intangible system of belief that makes Direct Selling and Multi-Level Marketing different from traditional business. In my experience, it's rare to see an organization whose mission is solely financially focused that ever develop any significant and long lasting bond with its distributors. And without this strong bond, the organization is vulnerable. Why? As soon as the next big money deal comes along, the distributors are gone.
The MLM distributors who embrace a company's mission will many times develop a missionary-like zeal. When properly nurtured and supported, this zeal bonds the distributor to the company and to its products helping maintain that distributor's loyalty even during the financially lean times.
So before any product is packaged and presented to the public, before all the literature is printed, and before the ranks of distributors begin to swell, your company must first have a clearly defined mission. Once thought out and formalized, this creed should become as much a part of your company as its products, its compensation plan or its personnel. This credo should serve as the behavioral guide to every person in the company — from the founder to the newest distributor.
Over time, a company culture comes to reflect the organization's formalized mission. Every action, every decision should be based on this philosophy. It may not be read out loud every day, but it is there standing as a point of permanence. And no matter what is happening in the market, no matter what competitors are doing, no matter what the hottest new product on the market is — the mission statement remains the same. It is the soul — the center of the company.
I'm convinced that like individuals, every company must cultivate character, values and integrity. The character of a company doesn't just happen. It is intentionally crafted and created. The company must define its own values - and they must come from within the very guts of the organization. Rather than waiting for some outside entity such as a government agency to impose discipline and direction, the company decides for itself what standards by which it will live.
Having made this commitment, the company takes full responsibility for its attitudes and behaviors. From that point forward, all decisions are based on a pre-determined value system. The organization says to itself: "To meet the challenges of this changing world, our company is prepared to change everything about itself — products, policy, compensation plan, whatever — everything except our mission statement.
And when the company is tempted, tested or tried (which it will be), the mission statement serves as a point of reference, a source of final appeal, and a place to where decision makers come home to gain the clarity to make wise decisions.
Think of the great organizations that have survived the slings and arrows of time. In each company you will find their staying power is not so much in their product, packaging, and promotion, as in a sense of mission. They're still around because of a core set of values and the loyalty those values inspire in their leadership, employees, distributors and customers. Take Johnson and Johnson for example:
Johnson and Johnson features a wide range of successful health and personal hygiene products. Some years ago, they were faced with a major challenge when poison was found in their popular pain reliever, Tylenol. It was an international nightmare. For a time, the very future of the company was in question. Fortunately, the founders of Johnson and Johnson built their business on a solid foundation. In the midst of the madness the chairman of the board turned to the company's mission statement:
We believe our first responsibility is to the doctors, nurses, and patients, to the mothers and all others who use our products and services. In meeting their needs everything we do must be of high quality.
Using this mission statement as their guide, Johnson and Johnson took Tylenol off the market until the crisis could be resolved. The move cost the company millions of dollars — but it restored consumer confidence. And it's the reason they are still in business today.
Companies such as Johnson and Johnson teach us that the survival and success of any organization is predicated on a sound set of beliefs upon which it bases every policy and decision. The most important factor in their success is a faithful adherence to those beliefs.
Distribution of products and services through Multi-Level Marketing and Party Plan Companies is enjoying new respect as an alternative to traditional retail selling. This enhanced public perception makes it all the more imperative that MLM products are congruous with the company's mission statement. Discrepancy between mission and product can result in diluted or damaged credibility. Here are a couple of examples:
XYZ International is an herbal nutrition company. Their mission statement avows to enhance the health of their consumers with high quality, herbal based products. Then they launch a skin care line. The potions contain herbs, but the lotions they are offering to the public do not. This discrepancy between XYZ's product and their stated mission gives rise to a potential credibility problem.
ABC Company has as part of their stated mission a promise to protect the environment. Ironically, their product manufacturing plant has been cited by the EPA for the illegal dumping of toxic waste. ABC's products are packaged in non-biodegradable materials - the very stuff that is polluting the planet. ABC Company needs to clean up its own act before trying to clean up the world.
Charles Garfield defined mission as "An image of a desired state of affairs that inspires action, determines behavior and fuels motivation. The mission statement provides the why that inspires every how." When a company knows what it believes, the how and the why are much easier to define. Happiness, harmony, peace, and prosperity are the characteristics of people, and companies, that know what they believe - and live it!
So, how do you go about defining your mission? How do you clarify the primary purpose or features that distinguish your business from other companies? Your mission statement should do more than just name your primary product or service and identify the needs your company will endeavor to meet. No matter what the nature of your business, your mission statement should be carefully considered. Noted economist Peter Drucker observed:
"The task of thinking through the mission of the business, that is, of asking the question 'what is our business and what should it be?' leads to the setting of objectives, the development of strategies and plans, the making of today's decisions for tomorrows results."
To insure those results, you must indeed look into the future. As you lay the groundwork for your Direct Selling or MLM Company, ask yourself these questions:
- What do we want our company to become?
- What do we want our organization to believe?
- What is our area of expertise - what do we do best?
- What is our product or service?
- Who are our customers?
- What is our market?
- What words would we like to hear people use to describe our company in five years?
The answers to these questions will help you identify your driving force - the catalyst of your company.
Your mission statement should be brief, broad and address a central lasting theme. It refers more to your company's attitude and philosophy. The mission statement identifies the principles and qualities that are of the highest priority to the organization.
It can also describe the objectives your organization is striving to reach. It doesn't need to go into a lot of detail. Keep it short and simple. Encapsulate these basic elements: the source, the need, its present use, suggested uses and the unique satisfaction of needs incorporated into the product line.
And remember. It's not a real mission statement until it is actually written down. If not written down and read often, it is just a vague concept, and the company may in time drift away from its primary purpose and values.
A carefully considered and formalized mission statement enables the company to be proactive. Instead of watching and waiting for things to happen, it is able to make things happen. Certain principles have been settled. These issues were addressed in the mission statement and are no longer open to debate. Ask yourself these questions. Does your company have a meaningful mission statement? Is it reflected in the company's regular decision making. Does it promote a contribution to your customers personal and business life? You be the judge.
I will close by sharing my own company's mission statement. I hope it will help you with some ideas that will result in your personal development, enhancement or reanalysis of your own mission that drives your business purpose.
"Service to Mankind is the rent we pay for our space on earth. Our company's success is directly related to the service we render. The needs of each SRN client are the number one priority of our company. We are committed to the continuing research and analysis of tactics leading to the success of our clients. We will use these proven sales, marketing, and operational concepts for our client's benefit. We will enhance our client's business model and product life cycles. We will only provide advice to our clients based on our true areas of expertise. When the client needs are not our core competency, we will guide them to other experts. We will develop strategic alliances with other competent service providers to create synergy and enhance our mutual success. We will always tell our clients what they need to hear, not just what they want to hear. We will work to build long- term client relationships by striving for a satisfied customer at the end of every consulting project. Our ultimate goal is to earn and keep our client's friendship, trust, respect and loyalty".
Michael L. Sheffield is the CEO of The Sheffield Group, a full-service direct sales and multi level marketing (MLM) consulting firm. He is a Co-Founder and Chairman Emeritus of the Multi Level Marketing International Association and in 2001 he was inducted into the MLMIA Hall of Fame. He and the Sheffield team have assisted in hundreds of national and international MLM corporate start-ups as well as offered a full line of services for established direct sales companies including consultation on MLM Website development. As the most noted expert on compensation plans, he has been a guest lecturer on the subject for the DSA, University of Illinois, University of Texas, Berkeley and Harvard Alumni Association. He has helped launch over 200 new products marketed by direct selling companies around the globe. He can be contacted at 480-968-6199, The Sheffield Group, 2239 N. Hayden Road, Suite 103, Scottsdale, AZ. 85257, website address: www.sheffieldnet.com.
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