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November 18, 2019
If you’ve seen me speak in public, you’ve probably heard me talk about PHOS’s mission statement.
It’s been a journey. Truly.
It’s a challenging thing to get to the end of questions like:
Those are super difficult questions to answer. They seem simple, but they take hours to sort through, weeks to process, years to test, and far greater periods of time to champion.
About a year into the business, we developed our first mission statement with the help of a business consultant. Our first mission statement was, “To make the Internet a better place by helping companies look good and get found online.” It was terrible, but at least we had something we could work with. We operated with this mission statement for about six months before I decided I didn’t care about the Internet and that if my tombstone read, “He made the Internet a better place,” I would have wasted my life.
Our second mission statement guided us for many years, “To create relationships with growing businesses to help their customers discover, evaluate, and enjoy their products and services.” This mission statement at least told a story of impact and wrapped our purpose around people, not the Internet.
It was great, but it wasn’t the fuel for PHOS. It didn’t answer critical questions for me like, “Why do you actually care about creating relationships? Why is that important? What’s the point?”
Two years ago, someone really critical to our success left my company. It was someone who I thought should be here.
Though I’ve been told not to do this in the past, I begged him to stay. I tried to help him see how much of an impact he had at PHOS. He still left.
I have always taken people leaving PHOS far too personally, but this one hurt. Bad.
At the time, our business consultants already challenged our mission/vision. They said it needed to be rewritten to be more specific, more exact, and more measurable.
I couldn’t. It felt so disingenuous for me to write an inspiring sentence about what fired me up when the people I run the company for were leaving.
It took me a year to write out our next mission statement. One year for one sentence.
If you are struggling to write a great mission statement for your company, be encouraged, it took me a year to search my heart for a deep understanding of our why.
At the time, I listened to Andy Stanley (a lot) and could not get his words out of my head. Here are some of the quotes that challenged me:
He challenged his listeners to answer this straightforward question: “What breaks your heart?”
That was a deep rabbit hole of self and corporate reflection. What are the things in my industry, our community, and the world that break my heart?
Through that year-long journey, here is what I found:
It breaks my heart when a team member leaves my company.
Why? Because I want to run a business that is so good that every person we employ always wants to be here.
It breaks my heart when a client leaves my company.
Why? Because I want to run a company that is so indispensable that every client we work with always wants to work with us.
It breaks my heart when a child starves to death or a woman is beaten to death by her pimp.
Why? Because I want to lead a life that invests in causes that restore humanity, hope, and dignity to people who created in the image of God.
And, just as Stanley promised, at the end of a broken heart, I found our mission:
To be a company that team members never want to leave, clients can’t do without, and the world is better for.
For the first time in the company’s history, I believed in our mission in a very personal way. This resonated with me. This was the reason I wanted to keep going and keep growing. This is why I got out of bed every morning.
These convictions are big ideas, super big hairy audacious goals, and I know that they won’t always happen, but better to shoot for something and miss, then fail to aim, right?
I was fired up, inspired, and empowered, but there was still something missing.
Quarter one of 2019 was a difficult season for me. Regardless of how confident I felt in the accuracy and necessity of our mission, we lost several key players at PHOS. People I loved deeply and had significantly invested in.
They say leadership at the top is lonely. I felt all that.
In March 2019, I joined a group called C12. It is the world’s largest Christ-centered peer advisory group. Every month we spend an entire day studying, planning, advising, mentoring, praying, and discipling one another.
Personally, it was a breath of fresh air to walk into a room full of people who were struggling with the same things I was (or had already conquered them) and seek Biblical advice on how I/PHOS could grow. Just being together helped to abate those feelings of loneliness.
I began to hear things in that group I had never heard before. I was asking myself questions I had not asked before:
I was challenged by the need to reflect this integrated mission within our mission statement. My obvious answer to these questions was “no,” but how could I remedy that without adding something trite or cliché?
At PHOS, we’ve always believed in something we call “The Five Whys.” It’s a simple activity to get to the true root of an issue or idea. When we ask a question, whatever the answer is, we simply ask, “Ok, why? Why is that important?” And we do that five times (or go as deep as we can).
So I started asking those “why” questions to our mission statement.
Why are those pieces of our mission statement important in the light of eternity?
In the end, here is where I landed: If we do all three of those things well (have a company team members never want to leave, clients can’t do without, and the world is better for), we will have loved people really well. I mean, exceedingly well.
Love is one of our core values and we believe that “Love is from God” (1 John 4:7).
It was from those convictions that we birthed our revised mission statement. As of October 2019, our newest mission statement is:
To be a company that team members never want to leave, clients can’t do without, and the world is better for and, in so doing, exemplify the love of Jesus Christ.
It’s long, I know. But it is truly our heart in a sentence. Nothing fires me up more than doing those things.
Can you say that about your mission statement?
If you can’t, take the brave move to start a long journey down the meaningful road to purpose, calling, and mission. You won’t regret it.
Be warned, though, that journey might cost you your current mission statement. Even more costly, this pursuit might cost you your current plan for your life and your business.
That level of surrender, though, is investing in a reward far greater than you can calculate on your P&L. It’s an eternal reward, and it’s worth giving up everything you have.