Welcome back! This is the second part of a two-part blog series, How Smart Business Owners Sabotage Their Own Success. If you haven't read part one and the problem of mission creep, click here first.
Combatting Mission Creep
In Part One, we explored how many small business owners fall victim to mission creep, and how that hurts their business and their brand. But the savvy business owner can avoid the trap of mission creep in three steps:
Step One – Clarify Your Values
First and foremost, we must be clear on our core values. Our values are an integral part of who we are, and, as a result, our business identity. When we ground our decisions in our core values, we establish the foundation of a successful business and a fulfilling life. Conversely, when our actions are inconsistent with our values, we are far more likely to be unsatisfied and unhappy.
When I help my coaching clients identify their values, I start by asking two questions: What’s most important to you, and what do you want to define your life? Though their answers vary, the way they respond is remarkably similar – their eye contact increases, their voice deepens slightly, and they are more focused and fully present in the moment. This is when I know we’ve tapped into their core values, and their responses become the touchstone for everything we do in the coaching relationship.
When we connect with our core values, we are in touch with the deepest part of ourselves. When we live in concert with our values, that is reflected in our thoughts, our words, and our actions. Healthy, thriving businesses have a clear set of values, and for the entrepreneur, knowing your values is imperative to success.
(Note: If you’d like some guidance in identifying and clarifying your values, head over to my website for my free guide, “Who Do You Think You Are?”)
Once we know what our core values are, we need to assess how well we live them out in our lives. In short, do we walk the talk? This can be uncomfortable or disheartening, especially if it becomes apparent that our day-to-day priorities don’t reflect our values. But this outcome isn't necessarily a bad thing – in fact, it’s the key to warding off mission creep. Once we see the areas that are out of sync with our values, we’ve identified a potential source of mission creep, and we can address it directly in the next steps.
Step Two – Create Your Vision
Mission creep begins when we’re out of touch with our values, and continues when we get derailed from our vision. Your vision is a detailed picture of your ideal future, encompassing who you want to be and accomplish. Your vision should delve deeper than just describing the outcomes you want to see. Instead, it should reflect your core values, and guide who you are and what your business will be.
In my coaching practice, I help my clients develop a vision that addresses all aspects of their personal and professional lives. When creating a vision for their business, my clients tend to focus initially on career and professional development, to the exclusion of their personal lives. I advise them not to limit themselves, but to take a more global approach. After all, your brand identity is shaped by who you are, what you believe, and what makes you unique (and better than) your competition, and should be reflected in your vision.
When it comes to the process of creating a vision, I encourage my clients to play to their strengths and their core values. For some, this means using words to craft a succinct, powerful message. For others, visual representations are helpful. One of my clients, for whom creativity, connection, and achievement are her core values, created a Pinterest board that included quotes, images, and infographics depicting her vision, and then invited her business partner to add to the board.
Step Three – Commit to Your Mission
A well-crafted mission statement is the backbone of your business because it informs your clients and stakeholders of what you do and how you do it. When a values-based vision provides us with a direction toward tomorrow, we’re better equipped to articulate what we’re doing today. Our vision is what we want for the future; our mission is what we’re doing now to achieve it.
An effective mission statement is specific about whom you serve, what you do, and how you do it. Successful entrepreneurs rely on their mission statements to guide every action and decision in their business. When you deviate from your mission and start providing goods and services outside your mission’s scope, you open the door to mission creep and run the risk of diluting your brand.
That’s not to say that an entrepreneur shouldn’t course correct when things aren’t going well, or change strategy if the opportunity arises. For example, if the market demand for a given product or service exists and you’re equipped to meet the demand, then it may make sense to change things up. But before you do, ask yourself the following questions – if you can answer yes to each one, then you're in a strong position to amend your mission and strategy.
- Is this new opportunity consistent with my core personal and professional values?
- Will this opportunity help me achieve my overall vision?
- Do I have the resources I need to change my strategy?
- Am I willing to alter my mission (and limit or end other ventures as necessary) to incorporate this new opportunity?
Preventing Mission Creep – Now and Forever
Mission creep thrives when we fail to adhere to a specific, value-based mission. We can stop it in its tracks by knowing our personal core values, creating a holistic vision informed by those values, and implementing a business mission statement that directs us toward our vision. By attacking the root cause of mission creep with our core values, we focus our energy and effort on sustaining a successful business, and on living a fulfilling life.