Last week, I spoke at a legal education event on advising corporate and officers and directors. It wasn’t a cannabis-specific event, so there were speakers with various backgrounds. One interesting commonality that a few of the speakers discussed was the value of corporate mission statements, both in the for-profit and non-profit worlds. I don’t know of many cannabis businesses that have mission statements, but I am convinced they can be useful grounding forces for growing businesses.
A good mission statement strives to capture in as few words as possible the essence of your business’s goals and underlying philosophies. A business with a well-crafted mission statement can align its various owners, officers, directors, and employees toward the same objectives. By providing an underlying ethic, it can assist various team members in their decision-making. Standard operating policies and procedures help, but they are never exhaustive. Business representatives need to make their own decisions. A mission statement and a body of practice that backs up the core values underpinning the mission statement provides a framework for your decision-making processes. And for a business that is getting off-track, a mission statement provides a clear target for changes. Business shifts and realignments without a clear mission statement can feel aimless and scattershot — the mission statement gives business team members stability when business decisions are clearly focused on a specific goal.
A company’s first step, then, is to determine its goals and philosophies. A company cannot just say, “We want to sell as much pot as possible for as much money as we can get.” Of course, most for-profit businesses seek to generate profits and wealth for the owners. Every business owner wants that, though, and profit-generation is less of an achievable goal and more of an effect of achieving your goals. A mission statement should tie your company’s brand identity with its ethics, and it should provide a roadmap on how to achieve high revenues and profits. Here are a few examples, both good and bad:
- Amazon: To be Earth’s most customer-centric company, where customers can find and discover anything they may want to buy online, and endeavors to offer its customer the lowest possible prices.
- Kickstarter: To bring creative projects to life.
- Sony: To be a company that inspires and fulfills your curiosity.
- Starbucks: Establish Starbucks as the premier purveyor of the finest coffee in the world while maintaining our uncompromising principles as we grow.
- Hyatt: To provide authentic hospitality by making a difference in the lives of people we touch every day.
- USAA: To facilitate the financial security of its members, associates, and their families through provision of a full range of highly competitive financial products and services; in doing so, USAA seeks to be the provider of choice for the military community.
You can judge yourself which of these you think are useful and which aren’t. Some corporate mission statements serve primarily as public-facing advertising mottos. But for most businesses, especially small and growing businesses, the most effective statements drive internal decision-making. Amazon’s statement, for instance, hones in well on the company’s core goals and philosophies. If I work as a mid-level manager at Amazon, the mission statement provides gives me a clear framework for judging my decisions.
I hate corporate speak. Many companies try to organize their missions around statements that lack any real substance or underlying ethic. Mission statements that fall into that category have little to no value. But if you can distill your company’s strategy to obtain and keep customers while getting the most out of your employees, a substantive mission statement can focus your energy toward achieving your goals.