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Mission Possible

A good mission statement says exactly where you are going, and its values describe behaviors that will get you there.

OUR COMPANY IS customer-driven and values quality, service, integrity and respect. Sound familiar? Many companies' mission statements say something similar. Business people talk a lot about missions and values, but, in the end, many mission statements are too vague and include more hot air than real action.
Jack Welch, former CEO of GE and author of Winning, suggests that a good mission statement and set of values should be so concrete and real that they can guide your business. Specifically, a good mission says exactly where you are going and its values describe behaviors that will get you there.
Mission statement
How do you intend to win in this business? That is what an effective mission statement should answer. A mission statement does not answer, What did the company used to be good at? Or, How can we describe the business so nobody gets mad? Defining your mission statement requires that you make choices about people, investments and other resources. Refrain from saying that you'll be all things to all people at all times.

To create or refine your mission statement, determine where you can play competitively by assessing your strengths and weaknesses. Get input from everywhere -- from smart people in every function of your facility. Mission statements should give clear direction to profitability, and, at the same time, inspire employees to feel part of something big and important. Missions can be bold in order to excite and motivate people. They balance the possible and impossible.

After the research has been done, top management should set the mission. Don't delegate the creation of the final mission statement. It should be done by those ultimately responsible for it. As a leader of the company, it is your defining moment. After you make an effective mission statement, harp on it. Link every decision and initiative to it.


What behaviors will help you accomplish your mission? This is what company values should answer. Solid values are specific, descriptive and leave little to the imagination. People need to be able to use them as marching orders.

Input for values can be even broader than for the mission statement. Everyone can have input through meetings, training sessions and the Internet. Make a first version of your values and be specific. Send it out to people all over your organization. Create an atmosphere where people feel it is their obligation to contribute. Wide participation will give you more insights and ideas and, in the end, there will also be more buy-in.

After a final set of values is defined, explain and interpret them. Back the values up by rewarding people who exhibit them, and "punish" those who don't. This may even mean you have to let a high level manager go because he/she doesn't exhibit the company's values. It is imperative that your staff lives your company's values.

Mission + values

Connect your mission statement and values. For them to work together to create a successful company, they need to reinforce and support each other. While this may seem obvious, it is a surprisingly frequent occurrence that missions and values contradict each other.

The most common reasons for a disconnect between the mission statement and values are caused by little daily crises. A new fitness center opens down the street and offers lower membership dues, so you lower your prices. However, this undermines your mission of competing using great customer service. While this can be temporary or may even seem minor, if left unattended, it can hurt and even ruin your business. Finish the process of creating a great mission statement and values by making sure they always support each other.

Help your fitness center reach its full potential by taking the time to create a concrete mission statement and supportive, descriptive values. There is too much to lose by not doing it.


Welch, J. Winning. HarperCollins: New York, N.Y., 2005.

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