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Shareholder Values Makes for Really Inspiring Mission Statements – NOT

What Are Companies For?

I’ve been away for a while, busy with work and a new personal project. I just finished my personal project so hopefully I can get back on schedule.

Which mission statements excite you?
♦ Guiding Principle: “X” is committed to being the world’s premier XXXX company. To that end, we must continuously achieve superior financial and operating results while simultaneously adhering to high ethical standards.

♦ The Way: to be the global X company most admired for its people, partnership and performance.

♦ General Business Principles: We are judged by how we act – our reputation is upheld by how we live to our core values honesty, integrity, and respect for people. Our eight Business Principles are based on these core values and indicate how we promote trust, openness, teamwork and professionalism, and pride in what we do.

♦ Values: We care deeply about how we deliver X to the world. Above everything, that starts with safety and excellence in our operations. Our approach is built on respect, being consistent and having the courage to do the right thing. Everything X aims to do as a company relies upon the safety of our operations, workforce, and the communities around us. We depend on developing and deploying the best technology, and building long-lasting relationships. We are committed to making a real difference in providing  the X the world needs today, and in the changing world tomorrow. We work as one team. We are X.

♦ X’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful. Ten things we know to be true: 1) Focus on the user and all else will follow. 2) It’s best to do one thing really, really well. 3) Fast is better than slow. 4) Democracy on the web works. 5) You don’t need to be at your desk to need an answer. 6) You can make money without doing evil. 7) There’s always more information out there. 8) The need for information crosses all borders. 9) You can be serious without a suit. 10) Great just isn’t good enough.

♦ X’s mission is to give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected.

♦ X’s series of statements: Leadership Principles, Customer Obsession, Ownership, Invent and Simplify, Are Right A Lot, Hire and Develop the Best, Insist on the Highest Standards, Think Big, Bias for Action, Frugality, Learn and Be Curious, Earn Trust, Dive Deep, Have Backbone – Disagree and Commit, Deliver Results.

♦ Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.

♦ Core Values: We sell the highest quality natural and organic products available. We satisfy, delight and nourish our customers. We support team member excellence and happiness. We create wealth through profits and growth. We serve and support our local and global communities. We practice and advance environmental stewardship. We create ongoing win-win partnerships with our suppliers. We promote the health of our stakeholders through healthy eating education.

♦ X helps people around the world save money and live better – anytime and anywhere – in retail stores, online and through their mobile devices.

Did you pick any of the first four? The first four are energy companies, and granted, by the nature of their business, they have to provide some kind of pabulum about safety, ethics, integrity and doing good for the communities. But safety, ethics, integrity and doing good are table stakes – they should be part of the fabric of every business. They should not be mission statements. Your mission is to be ethical?

Note that the first one talks about shareholders only. The second one, when they listed out their values, shareholders came first in the list. So we know where their focus is: the shareholders. The third one is rather generic but I came away with the impression that financials were the key consideration. And the fourth one is basically about safety, but then, that is understandable, considering their recent history.

The tech companies had more interesting missions and values and probably explains why they generate the most enthusiasm from people. Who can’t get behind “focus on the user and all else will follow?” The user came first, not shareholder, for one of the tech companies. Giving people the power to share and connect is way more inspiring than to achieve superior financial results.

Seth Godin had a posting about the purpose of corporations which is basically to serve its customers and do no harm to everyone else. “And its opportunity is to enrich the lives of its employees.” (Boldface is my doing.) The bold faced line is an interesting statement as I have never seen it elsewhere but I do agree with it. The employees are generally left out of the discussion, as if they don’t contribute.

His departing words are:

Profits and stock price aren’t the point (with customers as a side project). It’s the other way around.

Read his “What Are Corporations For?” post. It describes succinctly what the companies should be doing, what capitalism should stand for.

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