We recently went through what probably all corporations go through at some point in their lives … the “what’s our mission statement?” stage.
To be honest, as CEO I’ve always known what our mission was, although I may not have enunciated it in so many words.
A close friend and colleague reminded me that we needed to share this with the team here at Merlin Software. It was a valuable exercise and made us all think.
But then I read an article in Skyways magazine written by Patrick Lencioni and Grant Ashfield about “Taking a Closer Look”.
This made me think even more: As CEO, was I giving enough clarity to our team? Was having a mission statement enough?
I realised, probably not on both counts. So I “took their test” and asked myself the questions they posed in their article.
You might want to ask yourself these questions as well.
1 Why do we exist?
Now’ I’ve always wondered about the meaning of life and our purpose on earth until we shuffle off this mortal coil. But this question is less esoteric and more about why we exist as a business. (I might share my “meaning of life” ideas another time).
For the corporation, the answer has to be something aspirational; something grand. It’s not about “making money” although this is certainly the measure of success in many cases.
It’s about what inspires and uplifts us in our lowest moments. It’s about the dream we have and what we hope to achieve together one day.
Without even thinking, I’ve always had a dream when starting a new business.
Our latest venture is no different. At Merlin Software our dream is to create a platform that can ultimately link our industry together, providing efficiencies and economies of scale unheard of within the current paradigm. I believe that’s aspirational enough.
I think I passed this one. I know why we exist. I just need to share it more often with the team.
2 What do we do?
We provide software as a service for the global vacation ownership and hotel industry.
Now there is more to this than just this one line, but I’m not here to bore you. You’re hopefully reading this not to hear about my business, or me, but to find ideas to apply in your own business.
If you want to know more about us and what we do, you can read this here: Merlin Vision
I think I passed this one as well. I just need to write down a little more for internal consumption.
3 How will we succeed?
This is about strategy. How do we compete? What are our unique selling points … our differentiators?
We have a number of these. “Innovation”; “Technology”; “Industry Knowledge and Insight”; “Everything you need in one package”. We felt good about them. Then we realised that this was not enough. Even though we were leaders, our competitors could copy what we did … well sort of. Some of our USP’s really are unique.
Anyway, we added one more thing during our “What’s our Mission Statement?” sessions.
We decided that the one thing that we could do that would be tough to emulate (and even difficult for us to implement) would be to add superior service to our offering.
Now you can’t just “decide” to offer superior service. It is a culture that comes from the top. Many try, most fail (think “big banks” or just think “banks”). We’re trying.
If we get it right there will be no competition. If we don’t … there’s no point thinking negatively. Oh and apologies to my banker friends. Come to think of it … I don’t have any … banker friends that is.
So we implemented a “Celebrity Style Service” campaign together with a “Net Promotor Score” (NPS) program. And we backed this up with the slogan: “Be Amazing Every Day”.
This is an internal thing. No external fanfares. We want our customers to feel it, slowly, over time. After all, feeling is believing.
We’re in the early stages, but the results are promising. This is not an overnight thing either. It’s a journey. We will stay the course … or die trying.
Definitely passed this one AND we have shared this with the team.
4 What is important right now?
This is the rallying cry. What are we going to achieve in the next three to twelve months that will signify that we are on track?
We have an objective for the next twelve months, for sure. But it’s too secret to let you in on right now. You don’t play poker with an open hand do you? However, there is something I will share about this and it is that the day-to-day stuff always gets in the way of the mission.
The bigger you get and the more successful, the more you find yourself dragged back into the mundane and unable to spend the time you want on the ultimate goal.
This must be a universal law or something. Much like Parkinson’s Law about how “work expands to fill the time available for its completion”.
Someone should invent the inverse of Parkinson’s Law about how “time expands to accommodate the work available”. Maybe Einstein can do something about this?
Anyway, I digress. The way we handle this is to have two missions. One is knowing what’s the next step in our
evo … revolution and who is taking us forward.
The other is knowing what everyone else has to do right now, today to keep the business successful so that those who are on the revolution ladder can do their thing and those who are not on that ladder know that they are adding value where it counts as well. It’s a communal effort.
How have I done with this question? Not too good I fear. More communication needed.
5 How do we behave?
AHA! This is all about core values. We’ve got these. We’ve shared them with the team. You need to have them too.
6 Who must do what?
We’re a small operation with a big vision. We like to employ people who are smart and who don’t need to be told what to do. We don’t want to have to spend time managing people.
We believe as long as we share the vision, the members of the team will find what it is they have to do. Of course, there is guidance and direction given.
But after that our people know what they have to do and can spot the gaps that others may have missed. In fact it’s one of our core values:
“We are committed to encouraging employees to use their initiative, to lead and to make decisions.”
That’s our philosophy. It may not work for large corporations. Our people are special and sadly, not everyone out there is. So the large corps may have to employ some average people and manage them.
That’s why the little guys (and gals) will inherit the future.
I’m reminded of what Guy Kawasaki said: “There are always two guys/gals in a garage somewhere plotting your demise.”
We like to think we’re those guys and gals.
Did I pass this one? We’re different. So yes and no.
That’s it. Six questions. Only six you need to ask yourself.
Bolster your mission statement with your answers to these questions.
Share them with your team, (unless you happen to be one of the competition that is).
Oh what the heck. It’s a big enough market.
WAIT! What am I saying? Compassion for the competition? I must be getting mellow as I age. In the old days it would have been: “Take no prisoners. Make no little plans”*. Now, today? I’ll leave you guessing the answer to that.
Till next time …
* “Make no little plans: They have no magic to stir men’s blood.” Attributed to Daniel Burnham, an Architect who lived from 1846 to 1912. These old guys have all the good sayings.
Mike Pnematicatos is CEO and chief architect at Merlin Software for Vacation Ownership. He has over 30 years’ experience in the timeshare, fractional and vacation ownership industries as a resort developer, creator of fractional and points-based products and, since 2000, as the head of development at Merlin Software – which he’s designed specifically for the timeshare industry.
Mike is based at Merlin’s head office in Cape Town, South Africa. As well as a passion for developing the latest cloud-based technology and providing a superb customer experience, Mike’s passions include aquaponics, Nespresso coffee and fat Cuban cigars. His motto is: Life’s too short for weak coffee and cheap cigars.