Thinking

Work: Why bother?

In his monthly column, Brian Gray from Glasgow-based consultancy Lascivious Marketing offers his thoughts on all things marketing…and perhaps one or two other things. This month he’s urging you – especially sole traders and micro business owners – to consider why you’re actually in business. What purpose do you serve?


 

Forgive what may initially appear to be a flippant question addressed to fellow members of the erotic industry. But seriously: aside from a regular paycheck and all the subsequent benefits– at least, if you’re working for one of the bigger players – why do you turn up each day to the office, factory, or warehouse? Take a minute right now, to ponder this. What is your organisation’s common purpose that binds you and your colleagues, and determines the collective effort and direction?

Alternatively, if you’re working for yourself in this industry – I call them “Risqué-takers” – or you’re part of a small- or micro-business, you’re probably more acutely aware of your company’s mission.

Now, I can already hear the audible sighs from some readers, who are probably about to flick the pages to the next article. “Mission statements? That’s all a bit woo-woo, happy clappy. What’s it really got to do with me on a daily basis? I’m here to do my job and help the company make money. End of.”

You’d not be alone. Go online and you’ll find a plethora of criticisms levelled against mission statements. One business consultant said they are “…one of the most overused and least productive tools in business today. I am convinced that they fail to serve their intended purpose.”

Want to read more corporate claptrap being ripped to shreds? Financial Times columnist Lucy Kellaway has done just that for decades. It would be amusing if it wasn’t such a sad indictment of the current state of affairs.

But as you’re probably used to by now, I’m going to upset the applecart. Because, wait for it, I’m going to come out in defence of the mission statement. There: I’m out of the closet.

Before you fall off your chaise longue however, let me qualify such an outrageous admission. Yes, I’m in favour of mission statements: properly crafted, meaningful, and beneficial ones, that is.

Unfortunately, when companies have even bothered to produce one, it’s easier to find bad examples than good ones. And the erotic retailing sector is no exception.

In writing this month’s column, I visited several dozen websites belonging to some of the leading erotic retail industry players: household names for brand-conscious carnal consumers. The results were pitiful, verging on downright embarrassing for the industry as a whole.

Before I receive complaints galore, let me elaborate. The majority of the websites did contain an ‘About Us’ webpage (in which quality and quantity of content varied considerably). Some websites provided summary histories and listed key achievements, together with product summaries and the like. But, as polished as these may be, they do not constitute mission statements.

So what should a mission statement look like? What is it meant to achieve?

The easiest option (for me anyway) is to refer to my university business school – and world renowned – marketing professor, Michael Baker. “Irrespective of size, all organizations have a mission, a raison d’être or reason for being. In small organizations the mission may be implicit but clearly understood.” And what should a good mission statement cover? Baker thinks “…the organization’s character, identity, and reasons for existence; why the organization exists and for whose benefit; the beliefs and moral principles driving its behaviour; its norms and rules of conduct.”

Want another opinion? There’s always Baker’s peer, Philip Kotler to fall back on. Oft cited as the grandfather of modern marketing, he opines that a good mission statement has three key characteristics: limited goals; outlined policies and values the company should honour and cherish; and defined competitive scopes (industry, products and applications, competences, market segments, geographic territories, and vertical alignment)

Got all that? Good stuff. Now get to work articulating your company’s mission!

You shouldn’t really have to spend that long doing so. If you’ve been working at a big company for a while, then you’ll already have a very good inkling as to what should be included. Alternatively, if you’re just starting out in the erotic retailing industry and still quite small in size, you’ll probably find it much easier to produce it as your scope will still be highly focused and undiversified. Relative simplicity will be you friend on this occasion. Besides, if you’re just starting out in business, you can’t afford to spend an inordinate time on this anyway.

But do it you should, and must. In fact, for solo enterprises or small teams, the mission statement is arguably one of the most important things for you to possess.

Why? Because starting and running a business is incredibly tough. One that survives and thrives is an even tougher ask of its owner(s) and team members. Framing your mission statement on the wall beside your desk will serve as your faithful corporate compass, in the unchartered waters you’re sailing in.

Remember the phrase, “If you’re going through hell, keep going” ? Your mission statement is there for exactly those moments in time. When you’re at your lowest ebb, when you’re going through a period of sheer hell, when there’s blood, sweat and tears being shed in your battle to survive, persevere and profit, those few little – but well formed – sentences describing who you are, what you’re in this for and how you’re going to do it, will be the fuel for the fire in your belly that will see you not only through each day, but give you the kick up the backside each morning when you so want to spend it in bed. When the mere “erotic wannabe’s” throw in the towel because they arguably didn’t have a focus or mission to begin with, you’re still going to be hustling, grafting, and making your goddamn business work come hell or high water. Why? Because you’ve got the conviction, the right amount of stubbornness, and a shedload of determination to succeed.

And you’ve got a defined mission to achieve.

So now that all excuses for being without a mission statement have been banished, and you’re going to make amends, make it count when you’re composing it. And above all, be honest to yourself and your potential customers, otherwise it’s a pointless exercise. You and your customers deserve far more.

Brian can be contacted at lasciviousmarketing.com, found on Twitter @LasciviousMktng or phoned on +44 (0)141 255 0769.

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