Why Mission Should Be Your Primary Product

How to let your mission guide you:
Your mission should guide your decisions, but sometimes you’ll have to prioritize long-term mission over short-term consequences as Organic Valley did when it shipped milk from Ohio to North Carolina to help farmers there start a local business. The short-term compromise was the environmental impact of shipping milk so far. However, this decision empowered a new region of family farms which advanced Organic Valley’s mission to “support rural communities by protecting the health of the family farm.”

No, you don’t have to be a socially driven company to lead with mission and other myths:

  1. Mission as your primary product is not just for socially responsible companies. Virgin Atlantic’s rock and roll irreverence drives its brand and distinguishes it from a homogeneous fleet of airline carriers.
  2. Mission-based decisions don’t just apply to cause marketing or employee volunteer programs. They impact every angle of the business, from market expansion and labeling to recruitment, employee training and compensation, to investor and supplier relationships.  
  3. Your mission doesn’t have to be sexy to be successful. My favorite example of a company that’s turned an unsexy mission and service into a paragon of business done well is the online shoe retailer Zappos. With exceptional customer service as its North Star, Zappos has grown into an innovative and extremely successful company.
  4. Your mission is not immutable. You can upgrade it. Interface’s mission didn’t always begin with “Interface will become the first name in commercial and institutional interiors worldwide through its commitment to people, process, product, place and profits” and end with “We will honor the places where we do business by endeavoring to become the first name in industrial ecology, a corporation that cherishes nature and restores the environment.”  The company’s products, values, resource use and profits-base shifted 16 years ago when Interface’s CEO Ray Anderson committed to changing the way the company did business.

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