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How to be laser focused on your mission

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The investors on Dragon’s Den are ruthless. They are there to find ways to make a buck and that is what they focus on. When pitched by a made-exclusively-in-Africa shoe company with a mission deeply entrenching creating employment in Africa while producing great footwear for a global market, the investors asked a poignant question.

Investors: Why do you produce in Africa when production and shipping costs are higher than elsewhere?
Shoe Company: Because we believe in the benefits of creating an economy in Africa.
Investors: You have a business opportunity that is of interest to us but with a potential 20% cost reduction, we would need to see the manufacturing move out of Africa. Would you be prepared to go along with that?
Shoe Company: No
Investor 1: I’m out.
Investor 2: I’m out.
Investor 3: I’m out.

I am paraphrasing but that represents the gist of it accurately.

The investors understand their mission (maximize profits) and stuck to it. The shoe company understands their mission (build a successful company that contributes to the African economy) and stuck to it. I suggest that both are worth emulating. Consider the investors for a moment. They have a mission to make money and they are intensely focused on their mission. They are not interested in resources being used for things that don’t help them achieve their mission. A successful investor and a successful not-for-profit or charity are obviously different in many ways, but they are also arguably alike in a very important one. To be successful, they both work to ensure their resources are being deployed as effectively as possible to achieve their mission.

A great environment for volunteers is one where the passion for the mission carries the same laser focus as demonstrated by the investors.

Donors have been inspired by your mission and have chosen to support it. Although some are also inspired by recognition, they are interested in getting the biggest bang for their buck in terms of accomplishing your mission.

Subscribing to a mission focused approach does not mean that your mission has to be so narrowly focused that it can’t include elements such as fair treatment of people and minimal impact on the environment. 

Subscribing to this also does not mean that you can’t spend some time or money showing donors and volunteers you appreciate what they give. Not only do donors and volunteers deserve some thanks, it’s common knowledge that when we feel that our contributions have value,  we’re more inclined to give more or work more productively. Both of these contribute to the achievement of your mission.

So what can you do?

  1. Know you mission and post it frequently and openly so that volunteers and donors know too.
  2. When you consider new programs, policies and procedures, ensure you quantify the impact on the mission as much as is practical.
  3. Annually audit programs, policies and procedures you run, to see if anything has crept into them that does not contribute to your mission at a worthwhile level.
  4. Make a habit of asking yourself, does this contribute to our mission? If it doesn’t, consider making a change or cutting it altogether.

What is your mission? Are there any efforts or expenditures that are not contributing it and therefore holding you back from it? If there is, it’s time to be as ruthless as a Dragon’s Den investor.

What are your thoughts on the topic?