“Outstanding people have one thing in common: An absolute sense of mission.”
– Zig Ziglar
I have previously written on the importance of having a clear mission for your business.
Once you have gone through the process of trying to discern “why” you do what you do, you need to memorialize that why with a clear written mission statement. In the last chapter we talked about the importance of asking the question: “why do we do what we do?” Your firm’s mission statement is the answer to this question.
Your Mission Statement
Your mission statement is your organizational centerpiece. It is why your business exists.
If a client asks why you decided to hang your shingle, the answer “because” is grossly dissatisfying. The mission of your firm should justify the existence of your firm and be the sine qua non of your organization. Sine qua non is Latin and translates roughly as “that without which a thing could not be.”
The mission is your firm’s essence and identity; it’s the key ingredient in your recipe for success.
Definitively identifying your firm’s mission breathes life into your business. Specifically answering the question of why your business exists makes the identity of your business something separate and apart from your personal identity.
For lawyers in particular, conceptually separating themselves from the name on the door can be very difficult because oftentimes the name is the same. Don’t forget that legally speaking a corporation is recognized as a person. It is a thing that can be sued, enter into agreements, or even be killed (dissolution). By giving your business a clear and powerful mission statement, you give this corporate “person” real life. The mission, to borrow from Pinocchio, is what makes your law firm a “real boy.”
Your firm’s mission gives you and your team members a call to action; it gives you a goal to focus on.
The mission is the driving force of your legal business.
Powerful mission statements might include:
- How the organization will make the lives of the people it serves easier or more enjoyable;
- How the organization will make the world a better place; or
- Identifying a problem in the world that the organization will attempt to eradicate.
Here is the Mission Statement of our firm, Minick Law, P.C., as an example:
Our Mission is simple: Helping People.
At Minick Law, P.C. we will revolutionize the practice of criminal defense in the State of North Carolina by creating a culture centered on:
Values – helping people means providing value to human beings. We recognize first and foremost the humanity of our clients. Every business decision will be measured by how it advances the value we provide to clients.
Systems – producing predictable outcomes is the result of systemization of our business. We will focus on creating forms and utilizing auto-generation software. Our system for handling criminal charges will focus on simplicity.
Expertise – by focusing our practice and creating a team of attorneys throughout North Carolina we will create a culture of continued learning and refined knowledge of criminal law.
The mission statement is not just what gives the business life, it justifies the very existence of the organization. It explains specifically why the business is necessary in the legal marketplace.
Creating A Value Hierarchy In Your Business
Once you have your firm’s mission statement in place, everything you do as a business can be judged against the mission.
The mundane and routine matters at the office must be consistent with your business’ identity. All actions within the business should be judged based on their consistency with your firm’s mission.
The mission statement puts a value hierarchy into your business.
Every aspect of your business must be juxtaposed with your mission statement to determine consistency, including:
- The firm’s culture. How is the mission communicated to everyone in the office? How does the mission saturate attorney and staff interactions?
- Your people. What does the model employee look like? How do we hire and fire people who will work to achieve the company mission?
- Location. Does our physical location allow us to accomplish the objective we have set out for ourselves? Are we in proximity to the clients we are driven to serve?
- Revenue Goals. Are the financial goals of the business compatible with our firm’s mission? How do we bring the capitalistic elements of our business to serve our company’s mission statement? [Note: if $$ is the mission of your business, go back to the drawing board and ask: Why do we do what we do?]
- Your Systems. How are your office’s case management software, document sharing, and financial tracking systems helping achieve the mission? If they are getting in the way, then how do you find the right systems to replace them? Who in the office is responsible for monitoring the systems and implementing change when necessary?
- Marketing. How are you communicating your mission to potential clients and the rest of the outside world? Is your marketing sending the right message to clients, i.e. communicating the mission of your firm, your firm identity, the “why” of your business?
- Eliminating Distractions. Maybe the most important question to be asking to fulfill the mission of your business: what is keeping us from accomplishing the mission? Who is in charge of identifying wasteful activities and actions that detract from our goals? What review systems are in place to search for and destroy office habits that counteract the mission?
Opportunities to review and refine the way your firm does business should be plentiful.
If proposed changes will further the mission of your business, then they should be adopted. If any proposed changes are inconsistent with your firm’s mission statement, you need to either go back to the drawing board or start a new business with a new mission.
James Minick is a criminal defense attorney in Asheville, NC and is the owner of Minick Law, P.C.