Raising money is hard, and waking up every day knowing the odds are stacked against me as a startup founder can be a little overwhelming, but it’s also what keeps me going everyday. I’m strapped for cash, have no source of income, am out of savings and wake up some days wondering what it is (and why) I started doing this to begin with. But then I’ll meet with a woman to talk about her life, what she thinks of shopping and social media, and how she feels as a consumer in 2012, and I remember why I’m doing this. I get re-charged and energized, and can’t wait to talk to my team and share my energy with them.
As a founder with practically zero funding, in the very early stages of launching anything, our jobs are all over the place. But one of the most important responsibilities we can take on is excitement and motivation to keep the momentum going. I’m lucky enough to work with some kick ass people who are really passionate about pushing Parceld forward, but it always has to come down to momentum and motivation in this stage. And how do we make sure this energy is authentic and enough to keep the wheels turning? By having an authentic goal and core mission.
Mission statements, eternal truths, mantras…whatever we call them, they should drive every decision we make, every feature we push or cut, every marketing channel we pursue and every partnership we form. A lot of companies have them, but many of these statements are just marketing jargon that make us as consumers feel like we’re the main focus. Sometimes we are, but often we’re not.
I’d given this a lot of thought, and as my product manager and I sat at Berkli Parc for three hours this Friday and discussed who we’re trying to reach, what we’re trying to do for them, how social and sharing looks based on this, and what our “story” is, I realized something: we have a core mission. We have an overarching goal. We know exactly what we’re trying to do and the problem we’re trying to solve. The “how”s and the “what”s are where most of the uncertainty lies, but we genuinely want Parceld to mean something very specific to people. I decided we needed to make this something concrete that we can refer back to again and again, and only tweak when it makes absolutely sense. So when we’re pulling our hair out and trying to decide what the next step is, we do this based on something solid, true and real.
While you can find a “mission statement” on various sites’ “About” page or “Customer Service” tab, the really successful companies who are absolutely clomping on their competition right now are the ones whose mission statements are embedded in their products and user experience.
Fab.com, after a notorious pivot, is making huge waves in the design space right now. I’m a pretty regular reader of founder/CEO Jason Goldberg’s blog Betashop, and their mission is really clear:
Fab exists for one simple reason: to make you smile…Our mission is to bring design to as many people as possible, and democratise it, but also to take the people who make things – designers, artists, craftspeople – and allow their businesses to flourish, and to be exposed to other retailers.
I recently signed up for Fab a few months ago, and after clicking around and being there for the launch of Fab 3.0, I don’t think “hmm: their mission statement is being embedded in this experience.” No. I actually smile at some of the selections for sales, at how cute some of the products are. I may not be able to afford anything, but it is clear that their eye for all iterations of design is not only present, but oozes out of every sale.
Then there’s Mark Zuckerberg’s letter to investors, which begins with: “Facebook was not originally created to be a company. It was built to accomplish a social mission to make the world more open and connected.” We can critize their revenue model and complain about the slow mobile app all we want (I’ve been one to do both), but we have no doubt in our minds that Zuckerberg wakes up pretty much every day with this goal at the forefront of every action.
Zappos’s mission is also baked into the ingredients:
We’ve aligned the entire organization around one mission: to provide the best customer service possible. Internally, we call this our WOW philosophy.
Call this corny or cheesy, but when I sit down with women and ask them some of their favorite sites to order from, Zappos almost always comes up as a site they love, mostly because these women feel that if they aren’t satisfied, they can make a return or exchange, or voice their frustration, and be heard and compensated for this.
Before I go ahead and put Parceld’s Eternal Truths out there, I want to end with a TED video from 2009. I know, I know. I kind of hate myself for even writing those words. But after watching, I immediately sent to my team. Simon Sinek discusses how any leader, whether companies or humans, are so because they are always true to their “why”. We as humans relate to an authentic “why”, even if we can’t explain how we know or why we do. We are also loyal to an authentic “why”.
With that said, after discussing with my team, here are Parceld’s eternal truths, mission statement, goals, beliefs, whatever you want to call them:
1. The power of discovery belongs to the people, not brands, retailers or corporations.
2. People should have easy access to choices when they’re read to make a purchase. The labor of finding options should not be theirs to bear.
3. People should feel good about their choices, and empowered by using their money to purchase something they love.
Everything comes back to this. Always. Until Parceld becomes wildly successful or fizzles into nothing. I have memorized them. I have them written down by my desk. I have sent them in an email to my team. These should and will be our DNA going forward.