My Company’s Mantra
A few years ago, when I was just starting my startup, I asked Frank Helle (CEO of Axian) if he had any advice. He said that Guy Kawasaki was in town talking about starting companies, and that I should attend. At the time, I didn’t know who Guy Kawasaki was, and for some reason, I didn’t think google him either (I don’t think I used “google” as a verb at that time).
On the day of his talk, I paid my $20 fee to get in and sat near the front (since you can see the speaker better). Just before he was about to start, I looked around at the audience and was surprised that the whole room was full. As soon as Guy started his talk, I could see why. He was a remarkable speaker and had so much pragmatic advice that I didn’t bother taking notes — I was just going to buy his book Art of the Start. If you’re thinking about starting a company, this is something you should really take a look at.
A mantra is not a vision statement
One of the interesting points he made was having a “mantra” for your company. This isn’t a vision statement or a mission statement (which are usually lifeless and awful). This is the reason your company exists, a short phrase that sums up the ideals and goals of your company. It’s hard to come up with this, so we didn’t have one for quite a while (actually it took us over 2 years to come up with our mantra).
A mantra is not a tagline
One thing a mantra is not is a tagline. We hear taglines all the time: “What can Brown do for you?”, “I’m lovin’ it”, “Just do it”. A tagline is part of a campaign for branding a company. It isn’t the reason a company exists. Nike doesn’t exist to “just do it”. Guy came up with one possible mantra for Nike: “Authentic athletic performance”. This doesn’t have the zing of their tagline, but it is more enduring and provides more guidance.
Although a tagline isn’t a mantra, it still takes time to develop. It took my company about a year before we came up with something that worked (my wife thought of it — she’s very smart). Our tagline is “Get Your Priorities Straight.” It’s a nice tagline. It’s short, it’s accurate, and it’s a little confrontational (something key for the kind of startup we have). However, it’s not a mantra.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve had to describe my company’s product (Frontier), to a number of people in a number of different ways. One day, my company’s mantra just popped into my head: “Reduce workplace stress”. This is really at the core of my company. That’s why I came up with the concept for Frontier. That’s why I took the time to think about it and develop it.
People spend most of their lives at work. A lot of their time at work is spent under stress. Stress is a bad thing that can spill over into every aspect of people’s lives. If we can figure out how to reduce workplace stress in a real way (not just treat the symptoms), we will have done something to improve (and maybe change) the world. That’s something worth spending time on. That’s why I keep going. That’s why my company will succeed…eventually 🙂