CHAPMAN SPIRA AND CARSON LLC, MISSION STATEMENT
There are many terms in the financial industry that confuse me no end. Terms such as market cap, and “Mission Statement” are particularly galling. Not only don’t I understand what they mean, but I have not yet found anyone who does. In particular, it would seem that the term “mission statement” which will be dealt with in this memo, means some sort of effort that is going to be undertaken that will achieve a particular result if a series of unfortunate events can be avoided such as bankruptcy, marketing problems, theft, production problems and just about everything else that can be conceived of. I am reminded of the “Mission Statement” uttered by the crazed nut job in “man of La Mancha” in which he received a message from above that it had become his duty to attack any windmills in the neighborhood and chop them into tiny pieces. Unbelievably, he was able to captivate a few followers that seem to believe that he had the right idea. What harm these windmills were doing to the native population was never made evident and it only proves that no matter how flawed a “mission statement” may be, it is still a “mission statement.” Most people that under psychiatric care, have been able to weave extremely complex mission statements and on occasion they are able to find others just as delusional as themselves who become followers.
Hitler telegraphed his “Mission Statement” which was contained in the book “Mien Kemp” in which he made clear that if he was ever released from jail and could eventually lead Germany, he would sanitize its entire population of all Jews. Apparently at the time, the majority of the German population felt that this “mission statement” was meritorious and he was soon leading the country on a undertaking far more intricate than the mere assault on inanimate objects that spin merrily in the wind and produce energy.
Throughout the years people have found reason to believe in those that have well thought out “mission statements”. What could have ever been a better plan that that of James Warren Jones, an ordained Christian Minister whose mission in life seemingly was to gather together the homeless, the sick and the mentally deranged, provide for them and then see to it that they all died from a poison overdose in their Kool-aid. Little did these blind followers know when he brought them to Nirvana, (Jonestown, Guyana) a lush plantation of almost 10 square miles where agriculture products were cultivated and animals were raised that were already doomed. Meanwhile Jones wrote his “Mission Statement”” entitled, Translation, which spelled out chapter and verse of what he was planning for his followers. His plan clearly stated that his followers would all die together and then would move to another planet for a life of bliss. Making this an even stranger scenario was the fact that mass suicides were regularly practiced with the entire colony participating by drinking Kool-aid and then pretending to have been poisoned to death. However, eventually, Jones determined that the time had come and In November of 1978, 900 people died from poison, gun shot wounds, lethal injections and a host of other horrors. Jones had indeed carried out his mission to the letter and never once denied that this was his program. .
Over the years, Religious leaders have probably created more chaos over their ill-throughout mission statements than world leaders or anyone else for that matter. Of all the ill-conceived “mission statements” ever devised in the history of mankind, the Children’s Crusades (there were two) of 1212 were the most dismal. Picture the leader of this motley band of children, a 12-year old shepherd, Stephen of Cloyes who could neither read nor write. Cloyes somehow was given an audience with King Philip of France and he told the King that Christ had ordered him to organize the country’s children and that Cloyes would led them in an attack on the Arabs to bring back Jerusalem into the Christian fold. To King Phillip’s credit, he essentially told the prepubescent Cloyes to come back when he had grown up, but that statement did not impede the lad one wit. This child even produced a letter from Jesus stating that the Mediterranean would part so that they didn’t even need vessels to mount their attack. When the sea failed to part, the children commandeered a number of boats and of 30,000 child soldiers that went to war, literally none was ever heard from again. Interestingly enough, the Vatican did not make one attempt to stop this lemming like suicide march.
As luck would have it another lad of about the same age living in Germany named Nicholas came up with the same rotten idea simultaneously. Inconceivably, Nicholas was able to attract 20,000 followers in much the same manner as Cloyes. In this instance the disaster occurred earlier rather than later as the youngsters first determined to travel to Rome from Germany and get a blessing from the Pope himself before they went into battle. This in itself proved suicidal as there was literally no way to get across the Alps and most of the 20,000 died in the snow covered mountains. The few that made it to Rome were told by the Pope to grow up and come back in 20 years. However, there was no way back and the few that were left most probably perished when they again were forced to retrace their steps through the Alps.
Of all the people on earth that ever issued a “Mission Statement”, the most calamitous was Joseph Stalin. He became the the general secretary of the Soviet Communist Party in 1922 and eventually triumphed over his political rival, Leon Trotsky and took command of the country. Stalin had a wildly heralded mission statement which included a succession of what were called five-year plans. The purpose of these five year plans was to transform Russia from a third world country into an industrial power. Stalin was not a great communicator and the people never really bought into his project. His collective farms were a catastrophe and millions of people starved to death under the ill-conceived program. Moreover, the pathetic theory of people sharing the fruits of their labor failed miserably and the populace found little or no incentive to produce anything other than vodka from their rotten potatoes.
More electrifying was the fact that Stalin viewed everyone as a potential executioner and shortly before Russia entered World War II, Stalin executed the majority of his generals fearing a coup d’état. When Russia was attacked by Germany, their army was literally leaderless and it was only the fierceness of the Russian Winters that saved the day. Stalin eventually became directly responsible for over 20 million deaths, most of which could have easily been prevented.
Mission Statements are usually created by the foolhardy that can’t wait to inform their competition exactly what they are going to do and how they are going to do it. Tipping off your competitors or potential competitors as to your strategy makes about as much sense as a three headed frog. We are aware of no truly rich person or great world leader that was really willing to share their strategies with potential competitors. Is it even conceivable that Cornelius Vanderbilt would share his plans for the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad with his arch enemies, Fiske and Gould with whom he was at war? Keep in mind the famous saying, “Money may be a curse, but you can always find someone to take the curse from you.” Or better yet, picture the U.S. Special Forces going into battle behind enemy lines and telling anyone who would be willing to listen what their plan of attack is going to be. Mission Statements are for the most part, a form of self-gratification where you tell the world how great you are, how wonderful your staff is, how marvelous your ideas are and how financially successful you are going to be and yet you don’t a clue as to how you are going to get from here to there. Mission Statements are egocentric self aggrandizements meant to irritate the reader and inflame the economists.
Technology is moving along at a frightening rapid pace and before the ink is even dry on a “mission statement”, the entire concept has been trashed by someone that instead of standing around composing rancid prose about how great they are going to do, actually went ahead and did it. People with truly great ideas for the most part do not share them with their competitors and if they do, it becomes somewhat akin to economic suicide. Take for example the odd couple of Thomas Edison and Nicholas Tesla. Tesla had an IQ about 50 points higher than Edison and from the point of view of physics and chemistry, Edison was just a just a hack while Tesla was world class inventor. However, Edison knew the score and he also knew how to protect intellectual property even if it belonged to someone else. He allowed Tesla to believe that he was Tesla’s best friend and while pretending to be helping him, stole literally everything he invented and worse yet, took credit for all of it. Tesla naturally died broke.
Thus, “mission statements” are self serving and suck as meaningful documents. They are usually outdated the day they are completed, they pander to what they believe their readers would like to hear and they follow outmoded outlines of what others have written before them. I can not remember ever reading a “mission statement” that didn’t create an urge in me to run to the bathroom. Instead of pretty words, specific references would be more in order. As an alternative of stating what you are going to do, maybe; what you should concentrate on what you have already accomplished and what your thought process was. Instead of using a mission statement that comes on a software program that thousands have used before you, talk about the facts. Discuss, why you idea will not become outmoded in the next two weeks. Discuss how you are going to sell your unique product and why on earth anyone would even be interested in buying it. Chat about, how you are going to protect your product from others, such as the filing for patents, copyrights and trademarks. Don’t ever tell us that your best friend said you didn’t need to protect your product because no one would be able to reverse engineer it and please don’t bring your wife or girl friend into a serious meeting.
When you are discussing you plans, do not show any signs of acute paranoia. If you are not willing to share your concepts, don’t go to a meeting, you are only wasting everyone’s time. If you can’t tell your investment banker what you have, then he can’t raise you money and no one wants to deal in this sort of zero minus game. We just don’t have the time. Don’t make statements that you can’t back up or where someone has sworn you to secrecy, business is not a game of hop-scotch; it is economic war and the loser can well wind up penniless. Secrecy ill positioned is poison and once you get a reputation of shopping a transaction without stating critical facts, you are not going to invited back anywhere.
Remember that lawyers are usually poor business men and although they are an important element in a business transaction, don’t even think of asking them how to run a company. If they could have done it with any sort of aplomb , they would not be practicing law. Most importantly, position credible people on your board of directors. We believe that if reliable people are willing to risk the litigation dangers of being board members, it speaks volumes about both your integrity and your product. More importantly, do yourself a favor and stay away from making aunt Sadie your corporate secretary, nepotism is a very poor sales tool and we tend to avoid it like the plague. Hire the best person available that has successfully operated a similar type of company. Successful people do not have to prove themselves over and over again. Once or twice is more than enough. If they have done it right before, they can do it right again.
We would remind our readers of the famous saying that went something like this, “The man who uses yesterday’s methods in today’s work won’t be in business tomorrow.” To be there, think out of the box, no in it.