Recently, a post on IHRSA’s blog gave me pause. It features Fred Hoffman, owner of Fitness Resources in France, and it focuses on the relationship between personal trainers and member retention. What struck me is that Hoffman talked only a little about that relationship; what he emphasized is the importance of mission statements. As he put it, “Policies, procedures, performance standards—all should be based on [a] company’s mission statement and represent its core values.”
This got me thinking. Really, what is a mission statement? Hoffman argues that “whatever takes place in a club is a reflection of the company and its management.” In this conception, a mission statement is like a mirror you hold up to your club to make sure that it looks the way you want it to look. If you glance into the mirror and what you see doesn’t match your ideas about what you should see, then you know it’s time to make changes. If you don’t have the mission statement—don’t have the mirror—then you have nothing against which to compare your reality, nothing by which to judge how close your reality is to meeting your ideal. How then do you know what to change? How do you assess the “whatever takes place in your club” to ensure that it is a true reflection of your company and its management?
So, as Hoffman says, “If you have a mission statement, revisit it, and, if you don’t, draft and fine-tune one.” Your mission statement should do several things:
• Provide an explanation of what your club does
• Include a description of your corporate culture
• Incorporate examples to show how your corporate culture manifests itself
• Enumerate your club’s core values
• Explain how the core values are used to obtain desired results for members, staff, suppliers, and the business as a whole
Thus, it’s not enough to state your goals. As they say in the journalism business, “specific is terrific”: You need to explicitly state what you are, what you do, what activities and attitudes define you. You need to provide concrete examples, avoiding abstract language that ultimately doesn’t mean much. And you need to pull it all together to show how you accomplish everything that you want to accomplish.
How then do you use the mission statement, in practical terms? During your hiring process, share it with potential employees. Make sure that they understand it. If it doesn’t make sense to them, or if they can’t see how it forms the basis for everything the club does and every decision management makes, they might not be the right employees. If they do understand it, make sure they see how the role they would play within the club aligns with it. To use the personal-trainer-and-retention example, if one of the core values your mission statement outlines is member retention, make very clear how the responsibilities set forth in the job description relate to member retention. Show how each core value jibes with the various job responsibilities described.
Finally, make sure employees never forget the mission statement. There’s a reason why grade school children used to have to recite the Pledge of Allegiance every morning. You don’t have to make your employees recite the mission statement daily, but do post it prominently in a staff lounge. Do bring it up during staff meetings. Do discuss it with employees when you meet with them one on one. If your employees see how important the mission statement is to you, they’ll believe how important it is to them.