I’ve been thinking a lot recently about how to establish the mission statement of a company. A lot of it, I think, has to do with defining who your customer is.
After Steve Jobs passed, I feel like I’ve been reading a whole bunch of hub-bub on the internets about the importance of creating beautiful products. Emphasizing perfection. Giving your customer something amazing that they didn’t even know they needed. However all of this has a tendency to make companies, and the people that run them extremely product focused.
But contrary to popular belief, tons of marketing research has shown that product focused companies generally aren’t very successful in the long run.
An example is in the Railroad industry. When cars became the dominant mode of transportation, the railroad industry quickly became obsolete. A lot of railroad executives at the time were forced to rely on government subsidies, they then pointed at cars and airplanes with blame. But did the need for passenger and freight transportation ever decline? No. The railroads certainly had the resources to capitalize and continue to service this need.
The demise of the railroad industry was ultimately caused by defining their corporate mission too narrowly. Railroads thought they were in the business of building and running railroads when they should have been in the business of transportation. These companies were railroad oriented instead of transportation oriented. They were product-oriented instead of customer-oriented.