No busines by fjzhangweiqun


'No business can be all things to all people'

September 29, 2003
Names: Shweta Shyamani and Amy Wohl
Title: Co-presidents
Company: Shwamy Creations Inc.
Company type: Handmade and custom-designed
invitations, announcements, favors and accessories
Started in: 2002
Employees: Two

The Blues Brothers may have known that they were "on a mission from God," but we've found that for many
entrepreneurs, including ourselves, our mission is not always so heavenly or straightforward.
In fact, in our eagerness to get our business off the ground, we skipped the entire process of developing a
corporate mission statement.

Instead, we were just interested in getting business, any business, and taking on as many projects as we could.

Prior to starting our business, we each enjoyed successful, yet unsatisfying, careers working for large
companies. We are a strong team with both graphic arts and an MBA in our backgrounds. During a holiday
weekend of sharing our career frustrations we made the decision to use our business skills
and latent creative tendencies to start Shwamy Creations Inc.--a company that would offer custom-designed,
handmade invitations, announcements, favors and accessories.

Initially, we were so excited about getting a customer that we took any job that came our way--we even made
handmade soaps for a baby shower to get some work. Though the soap loosely fell into the "favors" category,
our emphasis was supposed to be on designing on paper. Eager to generate revenue without adequate
consideration of the "cost" side of the equation, we did not have a clear handle on profit margins or even on
whether we were turning a profit at all. A light bulb went off when we opened our credit card statement and
saw all the money we spent on soapmaking supplies that were now collecting dust. They had become
expensive, idle inventory--since we'd likely never get another job that required those materials.

We needed to focus.

We decided to write a mission statement about who we were and what business we were in. It meant we would
sacrifice some projects in the hopes of building a real business. Writing a corporate mission statement has
provided us with much needed clarity as our business grows. As we are challenged by decisions about new
product lines and markets to pursue, our mission statement is a
solid guidepost by which to measure these opportunities. Though it may not be obvious, the mission statement
has also helped us to rein in our costs, since we're investing in tools and resources that we can utilize across
many different jobs, not just one-off projects.

A good mission statement should simply and succinctly get to the core of why you are in business, and after
much deliberation and debate we feel that ours does just that:

             Shwamy Creations' mission is to deliver the written word for special occasions in a
              unique and unexpected way, with an emphasis on quality, service and creativity.

While our mission statement helps steer us through important business decisions, we are careful not to allow
it to limit us. Like a good business plan, the mission statement should be the basis for making corporate
decisions, but should not be overly restrictive. Ideally, it is written broadly enough to provide some flexibility.
Because changing market conditions and evolving corporate priorities cannot be predicted and written into the
statement, opportunities may arise that necessitate revisiting or even rewriting a corporate mission.

Recently, someone approached us about creating a corporate brochure. Could we do it? Sure, we could. Was it
consistent with the kind of business we were trying to build? Absolutely not. We passed the opportunity to a
fellow small-business owner. It is tempting to say yes to every opportunity that comes along; after all, we
could use the business. But it's important to ask ourselves, "do we want to be just mediocre at a lot of things
or really great at a few?"

We learned the hard way that no business can be all things to all people. Thanks to our mission statement, we
know that we don't need to be.


Follow this series and find more small-business advice at
Copyright (c) 2003, Chicago Tribune

To top