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Burn Down the Mission: Start-ups Get Started

Okay, mission statements matter. From a mission statement comes the goals, strategies and tactics that help you stay on track to succeed. It's boilerplate, common sense, obvious.

The mission is important, but start-ups can make it too important. More than a few times I've been in conversations with small start-ups that have let the anxiety over the perfectly articulated mission, all finessed and fine-tuned, distract them from getting their company going in the first place.

One company was a small brewer getting off the ground in Colorado. They had one brand that was selling like crazy, getting them all kinds of start-up attention. "But our mission is about multiple brands. We're worried we're skewing off our mission." I asked whether they had enough business from their first hot beer to start other brands. "No," they said. "That's the problem."

Selling a lot of beer right off the bat is not a problem. It reminds me of when I worked on the Twix account. After a certain commercial had been running awhile, the head of account service told me, "I have some good news and some bad news. Which do you want first?" The good news. "We're selling Twix like crazy." Then what could be the bad news? "We're selling them to the wrong people."

Another start-up was a theater group who needed to get their first season off the ground. "We really want to produce this particular play, and it'll be a perfect start to the season, but we think it's off brand." What brand?

They hadn't put on a play yet. Yet they couldn't let themselves produce the one they could pull off best from fear that it might conflict with the brand of the company that doesn't exist yet.

As Jim Collins said, "Get the right people on the bus. Then see where the bus takes you."

Because while you're overthinking this stuff, gas prices are going up.