Inside the Producer’s Corner with Suzanne Lyons
This is a series of articles that film producer and best-selling author Suzanne Lyons (listen to her interview here) will be writing over the next 6 months. I personally asked Suzanne to share her knowledge, experience, and motivation with you the IFH Tribe. Whether you are a director, producer, cinematographer, screenwriter or editor I think you’ll get a ton out of this series. Check back every week for a new post that will help you on your journey as an indie filmmaker.
10 Tips to Creating Your Mission Statement
Now that we are well into January I think the timing is perfect for this week’s topic… “10 Tips to Creating Your Mission Statement”. For some reason we tend to avoid this aspect of our business. As I’ve mentioned in more than a few of my previous articles, you are a business. You are the president and CEO of your company even if you are a writer, an actor, a DP, a director, etc.
When I started doing the research for this article I asked an actress friend of mine about her mission statement and she said, “I never thought of myself as a business, so I didn’t think I needed one.” EVERYONE should have a mission statement. Business, personal, it doesn’t matter… it’s important. So that’s your job this week! And trust me, you’ll thank me when it’s over.
I wrote my first mission statement during a workshop in the mid 80s and I declared in my mission statement that I was the best daughter in the world. I realized after I wrote it that I hadn’t called my mom in three weeks. What a great wake up call. I grabbed my daytimer and wrote a note in every Wednesday and Sunday, “call mom.” I also came up with other ideas that would ensure I was “the best daughter in the world.”
My company’s mission statements have literally shaped and molded the way I do business. Check out my Snowfall Films, Inc. mission statement on my website. Mission statements are invaluable. Here are “10 Tips” to help you create yours.
1) WHAT IS A MISSION STATEMENT? A company mission statement (as stated in “wikipedia”) is “a written statement of the purpose of a company. It should guide the action of the organization, spell out its overall goal, provide a sense of direction, and guide decision-making.” It provides “the framework within which the company’s strategies are formulated.” According to Nightingale-Conant a personal mission statements is “a purposeful promise that carries you toward your goals… giving you the focus, direction, and accountability you need to accomplish your career, financial and personal goals.”
2) WHY WRITE IT? Author Janel M. Radtke believes we should write it because it explains why our organization exists and what it hopes to achieve in the future. He says “it must express the companies’ purpose in a way that inspires commitment, innovation and courage.” Randall Hansen (quintcareers.com) says the company mission statement is designed to provide direction and thrust to an organization. When my film partner and I were writing our mission statement for Snowfall Films it really helped us not only define our company, but impacted the design of our company, our company’s future, even the benefits for those who joined us. One sentence states, “Snowfall Films provides the opportunity for people to excel, expand, risk, laugh, be nurtured, and have creative breakthroughs.”
3) WHAT SHOULD IT INCLUDE?: Radtke suggests we look at three specific areas when drafting our company mission statement. 1) Purpose – what are the opportunities or needs that we exist to address? 2) the Business – what are we doing to address these needs? 3) The Value – what principles or beliefs guide our work?” In nearly every article I read on mission statements the same suggestions were repeated: What are your company’s core values, core purpose and visionary goals?
4) BRAINSTORM AND BREAK IT DOWN: I find it really helps to brainstorm with my business partners, friends and colleagues, talking ‘out loud’ about the purpose, the value, the vision, what’s the future, what are my goals, the possibilities, the big picture… it all helps me get clear and formulate my commitments. Another suggestion is to break it down into sections. For example, Starbucks’ mission statement is “to inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.” Then they go on to break it down covering all aspects of their business… “our coffee”… “our partners”… “our customers”… “our stores”… expanding on each category.
5) GET INSPIRED: Read other companies’ and individuals’ mission statements. When I taught the Flash Forward workshops (a workshop that was for people at all levels and facets of the entertainment industry) part of the homework was to write a mission statement. I had people stand and read their mission statement and that inspired everyone else. When my Flash Forward Institute partner and I were designing our company mission statement we got inspired by others. Here is a line from ours (written back in 1994) “The Flash Forward Institute is an educational institution founded to nurture enterprising talent in every aspect of the entertainment industry. Our programs bring forth integrity, excitement, generosity, leadership and vision.” Go online now, find companies you admire and check out their mission statements.
6) WRITING YOUR PERSONAL MISSION STATEMENT: For me, writing a personal mission statement is magical. Creating, drafting, designing and writing it forced me to look at the ‘bigger picture’. It helped me create a powerful vision inside a context instead of the day to day content of life. As you emphatically state and declare statements describing yourself it literally alters who you are in the present. You get to create from your commitments and passion and there are no restrictions… no limitations. I can’t think of a better reason to write a mission statement.
7) CONSIDER ALL ASPECTS: I have seen mission statements that are one sentence or one short paragraph and that is absolutely fine. However, I feel that if you are going to be in the inquiry and then drafting one, why not address a variety of aspects of your life: Family, friends, romance, community, health, spirituality, personal growth, finances, home, relaxation, fun, etc. As I mentioned earlier, in designing mine, just looking at myself as a daughter was a great revelation. So why not touch on all arenas. I got to see that who I was being as a daughter was insufficient with my commitments and who I was now declaring myself to be. I noticed similar characteristics in a number of areas of my life.
8) THE FIVE STEP PLAN: Randall Hansen suggests “the five-step plan.” 1) “Identify Past Successes. Look at past success in recent years (in all areas) and identify a common theme and write them down. 2) Identify Core Values. Develop a list of attributes that you believe identify who you are and what your priorities are. Once complete, narrow your values to five or six that are the most important values to you and then see if you can choose the one core value that really resonates. 3) Identify Contributions. Make a list of the ways you could make a difference (in any and every area you want to contribute). 4) Identify Goals. Think about your priorities in life and the goals you have for yourself. You can list goals in the short term and in the long term. 5) Write your Mission Statement. Based on the first four steps and the better understanding you now have of yourself, begin writing your personal mission statement.”
9) USE POSITIVE LANGUAGE: Be careful to use only positive words when referring to yourself. When I was teaching the section on mission statements during the Flash Forward workshops, is was amazing how many people would stand up and read theirs using sentences like, “I’m not going to be late any more. I’m someone who is committed to being on time.” Leave out the first part of that sentence! Watch yourself here, it’s not about fixing anything. It’s more about designing, creating, defining and declaring who you are… who YOU SAY YOU ARE. There is no judging, no apologizing, no fixing, no evaluating. Use only statements that light you up… that inspire you!
10) KEEP IT VISUAL: The title says it all. Given that we are all human beings we do tend to fall back on our old ways. Our actions are often a result of our beliefs which are only based on habitual thoughts. So it may take a little practice and a little rewiring. That’s why keeping your personal and company mission statement on your vision board on framed on your wall is so important. Don’t forget to read it from time to time. You will be amazed at how you will inspire yourself!
Suzanne Lyons is President/Producer of Snowfall Films, Inc. having produced/exec produced 12 feature films to date. She co-founded the Flash Forward Institute which focused on teaching the tools of business needed to market oneself in the entertainment industry. She recently launched a game-changing online course called Indie Film Producing Masterclass with Suzanne Lyons. She’s the author of Indie Film Producing: The Craft of Low Budget Filmmaking published by Focal Press. She has also hosted over 125 informational videos on the film industry. When time permits she does private career and business coaching. Suzanne is originally Canadian and lives with her husband in Los Angeles, CA.
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