When the world's best golf pros tee up at the U.S. Open on Thursday in Pebble Beach, four of the top five golfers will pull a TaylorMade M5 driver out of their bag. Tiger Woods used it to win the Masters in his storybook comeback and Brooks Koepka will be using it as he attempts a rare U.S. Open three-peat.
TaylorMade has built a reputation as one of the most innovative brands in golf. In a recent conversation, TaylorMade CEO David Abeles told me that whether you're a startup or a global brand, it all starts with your mission statement. Successful business leaders communicate their mission carefully and consistently.
"Words are important," Abeles says. "Words define your actions and actions define your outcome."
According to Abeles, an entrepreneur's mission must be specific and tactical. Abeles knows his company's mission statement so well that he spoke at length about each of its 10 words and how they inspire fresh thinking throughout the entire organization. "The mission of our organization is very clear. It's to be the best performance golf brand in the world," Abeles began.
He then spent the next five minutes analyzing every word and how those words spark innovation. It was an astonishing display of communication skills--I've rarely met an entrepreneur who knows their company's mission as well as Abeles does.
His breakdown might inspire you to take a fresh look at your own mission:
Best. Abeles explained that if you call yourself the best it means being "unconditionally committed" to doing things that your competition hasn't done. For example: TaylorMade revolutionized the game 40 years ago with the introduction of the first metalwood driver--which looked, sounded, and responded a lot differently than drivers made of wood. Competitors were forced to follow.
If you're going to use an adjective to describe your company, make sure everyone in your organization understands what the word means in your field.
Performance. Abeles's father was a scientist who maintained that statements must be measurable. Abeles applies that lesson to his company. For example, the M5 driver--according to objective tests--does have greater ball speed, spin and launch angles when compared to its competitors. Translation: The ball goes farther and straighter.
It's not enough to just say that your product or service is "the best." Words in your mission statement must be backed up by quantifiable data.
Golf. "We are a golf company, make no mistake," says Abeles. "We are a highly specialized organization that focuses solely on the game of golf and the products that benefit golfers when they play the game. The only things we think about are in and around golf."
In other words, they're obsessed with golf. Don't try to be all things to all customers. Be highly-specialized and highly specific with the words you use to describe your category.
World. The last word in TaylorMade's mission statement is "world." Although the company is based in Carlsbad, California, it's not a purely U.S.-based business. "How we show up domestically should be no different in the U.S. than how we show up in Japan, Australia, Europe, or South Africa."
During our conversation, I made the mistake of saying TaylorMade's mission is to be the best "golf-equipment maker." Abeles quickly corrected me: The word "equipment" is not in the mission. TaylorMade makes drivers, putters, irons and golf balls. (Fun fact: American pro golfer Rickie Fowler only uses TaylorMade's TP5 golf ball.)
The words you use are critical to innovation and therefore must be "specific and tactical," Abeles reminded me. "Any organization, individual or association that plans on having a material impact in their respective area has to have a clear perspective on what they do, how they do it, and who they want to be."
Make your mission clear and make sure everyone hears it--again and again.