Before you get to “what,” you have to start with “why.”
For many people working at banks, universities and chambers of commerce, running travel programs is something of an inherited job. There’s a good chance you didn’t start your organization’s affinity club, and managing it might not have been among your job responsibilities when you were originally hired.
If someone else started your travel group and established its procedures before handing you the reins, you might find yourself in a tricky situation. Yes, traveling with clients can be fun and rewarding, but since you weren’t the creator of the program, it can be difficult to know what our program should accomplish or how you can grow it. And in an era when many institutions are closely scrutinizing — and sometimes closing — their travel programs, uncertainty about your purpose can pose a significant threat to the future of your club and perhaps even your job.
To solve these problems, you need a mission statement.
If you’ve been in the corporate world awhile, the term mission statement might make you roll your eyes. But don’t turn the page just yet. Yes, corporate mission statements have been badly abused over the past few decades, stripped of any real meaning and stuffed with high-concept words like “synergy,” “disruption” and “catalyst.” But that’s not the kind of mission statement you need.
Think of this mission statement less like a plaque that hangs on your office wall and more like the set of orders a military leader gives his troops on a specific assignment. A good mission statement clearly and concisely states the key purpose of the assignment. The soldiers know exactly what they’re there to do and, equally as important, not to do. They know what success looks like, and every member of the team understands their role in accomplishing that mission. And under the best circumstances, the team members also understand why the mission is taking place.
A good mission statement provides clarity and accountability to everyone involved in a program or project. And a great one helps them understand the “why” behind the “what,” so they can buy into the concept and take ownership of it.
Defining the Benefits
A solid mission statement will benefit your travel program or affinity club in a number of ways. First of all, it will help you and your organization’s leadership get on the same page about the purpose of your program and what it’s meant to accomplish. Many travel clubs of the past have closed because senior leaders didn’t understand why they were created or how they worked. But with a clear and simple mission statement, you can easily demonstrate your program’s value to your leaders.
If the institution’s leaders agree about the key purpose of your program, it will be easy for them to give you goals and objectively measure your success. So instead of a new vice president’s knowing only that you lead a travel group because Jane started it before you got there, for example, you can say your program’s mission is to increase high-value deposits among customers over the age of 55. Then, you can show a list of new deposits you have received from travelers in the past 12 months. That’s something the VP will immediately understand.
A clear mission statement will also help you more easily determine how you should prioritize your efforts. If travel opportunities are attracting more new customers than in-office potlucks or educational presentations, you can choose to jettison those initiatives that aren’t performing as well. And if anyone complains about that decision, you can simply explain that the events you cut weren’t meeting your program’s mission objectives.
Building Your Mission Statement
There are a thousand ways to write a mission statement, and the right approach for you will depend on a host of factors: the kind of organization you work for, the financial incentives at play, the size of your membership, etc. But no matter what template you choose, there are some key things you should do in crafting any mission statement.
First, start with the overall mission of your institution. If you work at a bank, your organization has a profit motive, and you can bet that anything you do will require a clear financial return on investment. At a university, though, the institutional mission is mostly educational. So while your program can’t be a money pit, you might focus your efforts more on community-building and continuing education.
Next, consult with your organization’s leaders. Ask them how they see your program working well now and what you could do to contribute more to the overall success of the organization. If you give your leaders a chance to contribute to your mission statement, they’re more likely to feel a sense of ownership in it. They may even want to participate in it more, attending your events and perhaps going on some of your trips.
As you work, make sure that your mission statement clearly reflects priorities. Does your program exist to retain existing customers or attract new ones? Are you looking to directly increase deposits or donations? If you work at a chamber of commerce, are you trying to generate revenue through trip fees or simply build affinity and connections among business members in your community?
Finally, ensure that your mission statement is future focused. Your travel program may have enjoyed some glory days in the past, but don’t aim at re-creating those times. Instead, look forward to how your program can be successful in the years to come. Your future and present customers come from a different generation than your past travelers, and they’re living in a different world. So set yourself up for success by defining a mission that will serve the present and the future well.