This post comes to us from the incredible Dr. Jessica Vogelsang.

OK, to be fair, I can’t say with certainty that your mission statement stinks because I don’t know you. But I’ve seen and talked with a lot of veterinarians over the years, and I have to be honest- most are stinkaroo.

Don’t be mad. Look at this as an opportunity. Let’s be real- the reason most veterinary mission statements stink is that they don’t exist. And when they do, they are usually some version of “we treat your pets like family” or “we practice great medicine,” which, as we’ve talked about in previous blogs, is setting the bar pretty low. You do so much more than that.

It’s 2020, and we live in the shadow of an ever-increasing corporate presence in the industry. It doesn’t really matter whether you think it’s a good thing or a bad thing, because it’s here to stay, and if you’re a small business you can’t afford to ignore the importance of setting yourself apart if you want to stay in the game. It would help if you did more than tell people what you do. It would be best if you talked about why you do it. That’s where mission statements come in.

In the past decade or two, people have changed how they speak about veterinarians. More than ever, on message boards and in review sites, you hear strangers decide what our ‘why’ is, and it’s usually, “they’re in it for the money!” Aside from the fact that veterinary medicine is a baffling choice for someone in search of riches, it’s just not why we get up in the morning. It couldn’t be. It’s too hard for that to make it worth it.

A good mission statement kicks you in the gut just a little. It speaks to what is essential to your consumer. Take shoes, for example. Which mission statements stir the feels more in each pair below?

“Impossible is Nothing” vs. “Great shoes, comfortable feet.”

“Just do it” vs. “The shoes you’d make for your kid if you were a cobbler.”

Adidas and Nike get it. They know why athletes strap their feet into running shoes day after day, and they paid an agency big bucks to put that deeper motivation into words for them. Shoes are a part of something bigger. As, of course, is veterinary medicine.

Getting at the emotion of veterinary medicine is, shall we say, one of the easier challenges in marketing. Imagine trying to tug at the heartstrings as a forensic accountant similarly? Ask yourself: Why do you get up every morning? Why do you put up with the long hours, the back pain, the tears? What motivates you to wipe your eyes after a hard euthanasia, square your shoulders, and head into the puppy visit in room 2? Why do you stay past closing explaining insulin shots to an elderly widow who looks shell-shocked at the diabetes diagnosis?

I don’t know your answer, but I’m pretty sure it’s not “endless piles of cash.” You’re honoring something much greater than that.

So let’s look at what makes a great mission statement.

  1. It’s concise. Think sentences, not paragraphs.
  2. It’s memorable. Kaiser Permanente’s entire mission statement comes down to one word: “Thrive.” That’s boss-level.
  3. It’s emotional. Why do you treat pets like family? Because for your clients, they absolutely are. Where someone else might see a dusty dog with cloudy eyes and a limp, you see the patient counselor, the source of comfort, the bringer of joy. You know that pets can’t live forever, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth trying. Explore these thoughts, and you are on your way.

If you’re wracking your brain trying to figure out what your mission statement might be, don’t worry. It’s not apparent right from the start. I like to think of it as carving a sculpture out of a pile of clay. The “what” and the “how” will eventually reveal the “why.”

If all you can think of is what you do, that’s fine. It’s a start. Write down what you do and who you serve.

Then, think about your unique strengths. What do you do better than anyone else? What do clients compliment you on the most? I’m giving you carte blanche to go around and ask people exactly why you’re so amazing, so make sure everyone knows it’s vital they be thorough.

Once you have your list, sit on it for a bit. Ruminate on your greatness. You’d be surprised at what little thing you thought of as a quirk or an unimportant aside may be your greatest strength. When you turn that into a mission statement that encompasses your “why,” it makes it all that much easier for people who share in your vision to find you. And that relationship is what truly makes for great medicine.

I said at the beginning most mission statements are stinkaroo, but they don’t have to be. I may be biased, but veterinarians are some of the most dedicated, compassionate, brilliant people on the planet, and I want you to be seen for what you are. I show you tough love because I want your websites and your messaging to be as passion-driven as you are. And when you find those words that best describe you, lucky you- you also know just the right people here at WhiskerCloud to bring it to life.

Do you have a mission statement? Are you thinking of reworking it and making it even more killer in 2023? Let me know how I can help in the comments.

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