An effective mission statement is as important as your business plan. As a business owner, you have a purpose and direction, but have you put these in writing?
In this article, we’ll explore the reasons you need a mission statement and lay out the steps to write one that’s uniquely yours.
A mission statement is an indispensable tool of every well-run company. It captures your business goals and objectives, as well as the values and philosophy driving them. And … it does this in just few succinct sentences.
A mission statement also encapsulates a business’s strategy and reflects every aspect of a business, including
- special niche
- market position
- growth potential
- range and nature of its products and services
- use of technology, capital, processes, products and services
- ethics, norms, culture and values that shape decision-making
There are a number of web applications that poke fun at vague, hastily crafted mission statements. They illustrate perfectly what not to do—unless, of course, you simply want to string together meaningless buzzwords and disappear into obscurity!
Effective mission statements define what a company does for its clients, employees and owners. They also describe the company’s relationships with its suppliers, competitors, community and the world.
When developing your company’s mission statement, start by asking the right questions.
- What business are you in?
What is your business niche?
- Why are you in business?
What do you want for yourself, your family and your customers? Will the spark that ignited your desire to start a business keep burning?
- Who are your target customers?
What good do you do? What makes your business special for your target customers? What can you do to enrich their lives? What drives them to buy the products and services you offer? How will you contribute to their success now and in the future?
- What image do you want to convey?
Employees, suppliers, customers and the public will all have perceptions of your company. What picture do you want to paint?
- What is the nature of the products and services you provide?
What factors affect your pricing and quality? How do these relate to your business? Is this likely to change over time? If so, how?
- Describe your level of service.
What do you offer that’s uniquely yours? How do you differ from or surpass your competitors? Define what makes you extraordinary.
- What role do you and your employees play?
Remember that leadership is not about being in charge; it’s about taking care of those in your charge. Effective business owners champion a leadership style that organizes, challenges and recognizes employees.
- How will you use technology, capital, processes, products and services to reach your business goals?
- What values shaped your answers to the previous questions?
Studying other companies’ mission statements can help fuel your creativity. You may also want to
- involve those connected with your business—people who can help you see your strengths and weakness and who can help you identify any gaps
- devote several hours and plan a date, particularly if you have others helping you
- brainstorm ideas and be prepared with a list of topics to think about and discuss
- use words that create dynamic, visual images and inspire action
- develop a glossary defining the words and values used in your statement
Remember that your mission statement should be uniquely yours. Consider subjecting it to Tim Berry’s mission, mantra or vision test.
Once you’ve crafted your mission statement, don’t be afraid to edit. Your mission statement must work for your business! Remove any buzzwords and hype, and be as concise as possible. Remove anything that does not apply specifically to your business. Bear in mind that good mission statements serve a number of purposes, define business goals and live for a long time. You may even want to consider a longer mission statement for internal use and a series of shorter, customer-facing segments, categorized by type or goal.
Your business goals, and the market you’re in, are fluid. Your mission statement should be, too. Review and revise it as necessary to reflect any changes in your business strategy and the broader environment.
Developing a mission statement requires thought, time and planning. The effort will pay off, and you’ll see that the process is as beneficial as the end result: it will justify what you’re doing and clarify your entrepreneurial motivations.