A mission statement is a key tool that can be as important as your business plan. It captures, in a few succinct sentences, the essence of your business's goals and the philosophies underlying them.
Mission statements guide your decision-making process, steering your company toward its goals and objectives. These keep business partners and all team members on the same page, helping promote community and solidarity among employees and management. It also helps eliminate conflicts and disputes that are detrimental to business growth and ultimately lead to failure.
The mission statement must reflect every facet of your business: the range and nature of the products you offer, pricing, quality, service, marketplace position, growth potential, use of technology, and your relationships with your customers, employees, suppliers, competitors and the community.
So how do you effectively write one? Here are some tips:
- Keep it short. The best mission statements tend to be three to four sentences long. Avoid the urge to ramble. In as few words as possible, address the following points:
- who you are;
- what you do;
- how you will do it; and
- why or who you do it for.
- Include core values. Take a moment to think of/list the core values that are important to you that are expressed in your business. Here are some sample values that might be important to you and the way you do business that you may want to use when you write a mission statement:
- Provide high product quality
- Provide superior customer service
- Protect the quality of the environment
- Ensure equal access to resources
- Encourage innovation/creativity
- Practice sustainable development
- It might be helpful to focus on your business's core competencies when you're considering which values are worthy of being a part of your mission statement. Once you've decided which core values are most important, add one (or two at the most) to your description of what your company does.
- Add why. When you write a mission statement, this is the part that describes your spark, or the passion behind your business. Why does your business do what it does? For some people, it helps to think back on why they started their business in the first place.
- Avoid jargon. A mission statement should make sense to your clients and customers, too. If you load it with industry jargon, it might make sense to you and your team, but it could be confusing or just plain meaningless to everyone else.
- Ask complete strangers if your statement is straight-forward and meaningful through interviews or questionnaires. If they say no, it's back to square one.
- Ask for input. Run your mission statement draft by your employees. Is it clear and easily understood, or does it sound like something from the Dilbert Mission Statement Generator?
- Put your mission statement to work. Besides directing your business planning, you want your mission statement to be front and center in the minds of everyone who works in your business and communicated to customers and/or clients. As the statement of why you exist, it's also the statement that explains to them why they would want to do business with you.
- A good mission statement isn't just a slogan, it's an operation manual and it can't provide the guidance it's intended to provide if people aren't familiar with it.
- Be flexible. Update it as the organization grows. Your business is like a growing organism. As you expand, you may find it is necessary to update your mission statement so it covers your new business goals and objectives. While you shouldn't obsessively pick your statement apart, don't be afraid to tweak your statement from time to time to keep up with company changes.