Creating a Mission Statement for Your Company

“Profit is not the legitimate purpose of business. The legitimate purpose of business is to provide a product or service that people need and do it so well that it’s profitable.” – James Rouse

Think back to the moment when you first had the idea for your business. Chances are there was a spark of inspiration that lit the fire – a realization that you might have the perfect idea for a business. Your inspiration may have lead to the development of a new product or the realization that there was a demand for an existing product delivered with a unique twist. Whatever the result of your thought process, in that moment you envisioned the purpose of your new business.

A mission statement captures that thought original process and describes the purpose of your business to your employees, suppliers, and customers. It answers all the “why” questions:

  • Why are you in business?
  • Why did you start this particular business?
  • Why will this business succeed?

Some mission statements also identify their customers as well as their products and services.

A Mission Statement Keeps You Focused

Business owners succeed when they have a clear sense of purpose and a vision for the future of their business. A well-written mission statement should not only describe the purpose of the business but also attempt to capture the spirit and character of the business and the passion of the owner.

Your mission statement is the first step to differentiating your company from your competition in the minds of your customers. It should provide a compelling reason for them to do business with you. Your mission should address your customers’ concerns and position your company as the solution to their problems.

Putting Your Mission Statement to Work

We’ve already mentioned that an effective mission statement will provide you with clarity and help you focus your goals. Once you have written your mission statement, you should refer to it when making plans, setting goals and objectives, and any time you’re faced with a major decision.

Anything that doesn’t line up with your purpose should be avoided. If the project, plan, or decision doesn’t move you toward accomplishing your mission, then it has no place in your business. (Of course, it’s possible for you to change the major purpose of your business over time, but you should re-evaluate your mission statement every few years to ensure that it is current.)

Keep It Simple and Concise

Many companies make the mistake of pulling out all the industry jargon and the current buzzwords when they write their mission statement. These mission statements start to look like the small print found in a legal document:

“Our mission is to serve the needs of our customers by being recognized as an industry leader and providing the tools and resources necessary to pro-actively create a positive environment in which our customers can maximize their profits through market dominance while maintaining . . .”

While this example is fictitious, the mistakes are all too real and common.

A mission statement should be a rallying cry. It should inspire your employees and staff to go to battle. It should be something that excites and encourages them, not bog them down in buzzwords and jargon.

Create Your Own Mission Statement

If you haven’t already written a mission statement, write one as soon as possible. It doesn’t matter if your business is new or has been operating for years. An effective mission statement will help keep your focused on your goals during your initial planning and start-up and should help you make key decision that will have a long-term effect on your business.

The temptation may be great to outsource your mission statement or cut corners by piecing together snippets from the mission statements of other companies. Try to resist this.

You should write your own mission statement. An effective mission statement will not only reflect your personal and business philosophies, but it’s the only way to capture the original spark of inspiration that lead to the creation of your business.

Personally, you will also benefit from writing your own mission statement. By going through the process you will define your business in a very personal and unique way. It will force you to take a long, hard look at who you are, what your business is all about right now, and where you want to take it in the future.

You will undoubtedly uncover some questions and potential obstacles to your plan as you write your mission statement. This isn’t the time to address those issues. Write them down so that you can deal with them later.

Gather Feedback and Input

Even though you should personally be involved in writing your company mission statement, that’s not to say you are only person who should be involved. Gather input and feed back from your key employees, family and friends, and even customers. Not only will you gain a good variety of perspectives, but you’ll be gaining support for your mission statement from those who will be helping you achieve the mission.

You can hold formal mission statement sessions where everyone comes together to brainstorm ideas, you can conduct informal surveys, or you can simply show your draft mission statement around and ask people what they think. Suggestions should spark more ideas as you fine-tune your mission statement.

Be open to different ideas. Everyone you ask will have an idea about what you should be doing. They important thing is to listen to these new ideas even if you disagree. Try to incorporate the best ideas, but don’t shut down an idea just because it doesn’t seem to fit. Think about it. It may make sense after you’ve had a chance to consider it.

You may go through several different drafts while writing your mission statement. Keep copies of previous drafts as you may find yourself wanting to use a previous idea. Keep working on it until it makes sense to you and everyone from whom you gather feedback.

Getting the Word Out

Once you have a final draft, you need to publish it:

  • Email it to all employees
  • Frame it and hang it in your office
  • Post it on employee bulletin boards
  • Include it on your marketing and promotional material
  • Include it in your employee handbook
  • Refer to it in training sessions

It’s important that everyone in your company understands your mission. They must be able to get behind it, support it, promote it, and live by it.

Consider having a special meeting to introduce it to existing employees. Explain the importance of a mission statement and describe the process you followed to create yours. You’ll find employees will get behind it when they understand what it’s all about and how they will benefit.

Of course, it’s also important for new employees to be introduced to the company’s mission. You may consider including it in the employment application or as part of the hiring process. Stress the importance of understanding and doing business according to the mission.

Keep It Current

A well-written mission statement should not need to be revised often. Unless the major focus of your organization changes – your company’s purpose – you shouldn’t need to change it.

Still, make sure that your mission accurately reflects what your company is about. It’s .a good idea to revisit your plan every three to five years. You can make it part of your long-term strategic planning process

Some Additional Tips to Writing Your Mission Statement

  • Give yourself enough time. Writing a mission statement is not usually something you can whip out in a few minutes. You may need to take a few hours or even weeks. Don’t rush it. Allow yourself time to think about it. Write and re-write until you have one or more drafts.
  • You might want to consider special planning meetings or a weekend retreat to write the mission statement. If you take this approach incorporate other strategic planning and invite top management and key employees.
  • Keep it brief. Employees can usually remember mission statements that are simple and short. If they remember it, there’s more chance they’ll internalize it.
  • You may want two versions of your mission statement – a brief version to include in marketing materials and company publications and a longer version that incorporates more details like the your company’s vision and values.

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