Commerce: What?s in a mission statement
Often, I will nonchalantly ask a business owner if they have a mission statement or ask a new entrepreneur student if they have given any thought to a mission statement.
The glazed-over, deer-in-the-headlights expression on their faces, that being business owners and potential launchers alike, typically answers my question…no, they do not.
So what exactly is a mission statement, and what’s the big deal about having a mission statement in the first place?
The nature of a business is often expressed in terms of its mission, which indicates the purpose of the business. The mission statement describes the purpose for which your product, service or business exists. It communicates in a few words the company’s focus and what is being provided to customers.
A mission statement is an enduring statement of purpose for an organization that identifies the scope of its operations in product and market terms, and is infinitely clearer than saying, for instance, “We’re in construction” or worse still, “We are in business to make money” (assuming, of course, that the business is not a mint!).
Businesses write mission statements for multiple purposes. The first purpose of a mission statement is so potential customers/ clients will know just what type of business you are. Secondly, so that employees know what to expect from the business, and yet a third purpose of a mission statement is that it serves as a means to help direct future decision-making.
The following are some important key thoughts to keep in mind when creating a mission statement that I’ve collected from various resources over the years:
A mission statement should say who you are, what you do, what you stand for and why you do it.
A mission statement is not a slogan or tag line, goal, business plan, ad or public relations piece.
To create an effective mission statement, it is best to get input from all members of the organization. Even if certain members think it is silly or have no ideas (both are common) they will buy into the concept more if their opinion is solicited.
The best mission statements are three to four sentences in length. I’ve even heard it stated that a mission statement is one that can fit on the back of a business card or the front of a T-shirt.
Effective mission statements take time to develop, usually at least a week or two. This allows for input and final editing.
It is good to examine other mission statements to get approaches to yours. Google is a great resource when looking for well-written, sample mission statements.
Humor, sarcasm, cynicism and eloquence are usually not good components of an effective mission statement. Simplicity, honesty and frankness are.
Avoid saying how great you are, what great quality and what great service you provide. Using these concepts makes you indistinguishable from everyone else claiming to have and/or offer the same thing.
Effective mission statements need not set the world on fire. Lofty statements have little credibility. The best ones are direct and powerful.
Make certain your statement is you and not some other company. Hence, the reason why you should not copy a statement. Even if your statement is a little “unpolished,” it will appear to have more credibility and integrity than if it portrays you as something you are not.
Make certain you believe your statement. If you do not believe it, then it is a lie. Everyone who deals with you will know it is a lie and surely your written words will come back to haunt you.
Try to relay somewhere in your statement that you understand that the future of your business depends on delivering increasing value and quality to your customers, accounts and clients. This delivers a clear message of your priorities.
Review and edit your statement on a regular basis. As the business grows and evolves, so should your mission statement.
Use your mission statement to supplement your sales and marketing and not as a standalone piece.
Make certain everyone in your organization receives a copy of the statement. Use it in your personnel manual, business meetings and post it in the workplace.
Keep your mission statement located in a place where all can see. Perhaps you may hang it next to the door, leave it sitting on the counter or have it printed on the backside of your business cards.
A mission statement will help a company make consistent business decisions, motivate associates and owners, build organizational unity and integrate short-term objectives with longer-term goals. If your business has a well thought out, effective mission statement, it will complement all the other good things that you do.
A former business owner herself and graduate of the Urban Hope Entrepreneur program out of Green Bay, Michelle Madl-Soehren is currently the business development coordinator for Nicolet Area Technical College, where she assists and coaches new and existing entrepreneurs and small business owners with business plan development, provides professional development workshops throughout the area and coordinates and teaches Nicolet College’s eSeed Entrepreneur Program. She holds a baccalaureate degree from Mount Mary College in behavioral science and a master’s in management and organizational behavior from Silver Lake College. Madl-Soehren is also the current president of Northwoods Women in Business and past president of the Northwoods Entrepreneurs Club, and sits on the state advisory board for the Small Business Development Centers. She may be contacted at [email protected] or (715) 365-4492.