Why your business needs a mission statement

by Lynnea Bylund on November 26, 2011 · 1 comment

Emily Suess remembers the first four words of the mission statement crafted by the school board leaders of her small school district in Southern Indiana. Hanging on the wall in every elementary, middle school, and high school classroom was a brief statement of purpose that started with the words “learning takes place here.”

small business compliance questionsApropos for a school system, don’t you think? In fact those four words could comprise the entire mission statement and it would be a good one.

Creating a mission statement is often part of the business planning process for many startups. But why do small company owners even bother to craft mission statements?

Emily Suess Emily Suess

Emily Suess at Small Business bonfire

Mission statements communicate your company’s values and purpose — your raison d’etre, if you will.

Mission statements guide your decision-making process, steering your company toward its goals and objectives.

Mission statements keep business partners and all team members on the same page, helping promote community and solidarity among employees and management.

Mission statements help eliminate conflicts and disputes that are detrimental to business growth and ultimately lead to failure.

Writing mission statements might look easy. They are usually short, contain three or four bullet points, and deal with a topic you know inside out. In practical application, however, your company’s mission can be elusive and difficult to capture in words.

The following suggestions will make writing one easier for first-timers and create a rubric for evaluating existing mission statements.

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

Why or who you do it for

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.

I know from personal experience that working via committee (even small ones) can be a real disaster. If the team members don’t come to a consensus, nothing gets accomplished. Because of that, small business owners are somewhat loathe to get additional input from employees or business partners when it’s mission statement time. This time though, it’s more important to complete the task correctly than to merely complete it.

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.

If your small business already has a mission statement, why not share it with your colleagues at the Bonfire, and inspire other small business owners to write their own?

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