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How to Write a Great Business Mission Statement

Susan L Reid

As a small business start-up expert, one of the first things I have my clients do is write a mission statement.

However, they often struggle with the assignment.

Why? Because they, like many people, have difficulty encapsulating into a couple of sentences the reason their business exists.

Without a mission statement, your business has no plan and no purpose. In fact, it has no reason for existence. With a mission statement, you know where you're going and you have a plan for how to get there.

Women planningEvery business needs a mission statement. Want to make sure you've written a great one? Just follow these guidelines, answer the questions at the end of this article, and you will have created a mission statement that definitively and succinctly answers three key questions:

  • Why does your business exist?
  • What activities are you going to do to accomplish your purpose?
  • What principles or beliefs will guide your work?

Most important, everyone—investors, employees, customers, clients, and stakeholders—will know exactly what the purpose of your business is and what your business stands for.

What's the difference between a vision statement and a mission statement?

Vision and mission statements are two separate entities that answer two different, yet complementary, questions about your business.

Simply put, your vision statement answers the question, "Where do I see my business going?" Your mission statement answers the question, "Why does my business exist?"

From the start, vision statements are future-focused and written with the end result in mind. Mission statements are focused in the present and state the fundamental purpose of your business.

Mission statements are meant to be shared with everyone. Vision statements, on the other hand, are to be kept "in-house."

Your mission statement describes why it is important to achieve what's in your vision statement and provides a path to the realization of the vision of your business. Together, your vision and your mission have a direct bearing on the bottom line and success of the organization.

Three Key Questions to Answer

Your mission statement should include the answers to these three key questions in the form of declarative statements:Spot Light

1. Why does your business exist?

This is your purpose statement. What does your business seek to accomplish? What problem or need is your business trying to address?

State the answer to this question sparingly and simply as:

  • (To increase, decrease, eliminate, or prevent) + (condition or problem to be changed).

Example: To increase adult literacy

2. What activities are you going to do to accomplish your purpose?

This is your business statement. It outlines what activities or programs your business must do in order to support its purpose. What are you doing to address the need identified in your purpose statement?

Think about what makes your business unique. Who are the beneficiaries of your work? Who are your primary clients or markets? What is your primary product or service?

Stated either in bullet points or as a short sentence, your business statement often includes the verb "to provide” and/or the words "by" or "through."

Example: To increase adult literacy by providing reading assistance to illiterate adults

3. What principles or beliefs will guide your work?Woman thinking

This is your values statement (also called a Code of Ethics). What are the basic beliefs or values you and your coworkers/employees share as a whole and endeavor to put into practice as a business?

Think about what values will guide you and your employees in performing your work. Consider what responsibilities your business has toward the clients, customers, and markets that you serve.

Example: "The Hewlett Foundation's Board of Directors and staff adhere to these fundamental commitments:

  • To honor the commitment to philanthropy and ethos established by the founders.
  • To use the Foundation’s resources effectively to support education, culture, and the performing arts, and to address serious social and environmental problems facing society.
  • To govern the Foundation in accordance with the law and at the highest standards of practice.
  • To act honestly and with integrity in all our transactions and dealings.
  • To treat applicants and grantees fairly and respectfully.
  • To be inclusive and non-discriminatory in our hiring and appointments and to maintain a healthy, respectful, fulfilling, and productive workplace."

Three Standard Formats for Success

Mission statements are usually written in one of these three standard formats:

1. Short statement or slogan

Example: "To give unlimited opportunity to women" (Mary Kay Cosmetics)

2. Short bullet point list

Example: "The mission of the GED/Adult Literacy Program is to offer opportunities for adults and their families to participate in basic educational services including:

  • Adult literacy.
  • English as a second language.
  • GED.
  • Pre-employment/computer literacy.
  • Parenting instruction and family literacy programs to enhance their skills."

3. Short paragraph or executive summary

Example: "The mission of Big Brothers Big Sisters of America is to make a positive difference in the lives of children and youth, primarily through a professionally-supported one-to-one relationship with a caring adult, and to assist them in achieving their highest potential as they grow to become confident, competent and caring individuals."

Whichever format you decide to use, remember to keep your mission statement brief.

Thumbs Up

Every business needs a mission statement. To make sure you've written a great one, follow these guidelines and answer the three key questions in this article. When you do, you will have created a mission statement that definitively and succinctly states your purpose, what activities you'll do to accomplish that purpose, and what principals and beliefs will guide your work.

Most important, everyone will know exactly what your business stands for.

Copyright © 2009 by Susan L. Reid

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR E-ZINE OR WEBSITE? You can, as long as you include this blurb with it:

Copyright ©2009 by Susan L. Reid, DMA

Intuitive small business start-up expert Dr. Susan L. Reid is the award-winning author of Discovering Your Inner Samurai: The Entrepreneurial Woman's Journey to Business Success, and business coach and consultant for entrepreneurial women starting up home-based business for the very first time.

If you are feeling both excited and overwhelmed at the prospect of starting a business and haven’t a clue where to begin, help is a click away. Get your free PDF copy of “Doing What You Love: Multiple Streams of Passion” at

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