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How to Write a Great Business Mission StatementSusan 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.
Every 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:
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:
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:
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?
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:
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:
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.
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
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.
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