Mission Statement

Mission Statement

The mission and vision statements set the tone for not only your business plan, but also for your company. They define the path your company will follow and act as a guiding principle by which your company functions.

Your mission and vision statements tell your reader what you and your business are all about - what your company stands for, what you believe in, and what you intend to achieve.

Economy of words is critical. This doesn't necessarily mean that they should be short at the expense of effectiveness, but that each word should be powerful and meaningful. Be clear and concise and make it obvious what your company is attempting to do.

Mission and / or Vision Statement?

Is there a difference between a mission and vision statement? Yes, the differences are:

  • Your VISION defines your long-term dream. It should not be achievable. That may sound ridiculous, but the objective is for your vision to always be just slightly out of your reach. It's what you constantly strive to attain, and it becomes your reason for being.

  • Your MISSION is what you intend to become or accomplish. It should be challenging but achievable. A well-written mission statement demonstrates that you understand your business, have defined your unique focus, and can articulate your objectives concisely to yourself and others.

Let us assume that your Executive Summary clearly outlines your idea, business concept, opportunity, market, management team, and investment opportunity. Let's also assume that it's grabbed the attention of your reader/investor and has inspired them to read on. Moving forward, your reader quickly flips past your Table of Contents and glances at your company's Mission Statement.

What will they read? Is it compelling? Exciting? Does it give them the impression that your company and you are more than just business oriented, but also passionate? What does it tell your reader about you, your company, and your chances of future success? And will it stick in their mind as they read through the other sections of your business plan? If you can answer yes to these questions, then your mission statement has done its job.

Keep in mind that you don't want to put the carriage before the horse in regards to the relationship between your mission statement and your business plan. In many ways, your business plan (i.e. your business) should develop BECAUSE you have a mission, not because The Company Mission is a section in your business plan. A great mission statement will not make up for a poor business plan in the eyes of investors, but an undefined and uninspired mission statement may lead an investor to think twice about the quality of your business and it's goals.

Writing the Executive Summary and Mission Statement

Writing Business Reports

Mission Statement - Who Is It For?

A mission statement isn't just for the readers of your business plan. Instead it should be viewed as the guiding principle for your entire business. It tells you, your company, your employees, your vendors, your customers, your investors, and your lenders what your goal is, what you stand for, and where you're headed. Essentially, your mission statement defines your company's values and outlines your organizational purpose and "reason for being".

A solid business plan is organized to convey information to outsiders about the nature and intentions of your business. A clear mission statement serves as the "guiding light" of your business plan, powerfully condensing the message you want to send to the reader.

A good mission statement is compelling, passionate, and energizing. It should be risky and challenging, but also achievable. If it falls between "we can't do it", but "we will do it anyway" then you're on the right track. Also remember that a mission statement isn't written in stone, and is likely to change over time as a business grows and market conditions change. Think of your mission statement like a race; give it a clearly defined finish line and determine a time period when it will be achieved.

Writing a mission statement can be a difficult and challenging task. If you don't know what you stand for and what your company believes in, then it's impossible. If you don't know what principles you operate from and how you will treat those who come in contact with your company, then it's impossible. If you're not excited about what you are doing and lack a passion for your product or service, then it's impossible. Instead of trying to just "write it" or "get it done", devote some serious thought and soul searching to your mission statement. It must boldly state what you, your company, and it's future are all about - and it's worth the effort.

A mission statement should require little or no explanation, and its length is less important than it's power.

It should require no explanation, but it motivates everyone. Do not make a mistake with your own mission statement - make it passionate and inspiring, not bland and boring.

Attempt to keep your mission statement simple, but this doesn't necessarily mean it should be short. Try limiting it to one paragraph, although it could vary anywhere from one sentence to a full page.

Every mission statement should be different. So don't try to use one of the examples above or one that resembles the flavor of your closest competitor. Instead write a mission statement that reflects your individuality, creativity, and uniqueness.

Use a tone that best reflects the culture of your company, and get as many people as possible involved in its construction. If everyone doesn't buy into your mission statement, then it will not effectively shape your company and its actions, and thus it will lose its effectiveness. So if someone reads your mission statement and comments "great, but who cares" consider rewriting it and adding some passion. The passion and excitement you demonstrate in your mission statement will carry over not only to the rest of your business plan, but also into the day to day operations of your company.

A word on style of writing and a business plan. Be careful to consider the nature of your audience. Ask yourself what is their command of the English language and overall level of education. You must match the style of writing and expression and present it in a manner the audience will be comfortable with. The business plan will not meet its objective if the audience can not understand what you are trying to communicate.

Assume Nothing

One common error made in a business plan is where the writer assumes the reader understands or has some knowledge of their business, market or industry. Assume the reader has no knowledge and where you can’t decide if information is relevant or not for the business plan, make your statement in the business plan and include the bulk of any back up information as an Appendix.

All Successful Businesses Have Clear Mission Statements

As the owner of your own business, in charge of your own life and career, you need two separate mission statements, each of which supports and reinforces the other. The writing out of your mission statements is the logical next step that follows from the definitions of your vision and values. It becomes your personal credo and determines your future. It is the organizing statement that serves as the directional mechanism for everything you do.

Your personal mission statement is a definition of the kind of person that you wish to become, in every respect, sometime in the future. Your business mission statement defines how you want to be known to your customers.

For example, a personal mission statement could be:

"I am an outstanding human being in every respect. I am warm, loving, compassionate, sincere and forgiving in all my relationships with the important people in my life – my family and others. I am a totally honest person, a good friend, and known for my qualities of generosity, helpfulness, sincerity, understanding and patience. I am positive, enthusiastic, happy, supportive and fully engaged with life. I am liked, admired and respected by everyone who knows me."

Your business mission statement might then read as follows:

"We are a pleasure to deal with in every way.”

Mission statements have had a bad press recently because many are so general as to be almost meaningless. However missions do have an important job to do.

When they lack clarity, it makes it more difficult to communicate the business's identity clearly to customers and employees, and there isn't a clear foundation on which to make decisions.

Mission Statement Development

Developing your mission statement needn't be complicated. For me, a mission has three purposes, which are to describe what the business does, why it exists and, optionally, how it will operate. Therefore if you follow this three-step process, you will soon have a usable mission.

Step 1 - Describe the Activities of the Business

Describing the activities of your business in one or a few sentences may seem superfluous but it can be very useful to summarise concisely what the business does, not least for when
you are communicating with your customers.

Some businesses will also want to describe what activities they are not involved in to make the focus clearer.

It can be also useful to ask 'what business are we in?'. For example, McDonalds are not just in the fast-food business but are also in the entertainment business while an engineering company may be as much in the business of helping to reduce its customer's costs as it is of manufacturing products.

Being clear about what business you are in will help you to identify key issues later on in your business plan..

Step 2 - Describe Why the Business Exists

Businesses exist to serve at least 2 stakeholder groups, the customers and the owners.

Without customers who buy your products or services, there will be no business so one of the key purposes of any business must be to serve the customers well.

Therefore being clear about who your customers are and what benefits they are receiving from your products or services and/or what problems you are solving for them is an important component of your mission.

Businesses exist also to meet the goals of the owners. Because these goals are critical in determining how the business operates, it is very important to clarify them.

For example, one owner-manager may want to develop their business so that it can be sold off for a certain price in 5 years time while another owner-manager may want a certain level of income each year at the same time as only working 4 days a week.

Similarly, in bigger businesses where ownership and management is split, shareholders can have different objectives, ranging from increasing dividend income through to developing the business so that it can be sold in the future. Obviously each of these goals will have different implications for the business, its activities and how it is run.

These goals are generally financial ones but they can be non-financial ones as well.

It is also important here to check that the benefits desired by the owners are congruent with the vision. For example, if one of your key benefits is to have a suitable work/life balance,
there's no point having a vision that will require you to work 15 hours a day.

Many businesses include the needs of other stakeholder groups in their mission, eg. having a contented workforce or contributing to the local community. My preference is to include these as values and only to include in the mission purposes which are central to the existence of the business.

There are some businesses who do have other objectives that are key to their purpose. For example, benefitting the environment is central to the Body Shop's existence. In these cases, it is appropriate to include them in the mission. .

Step 3 - Describe How the Business will Operate

This step is optional. Including in the mission specific strategies or the use of specific technologies which are central to a business's activities means that it becomes easier to focus on them and to flag them up to staff.

This might include, for example, having a strategy to grow the business by acquisition or focusing on the internet as the main sales channel.

Summary of Mission Statement Instructions

Step 1 - describe the activities of your business in one or a few sentences as well as 'what business you are in'.

Step 2 - describe why the business exists:

a) describe who your customers are and the key benefits that you provide to them and/or what problems you are solving for them. If there is more than one customer segment, you can answer this for each of the segments.

b) describe what benefits the owners want to get from the business.

c) describe any other key stakeholders that are central to why the business exists and what benefits the business wants to provide for them.

Step 3 (optional) - describe any strategies or the use of any technologies that are central to the business

Here are some of the things to avoid when writing your Mission Statement or Vision Statement:

  • Do not regurgitate a description of your business.

  • Do not make it boring.

  • Do not make it the length of a Ph.D. thesis.

  • Do not fake emotion. If you don't believe it, don't include it.

  • Do not lie. Intend to do exactly what you say you are going to do.

  • Do not forget to write it down.

  • Do not forget to get the input of as many people in your organization as you can.

  • Do not forget incorporate it into the rest of your business plan!

A strong Business Plan may not guarantee success; but it could certainly prevent failure!

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