5 tips for creating a winning mission statement
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Every business has, at its core, a mission. It could be to make and sell delicious pastries. Or to build eco-friendly homes. Maybe you design captivating video games.
Your mission is what you do and why you exist. Entrepreneurs usually know instinctively what it is. But they often fail to spell it out in a mission statement. And even among those that have one, their mission statement is often unclear, long-winded or too broad, which can cause confusion among employees and customers.
“Your mission is the foundation of your business,” says Senior BDC Business Advisor Lucie Chouinard, who advises entrepreneurs on strategic planning.
“A good mission statement gives your company clarity and direction. What you do is clear to the market and your team and fosters engagement among employees.”
Chouinard offers these five tips for creating a winning mission statement and using it in your business.
1. What is a mission statement
A mission statement describes who you are as a business—why you exist, what you do, how and where you do it, and who your primary customers are. It should be clear and concise—ideally, a single sentence or two at most. It also rarely changes, unless your business adds a new business line or fundamentally alters direction.
2. What it isn’t
Mission statements are not vision statements, though the two are often confused. Your vision is where your business is going in the next few years—what it aspires to. It is derived from your mission statement and often changes as you grow.
For example, if you own an aircraft repair business, your mission may be to repair and maintain business jets by providing exceptional, reliable service and building long-term client relationships. Meanwhile, your vision could be to be the leading business jet repair and maintenance business in your region.
3. Which businesses should have a mission statement
All of them. No matter the size or domain, every business needs a mission to focus what it does. And without articulating it clearly and succinctly, it’s hard to stand out and prioritize your efforts.
“As soon as you have a business idea, your first step should be to develop a mission statement,” Chouinard says. “You need to put borderlines around your business, develop expertise and build a competitive advantage to differentiate yourself in the market.”
The process of crafting a mission statement also brings your team together and gets them hauling in the same direction. “Not having a mission statement can lead to disengaged employees, confused potential customers and leadership pursuing non-strategic directions,” Chouinard says. “It’s also hard to develop a business strategy and vision.”
4. How to create a mission statement
Take time to brainstorm with your team and arrive at a good understanding of what’s most important to include in your mission statement. Remember: The statement has to be short and focused.
“If it’s three paragraphs long, it’s too broad and has too much information,” Chouinard says. “You need to differentiate your business, not try to do everything for everyone.”
Be patient with the discussions. Some businesses need two or three days of meetings to arrive at a good mission statement. “People sometimes have a hard time agreeing on words and definitions, or they find it hard to synthesize,” Chouinard says.
If you’re having trouble, invite employees to contribute key words that they think should be included, then whittle those down. Be sure not to include any aspirational statements for your business, which should be in your vision statement instead.
5. What to do with a mission statement
A mission statement should be used in your business every day to guide everything you do. It should be prominently included on your website and in marketing material. (A vision statement, by contrast, is often kept confidential so as not to tip off the competition about your goals.)
You should also share your mission statement with new hires during onboarding. When potential clients get in touch, employees should be well versed in your mission statement in order to explain what you do and why you exist.
This foundational statement is also the basis for developing your vision and value statements, business goals and strategic plan. (A mission statement is generally included at the beginning of a strategic plan.) When you do strategic planning, it’s a good idea to revisit your mission statement to make sure it still reflects your business and the best possible expression of your purpose.
“Your mission statement needs to be in everyone’s mind when they make decisions and plan the company’s future,” Chouinard says.