Why Your Business Needs a Mission Statement and How to Write One

I still remember the first four words of the mission statement crafted by the school board leaders of my 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.”

Apropos for a school system, don’t you think? And the fact that I still remember the opening words some 13 years after graduation is a testament to the concise and indelible nature of the statement.

Writing a mission statement is typically part of the business planning process for many businesses. But why do small businesses and other public and private organizations even bother to craft mission statements? I can think of a few reasons:

[list type=”arrow”]

  • 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.
  • [/list]

    [image img=”https://smallbusinessbonfire.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/signs.jpg” alt=”” title=”Questions and Answers signpost” width=”243″ height=”207″ rounded=”all” /]

    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.

    Be Clear But Concise

    Avoid the urge to ramble. In as few words as possible, address the following points:
    [list type=”arrow”]

  • Who you are
  • What you do
  • How you will do it
  • Why or who you do it for
  • [/list]

    Avoid Jargon

    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.

    Don’t Refuse Input from Others

    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.

    Be Flexible

    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?

    Image credit (writing): kristja
    Image credit (signs): RTimages

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    Emily Suess
    Emily Suess is a full-time technical marketing writer in the software industry and a part-time freelance copywriter. To learn more about marketing your small business online, check out her copywriting blog, Say It With Me.

    4 comments

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    1. Another great piece Emily. Mission statements are important to small businesses and vital to non-profit organizations. Peter Drucker said that the mission statement should be short enough to put on the back of a t-shirt and easy enough for everyone in the organization to remember. Thanks again!

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