Why Your Small Business Needs a Mission and How to Find It

By Maryalene LaPonsie | Posted January 23, 2013

If you had to sum up your business in one or two sentences, could you?

A business mission statement may seem inconsequential in light of more weighty concerns such as maintaining cash flow or overseeing employee productivity. However, a mission statement is more than a touchy-feely affirmation of your business. If created correctly, it can play a significant role in your success.

3 Reasons to Have a Mission Statement

Business mission statements are important for several reasons. They

  • Focus your business activities: Your mission statement defines what is important to you. Then, when opportunities to expand present themselves, you have a reference point to determine whether the new endeavor fits your business model and is worth your time and energy.
  • Ensure proper branding: If you don't know what makes your business tick, then you can't expect your customers to understand you either. A well-crafted mission statement helps define your business and its services, which can lead to more effective branding.
  • Encourage employee excellence: Keep your employees invested by giving them a clear idea of what your business is all about. Having a stated purpose can also keep employees motivated to suggest improvements related to your core mission.

Once you recognize the need to have a mission statement, it is time to put one together. Rather than throw some flowery words on paper -- after all, every business wants to be the premier provider of exemplary service in its industry -- call in your top tier employees for a brainstorming session using these steps.

3 Steps to an Effective Mission Statement

Step 1: Identify your who, what, where and how

As the ancient Greeks would say: know thyself. Before you can create a mission statement, you need to be able to answer these questions:

  • Who are your customers?
  • What service do you offer them?
  • Where do you offer services -- locally, nationally or globally?
  • How do you do business?

Step 2: Determine what sets you apart

The final question in step one segues nicely to step number two: identify how you differentiate your company from the competition. This is where it is easy to fall into the predictable rut of talking about how you offer "superior services" or are "a leader in the industry." Rather than use general terms, figure out what's unique about what you offer.

For example, consider the Google mission statement: Google's mission is to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful.

The company's mission statement could easily have been "to create the world's best search engine," but lots of companies are trying to be the best search engine. Google's mission statement emphasizes how its approach to Internet searches may be different.

Step 3: Narrow your statement

Finally, take all your good ideas and narrow them down to something concrete and actionable. Make It Right, an organization established after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, offers a good example:

To build safe, Cradle to Cradle inspired homes, buildings and communities for people in need.

This mission statement leaves little doubt as to what the organization does and provides a clear statement for organization executives and employees to evaluate proposed activities and partnerships.

A mission statement should do more than offer banal generalities about your business. Instead, it should be an integral part in directing your future success. If you don't already have one, block off some time on the schedule next month to attend to this important task.

Maryalene LaPonsie has been writing professionally for more than a decade on topics including education, insurance and personal finance. She holds a Bachelor's Degree in Political Science from Western Michigan University.

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