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Developing a Mission Statement

  • March 28, 2013
  • By JJ Johnson
  • In Advisory

There is a lot of confusion about mission and vision and differentiating them can be confusing. One of the first things we talk to clients about is why are you doing this and what is your ultimate goal.

Without Mission, Vision and Goals companies simply wander around without clearly identifying who they are and what they are doing. By asking yourself these 4 questions you can create a better framework with which to consider your business. I know I work better when I give something structure and am sure most people are the same.

Your mission a statement represents a picture of where your business aims to be in the future.

Developing a mission statement should accomplish two things:

  1. It should explain to customers and other stakeholders what business you are in.
  2. It should be motivational and provide a shared sense of purpose. This helps to create a focus for the efforts of all your employees and managers.

By working your way through the initial thinking process and then the creative one, you will develop a mission statement that communicates to your customers and motivates your employees.

Get buy in by making it a team effort:

  • Assemble a team for the project and seek suggestions from other employees ─ other people’s ideas can be valuable and provide good words to use.
  • Project team members must have a clear understanding of what a mission statement is and what its purposes are.
  • All members must attend each meeting of the project team until agreement is reached.
  • The group must answer the four questions below.

Question 1: what business are you in?

Deciding what business you are in may seem blatantly obvious – you manufacture water tanks therefore you are a water tank manufacturer.

But a better approach is to ask ‘What customer need does my product/service fulfill?’ because customers buy to meet a need. It may be they need a water tank but they may also need an environmentally friendly one, one that is a shape that fits a particular situation, one that is long lasting and resistant to ultraviolet and so on.

So redefine what business you are in to focus on customer benefits – ‘reliable and long lasting water storage solutions to suit individual situations’.

Question 2: What are your business aspirations?

You can define your aspirations in terms of what financial projections you have in mind (e.g. triple the sales revenue in 5 years) or in terms where you want to rate among competitors (e.g. hold 30% of the market in 5 years).
However that approach leaves out the people you want to inspire with the vision – your customers and your employees.
Refocus your aspirations in terms of ‘what’s in it for them?’ – for example, ‘We build tanks to match any home color scheme or architectural style’.

Question 3: What are the most evocative words to use in your statement?

The words you use in your mission statement should relate to the customer in a language they would recognize, understand and value.  In the example above ‘architectural’ could be replaced with ‘building’ – which might have more resonance with the customer (client?) group you want to influence?

Question 4: How do we pull all that together into a statement?

You may have developed a lot of good ideas and phrases to express them and now you have to reduce them all to one or two sentences!

This can be a difficult task. It can be made a little easier if you start with the words ‘We are in the business of …’ and follow with statements on:

  • The type(s) of customer you want to supply to.
  • The needs of those customers you will be meeting
  • How your product meets them
  • For example: We are in the business of providing customized water storage solutions (how you meet the need) to urban and rural residents (customer groups) designed to meet individual needs of size, location, design and color (customer benefits).

The first draft can look pretty rough so try playing with the words and the sequence of ideas.

  1. Evaluate your mission statement
  2. Measure your statement against these criteria.

My mission statement:

  • Is clear and unambiguous
  • Is realistic, and therefore believable by both customers and employees
  • Is achievable
  • Is customer focused and contains a clear customer benefit and is motivational to the employees by setting quality or other customer benefits to aim for achieving

“I want to put a ding in the universe.” - STEVE JOBS

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