Developing this important guidepost lays the groundwork for your organization to grow, prosper and deliver to customers.
What does it mean to have a mission in today’s business environment? You may hear that creating your mission statement is one of the most important things you can do for your business, but if you don’t also know what your values and purpose are, then you may struggle with important business decisions when push comes to shove.
A company’s mission statement is more than just a couple of arbitrary, inspirational lines on its website. Knowing your mission, clearly defining your values and stating your purpose, if only to yourself, will guide you in your day-to-day business decisions. If you have a business partner, it is essential that you see eye-to-eye on the business’s mission, values and purpose (MVP), because if you know what your business stands for and what its purpose is, then you can focus on offering exceptional service to your customers.
According to Bain & Company, a global business consulting firm, a mission statement is one of the most frequently used management tools. Some organizations spend thousands of dollars developing mission statements. However, you don’t need to make such a huge investment if you follow a few simple guidelines.
1. Your Mission Statement Communicates the Direction of Your Organization. Both your customers and your employees will understand the exact purpose of your business and will be able to make intelligent decisions and ask probing questions based on its message. Your well-written mission will give customers the secure feeling that you are credible and have put thought into why you exist; it will demonstrate your passion for what you do; and when backed up by your actions, it will solidify clients’ belief that they want to be your customers.
2. Your Mission Statement Helps With Daily Operating Decisions. If a customer complains about your service or a local newspaper calls you about a great advertising opportunity, referring back to your mission statement can guide you in deciding how to approach the situation. If your mission statement includes verbiage about offering exceptional customer service, you will most likely provide the customer with a free session or a refund and a warm apology. If your mission emphasizes marketing to middle-aged women, you will probably turn down an opportunity to advertise in a paper that does not primarily target that audience.
3. Your Mission Statement Keeps Your Organization Focused and Provides Direction. As the core of your business, your mission statement declares why your company exists, and acts as the foundation of a long-term strategic business plan. Are you considering offering a new service to your members? First review your mission statement to make sure your great idea is in line with your vision. When followed properly, a mission statement will help you achieve your business goals and not lose sight of why you started your company in the first place.
4. Your Mission Will Help Motivate Employees. In the early years of your career, did you ever take a job and realize within the first week that it wasn’t a good fit for you? More than likely, the organization did not have a mission statement for you to wrap your head around and to get you excited about the same things the company was passionate about. It’s hard to know your role in a business when you don’t know its vision, passion and direction. Your statement will help employees and prospective employees to grasp what you’re all about and decide before they come on board if they are a good fit in your model.
Before writing your mission statement, consider the following:
- What are you passionate about?
- Who will your customers be?
Once you are clear on who you are and to whom you will market your services, you can begin working on your mission statement by answering these questions:
- Why should my business exist?
- How will my business benefit my customers?
- Who else is marketing to my customers?
My company’s mission statement was developed using this simple method of answering questions and prioritizing what was important. For example, Baby Boot Camp strives to do the following:
- Enhance the lives of mothers and their children through safe and effective fitness classes. (This statement answers what I am passionate about, why my business exists and who my customers are.)
- Provide a supportive environment where mothers can develop a sense of community. (This statement answers how my company benefits my customers.)
- Offer family-friendly career opportunities through franchising and instructor training. (This statement also answers how my business benefits my customers.)
- Develop strategic partnerships with companies that offer products or services that enhance the lives of mothers and their children. (This statement answers who else is marketing to my customers.)
Values are the beliefs that you hold and endeavor to put into practice. Values guide you in performing your work. If you have a business partner, you should ask, “What are the basic beliefs that we share in our business?”
Core values can govern personal relationships; guide business processes; clarify who we are; articulate what we stand for; help explain why we do business the way we do; guide us in making decisions; and underpin our organizations. Values require no external justification.
Core values are not operating practices, competencies, business strategies or cultural norms; and we do not change them in response to industry or administration changes.
Values drive actions. Whether you realize it or not, your values influence your daily choices. Values are the definition of who we are and what we stand for. They provide the foundation for our work and inform how we interact with others and conduct ourselves. In an ever-changing world, our core values are consistent.
Business core values may include exceptional customer service; diversity in the workplace; creativity among employees; honesty and integrity; and religious or philosophical beliefs, to name a few examples.
While most companies share their mission, few companies publicly share their values. Core values may be as short as three lines or as long as three pages. Examples of core values can be found on the following websites:
- Whole Foods Market, www.wholefoodsmarket.com/ company/corevalues.html
- United States Air Force, www.usafa.af.mil/core-value/
- Microsoft, www.microsoft.com/ about/default.mspx
The purpose statement clearly says what your business seeks to accomplish.
- Why does your business exist? (To teach women how to exercise safely.)
- What is the goal of your business? (To help women achieve their health and fitness goals.)
- What are you good at? (Designing effective fitness programs for women.)
- Purpose statements usually include the following:
- a change in status; for example, the purpose will be to increase, decrease, reverse, prevent or eliminate something (e.g., to increase the number of women who are strength training)
- V identification of the problem or condition being addressed (e.g., preventing osteoporosis by increasing muscle tone)
An example of a purpose statement is “To reverse the obesity epidemic through safe and effective fitness and nutrition programs for families.”
In defining purpose, it is essential to focus on outcomes and results, not methods. The purpose of a women’s fitness facility should not be “To provide fitness classes for women.” This statement describes a method, not a result. The purpose of a women’s fitness facility might be “To assist members to improve their current level of health and fitness through fitness and nutrition programs designed specifically for women.”
Values are unchanging, regardless of changes in the market or industry. Your purpose may change over time, and you should be open to change as your industry evolves. As an example, if the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists determines tomorrow that it is detrimental for women to exercise in their first 12 months postpartum, then I may need to sit down with the corporate team members at Baby Boot Camp to evaluate our purpose—but our core values will not change.
You may be wondering if you really need to write down your mission, values and purpose. The answer is . . . it depends. What you do need to do is be absolutely certain that your business has direction and goals. Make sure your structure, resources and skills are aligned to facilitate moving in the direction you envision. If you believe you need a mission statement, then you probably do. However, just having a mission statement does not guarantee success.
In my own business, the key to staying true to my MVP has been to write it down and display it in a visible place. I post my company’s MVP in several locations around the office and we refer to it daily as a variety of business decisions arise. I have found many critical business decisions much easier to make when I refer to my MVP.
Mission statements, core values and a stated purpose are management tools that have the potential to improve your company’s success. Keep in mind that these are just a few of the many tools available to your organization in the development of your business strategy and plan. n
As the core of your business, your mission statement declares why your company exists, and acts as the foundation of a long-term strategic business plan.