A mission statement is an important part of any business.
Not only does it clarify what your business does, but it also ensures that you have a clear enough vision of your core purpose to summarize it in just a couple of lines. Unfortunately, small businesses are often guilty of not putting enough effort into creating a mission statement and some may go without one entirely.
Even if your small business has a mission statement, it may not reflect where your business is now. Knowing how (and when) to refine your mission statement is just as important as creating it in the first place.
If you aren’t sure where to begin with either creating or refining your small business mission statement, here are a few suggestions to point you in the right direction:
What Is Your Mission?
Why does your business exist in the first place? What did you hope to accomplish when you first opened the doors? What do you have to offer that consumers can’t get at a big-box store or one of your other competitors? Questions such as these are good pointers to lead you to the mission that drives your business forward.
If you aren’t sure what your mission is supposed to be, think of the core goal of your business (beyond just making money). Do you hope that your business will enrich the local community? Do you want to have an impact on your customers’ lives? Do you simply want to provide a better alternative to what’s currently available in your community? Don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions until you discover the core ideology that drives your small business forward.
Drafting a Mission Statement
Once you have the mission of your business clearly in mind, the next thing you need to do is figure out a concise way to state that mission. Ideally, this statement should be just a few sentences, with many mission statements being contained within a single paragraph. After all, you don’t want customers, investors and other people having to read through a lengthy statement just to figure out what sets your business apart from the rest.
You don’t have to come up with the perfect mission statement on your first try. Read over your initial statement several times, checking both the message and the wording as you do so. Tweak it if necessary, and consider setting it aside for a couple of days so that you can read it again with fresh eyes. Refine your mission statement until you’ve got a short statement that not only spells out what your business stands for but that also really speaks to the reader. You want your reader to feel a connection to your business, to have a deeper understanding of what makes your business special.
As time goes by, your business will likely grow and evolve beyond what you originally envisioned. The core values of your business may shift as it grows, and you may end up with a mission statement that doesn’t really reflect what your business is about anymore. Fortunately, your mission statement isn’t set in stone. Even if you’ve had the same mission statement for years or decades, you can refine it over time to keep it in sync with your business.
Be honest with yourself about how your business has changed over the years. This is especially important if you’ve expanded into new areas or embraced trends and technologies that didn’t exist when your business opened. These changes need to be reflected in your mission statement, though you’ll likely want to stay true to the original statement as well. Modify your statement as much as you need to, but don’t rush to try and create something new without putting it through the same scrutiny as your original mission statement. Remember, you want it to speak to the reader.
When Should You Change Your Mission Statement?
You may worry that changing your mission statement will reflect poorly on your business. This shouldn’t be an issue unless you change your mission statement frequently. If you do, it may make your business seem unstable or flighty; even a small business wants to project stability, so this obviously won’t do.
Instead, evaluate your business periodically and compare its current incarnation to what it was like when you drafted your first mission statement. Some changes within the business are fine so long as the mission statement remains accurate. If it seems obvious that the mission statement no longer applies to your business in its current form, however, then the time has come for your to refine it and bring your business and its mission back in sync.