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Creating a Mission Statement

By Vicki M. Daughdrill

Editor's note: This is the third article in a series on considering building a business.

In previous columns, I discussed the necessary traits and characteristics of entrepreneurs, detailed the reasons businesses fail, and explained how to create a company vision. Now it's time to write a mission statement.

Every company, including your own, needs a mission statement. Why? According to business and technical consultant Wilson Mar on, for your internal customers, the mission statement coordinates the decisions and actions of your company.

It also inspires employees to do more; helps them anticipate customer needs, which results in better customer service; and gets them to act and work with a common purpose. A mission statement also limits what an organization should not do.

For your external customers, the mission statement serves as a public declaration of the benefits and advantages your company offers; it also fulfills a requirement of many customers and lending organizations.

What exactly is a mission statement? It's a powerful tool to clearly define your company's reason for existence. It's the articulation of how your dream will become a reality. It sets the tone, defines a path, and acts as a guiding principle for your company.

Your mission statement tells customers exactly what your company stands for, believes in, and what it intends to achieve.

A good company mission statement, according to the recruitment Web site

  • Captures the organization's essence without being too vague that the statement applies to all businesses
  • Focuses the entire organization's energies in a purposeful way
  • Engages emotions
  • Displays accuracy, ambition, straightforwardness and practicality.

Phil Hardwick wrote in his weekly column for the "Mississippi Business Journal," dated Nov. 22, 2004, that a mission statement "should be a one sentence, clear, concise statement that says who the company or organization is and what it does."

Here are some examples of mission statements: "Beat Coke" (Pepsi), "Crush Reebok" (Nike) and "Beat GM" (Honda). Do you think they meet the above criteria?

Following is a list of "don'ts" to keep in mind when writing your mission statement (I found these published on the University of Florida's Department of Telecommunication, College of Journalism and Communications Web site, mission.htm ):

  • Don't regurgitate a description of your business.
  • Don't make it boring.
  • Don't make it the length of a Ph.D. thesis.
  • Don't fake emotion. If you don't believe it, don't include it.
  • Don't lie. Intend to do exactly what you say you are going to do.
  • Don't forget to write it down.
  • Don't forget to get the input of as many people in your organization as you can.
  • Don't forget to incorporate it into the rest of your business.

Some companies spend years and thousands of dollars working to formulate their vision and articulate their mission. More than 64 books on writing mission statements are available on online retailer; an Internet search on "mission statements" results in more than 44,000 hits.

However, don't get overwhelmed. On the Web site ( library/howto/ht_stmt.htm), I found the following outline to help you create your mission statement:

  1. List your company's core competencies, its unique strengths and weaknesses. This is an excellent occasion to conduct a thorough "SWOT" analysis to determine the Strengths and Weaknesses of, Opportunities for and Threats to your business. Be candid, honest and brutal with your analysis.
  2. List your company's primary customers, internal and external, by type not by name. If your company is new, list your potential customers.
  3. Review how each customer relates to each of your company's strengths, asking each customer if possible. Satisfaction surveys and customer focus groups are outstanding and recognized ways to gain information. Bring in a few of your best customers, serve them lunch and brainstorm with them.
  4. Write a one-sentence description of each customer/company strength pairing. If writing a complete sentence takes the focus away from the process, brainstorm adjectives and adverbs that describe your current business or the business you intend to operate.
  5. Combine all similar statements, adjectives and adverbs using words that are positive, action-oriented and in active voice, and prioritize them in order of importance to your company's vision.
  6. If you have not yet written out sentences, write a one-sentence description of each customer/company strength pairing and combine the top three to five sentences into a paragraph.
  7. Ask your customers if they would do business with a company with that stated mission.
  8. Ask your employees if they understand, support and can fulfill the mission. I recommend and encourage you to engage your employees at the earliest stage of the process. Ask for their input in the SWOT analysis and utilize their skills in developing your written statements.
  9. Ask your suppliers if the mission statement makes sense to them.
  10. Incorporate the feedback from customers, employees and suppliers and repeat the process, if necessary.
  11. Refine the paragraph into statements that clearly articulate the way you want your company to relate to those it works with, and use it everywhere.

Include it on all communications, print it on your letterhead and all marketing and branding materials, post it on your Web site, and display it in your office.

This process differs from Hardwick's recommendations to write one sentence that states who the company is and what it does. I personally agree with him and recommend that you refine your mission statement to be one sentence or a phrase that differentiates your company from the competition. However, since you know your company better than anyone else, you decide which method best describes your business. It's now time to (as Nike says) "Just do it!" Happy writing.

Vicki M. Daughdrill is the managing member of Small Business Resources LLC, a management consulting company. E-mail her at or call her at 601-310-3594.

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