“Without a mission statement, you may get to the top of the ladder and then realize it was leaning against the wrong building.” These words by Dave Ramsey, financial expert and host of The Ramsey Show, highlight the importance of developing a mission statement for your small business. But what, exactly, is a mission statement?
Mission Statement Definition
The definition of a mission statement changes slightly depending on which resource you use. Here are a few to consider:
- “something that states the purpose or goal of a business or organization” ~ Merriam-Webster
- “an official document that sets out the goals, purpose, and work of an organization” ~ Dictionary.com
- “an official statement of the aims and objectives of a business or other organization” ~ The Free Dictionary
The overarching theme of all of these definitions is that a mission statement is a statement (or document) that shares your small business’s purpose, goals, and objectives.
What’s Included in the Mission Statement
No matter which mission statement definition you follow, the one thing your statement should include is your ultimate purpose. Put another way, why does your small business exist? What is your number one goal?
Answering questions such as these is a struggle for some small businesses. It requires that the company’s founders and operators do a deep dive to better identify what it intends to accomplish. An effective strategy for this is to use the five whys. This requires asking “why?” five times, leading you to the underlying purpose of your small business.
For example, maybe you feel that your purpose is to supply a product at the lowest possible price. Ask why this is important (why #1). Maybe it’s because you want to be affordable for everyone. Why (#2)? Because you feel that everyone deserves access to the products you sell. Why (#3)? Because you believe in equality. Why (#4)? Because everyone should feel included. Why (#5)? Because inclusion is a fundamental human need.
In this case, your mission is to help every consumer feel included by having access to the products they want (or need). This provides guidance for your employees, telling them what their ultimate goal is when faced with a situation or decision.
What a Mission Statement Isn’t
Since a mission statement is an explanation of your small business’s purpose, it may be tempting to take it one step further and also include how you intend to achieve that mission. However, a mission statement is not a business plan or an outline of your processes. If you read the mission statement definitions again, you will notice that none of them talk about the steps you’ll take. They simply state what your mission is.
Imagine that you create a personal mission statement “to live your best life possible.” This is short, powerful, and to the point. Now compare it to this statement: “to lose 10 pounds by eating more salads and getting more exercise, to get a promotion at work by arriving early and staying late, to create stronger relationships by listening more and talking less, and to reduce my stress by engaging in hobbies I am passionate about.”
The second mission statement is somewhat overwhelming. This is partially because it covers so many areas and also because it includes how you intend to achieve each sub-goal. If you live by the shorter mission statement, you will likely still do the same things, yet without feeling as if you have all these “rules” you must follow and potentially reducing your flexibility as life ebbs and flows.
Mission Statement Definition vs Vision Statement Definition
So, isn’t a mission statement the same as a vision statement? It’s easy to make this argument because your ultimate goal is your vision, right? Not exactly.
Your mission statement is more about the core value of your small business. It’s the one thing that drives all of your employee’s decisions when dealing with customers or figuring out the best way to move forward.
Your vision statement is more about what you want your small business to become. This might involve naming the problem you are attempting to solve or the change you want to create.
Think of a mission statement as a statement that drives your small business today, in the present, whereas a vision statement is more about the future. It is where you see your company down the road.
This is a small, yet distinct difference. And if you create both for your small business, this says that you’re thinking about today and tomorrow. It provides a path for success every step of the way.