This is part one of MyBusiness’ four-part series on preparing for the new year. Stay tuned for more tips and resources to improve your small business in 2014.
Whether you’re launching a new business or operating an established one, a solid mission statement is your cornerstone—the driving force behind everything you do.
“Mission statements sum up the ‘why,’” says Gary Smith, a CruiseOne travel agency franchise owner and small business management professor at Lane Community College in Eugene, Ore. “Why we exist, why a client should care we exist and why we should be excited to come to work each day.”
As you craft or hone your mission statement, keep these three tips in mind.
1. Focus on the customer. Who are your customers? What are their needs, and how are you responding to them? Why should potential customers pick you over your competition? The heart of your business is providing a service or product to customers, so these questions are central to your mission statement.
“If you’re centered on helping your clients, everything should naturally fall into place,” says Paul Sheng, CEO of FoundHere, a website-building and -hosting company.
2. Keep it simple, short and distinctive. It can be tempting to cram as much material and inspiring adjectives into your mission statement as possible, but it will be more memorable and impactful—for both your customers and employees—if you get to the point, avoid jargon and keep it to a few sentences.
“Don’t use business buzzword bingo to build a mission statement,” says Chuck Blakeman, founder of business consulting company Crankset Group. “The fancier you sound, the less real or relatable you sound.”
Furthermore, be true to your business. “It’s important to consider the elements that make your company unique,” says Jerome Byers, U.S. head of small business at Citi. “Many companies claim to be innovative leaders in their industry yet fail to hone a theme that truly sets them apart.”
3. Refer to it often. Once you’ve finalized your mission statement, don’t let it gather dust. Think of it as your compass, and review it often to make sure you’re on track.
“I believe that purpose and principle, clearly understood and articulated and commonly shared, are the genetic code of any healthy organization,” says Billy Bauer, marketing director for Royce Leather, an NFIB member organization. “One of the reasons your team needs this anchor is to stay on track. It’s so easy to get bogged down in the day-to-day of our business lives. We get our to-do list tunnel vision and lose sight of the big vision. Your mission statement always reminds each person in your company of your overarching raison d’être.”