I used to think that a company’s mission statement was a sign of pretension and corporate slickness—or just one more in a long line of tasks to start a business. As a small business owner, it seemed like a million other things were more important. But coming out the other side of the long (and sometimes painful) process of creating our mission statement, I’m singing a far different tune.
For small businesses of any size—even if you’re a sole proprietor—I can assure you that this work is well worth your time and energy.
Running a business is full of decisions. Think of your mission statement as a guiding light.
It can help you
- gain clarity about whether a project or client is a good fit
- communicate with clients, teammates, and colleagues
- focus your time, money, and effort
- say yes—and no—with confidence
- market your business
- meet your small business goals
What is a mission statement, really?
Oxford Languages defines a mission statement as the “formal summary of the aims and values of a company, organization, or individual.” But don’t let the “formal” part turn you off. You may warm up more to the idea of it being a thoughtful, intentional, and brief overview.
I like to think of it as a succinct statement of where you are going and why you exist. That kindles a much bigger fire, doesn’t it?
Writing a small business mission statement
Well, the old adage that it’s easy to write long, and quite hard to write short, comes into play. To write our mission statement, we had to sit with a lot of hard questions about who we are as a company, and who we wanted to be. We had to admit we weren’t going to be all things to all people, and that some clients wouldn’t be the right fit. And in a culture where we’re taught not to brag, we had to own what we’re really good at.
And once we’d cleared away the weeds, we had to polish. We wrote and rewrote, sat with it, and rewrote some more. We pored through a thesaurus again and again to find just the right words to quickly and clearly tell our story:
Our mission is to make marketing easy. Our flexible partnership delivers the customized digital marketing pieces that each business needs to increase profits, frees clients to focus on core operations, and makes their brand shine.
Now, whenever we have a choice to make—from which clients to take, to which tasks to prioritize—we can use our mission statement as a litmus test to ensure our choices are leading us toward success that is also fulfilling and meaningful.
How focusing on your mission can transform your job
When you write a mission statement you’re excited about, you won’t be content to let it sit, dusty and ignored, on a forgotten page of your website. Once we pared back all our extra assumptions and distractions, keeping our mission statement front and center has transformed work life and inspires us daily.
Here are some ways we see its footprint woven into our company culture:
- A bonded team. Having slogged through the long, often challenging process of creating our company’s mission statement, we came out the other side more bonded as a team. And those of us who worked most closely on it feel a sense of ownership over the company, as well as a sense of shared vision and purpose that brings us together.
- A focal point for training. We take turns reading our mission and vision statements to open bi-monthly team meetings. Reading these statements out loud enables our entire team to continually absorb them, reflect on them, and come back to our shared goals. It’s a powerful way for our team to feel connected around our work. And, with these statements rolling easily off our tongues, we naturally incorporate them into conversations with our entire professional and personal network.
- Clarity and leadership. The focus that these statements have provided for us make our jobs easier and make working through dilemmas easier and quicker. It truly feels like a weight off my shoulders. With the clarity of our company’s mission statement in ink (in concert with our vision statement and core values), we have a guiding force to turn to in moments of uncertainty that helps us stay true to our purpose. Is this a good client for us? How should I explain this concept to a client? What should I say to my teammate about a challenge we are having a hard time working through? Our company’s mission statement, our vision, and our core values lead us to answers that are quick and satisfying.
- Messaging. Prior to cementing our mission statement, at times we struggled to articulate what is unique and special about our business. Homing in on who we are, what we do, and why we do it greases the wheels for everything from our website messaging to our elevator pitch, and increases our chances of making an impact.
- Connection. We typically massage our company’s mission and vision statement into our exploratory calls with future clients. And people are responding. I sense that communicating our company’s values has helped my team bridge the trust gap that exists between any two people who have not met before and have a limited connection or familiarity with each other. Prospective clients not only hear our care for them, but know that we are focused on prioritizing relationships for everyone’s success rather than just trying to sell them on services they may not need. That helps get our client relationships off on the right foot.
At the end of the day, our big ideas (encapsulated in a small business mission statement) have inspired us, brought our team together, and made our jobs easier. We have support to make decisions and to share what we do with the world; to know when to say no and when to say YES!; and to keep our eyes on the prize of what is—for us—satisfying and meaningful business success.
If you’re brave enough to tackle your own mission and vision statement, we wish you the best of luck.