Organizations are like individuals: they need a reason for existing. Without one they wander aimlessly, doing as little as possible to sustain themselves while failing to focus on long-term goals or objectives. One of the best ways to correct this problem is to develop a mission statement that clarifies what the company’s primary purpose is, how it will achieve it, and who will benefit from this accomplishment.
In order for the statement to be effective, however, it must be properly structured. Specifically, it should include the following four elements:
- The intended customer base – In order to survive, any organization must create a product or service that others will find useful. These people in turn become clients, or customers, of the firm, and support its existence. Therefore, the first part of the mission statement should identify who this target group is. It should do so without being either overly broad or unnecessarily restrictive. Those who read it should know who they’re trying to reach, while remaining open to additional markets that may open up. For example, an ice cream parlor’s mission statement might say something like this: “the people of our community currently have no place to gather on a warm summer’s day and enjoy a bowl of delicious, refreshing ice cream. We will change that by creating a friendly, attractive venue for them, as well as visitors to our area.”
- The scope of the company’s services – No organization can supply all the needs and wants of the world’s people. Thus, it’s important that the mission statement specify how the organization will find its particular niche in the greater economy. For example, the ice cream parlor we discussed above might include this in its mission statement: “we will provide fresh, delicious frozen treats to our customers, while never having less than 21 distinct flavors for them to choose from.”
- How it will deliver those services – A business can have the greatest product every invented, yet still not make a dime if it fails to effectively market that item to its intended customer base. Marketing implies more than sales. It also incorporates an overall sketch of the distribution system the company will use. So a mission statement for the above mentioned ice cream parlor might say, “we will let the public know about our existence through ads in local papers, a web page, and promotional coupons handed out across our community. We will arrange daily shipments to our location from reliable wholesalers, and be open on days and at times convenient to most of the community.”
- How customers will benefit from the company’s services – This is the finishing touch, the high point of the mission statement, the part that explains what the enterprise is all about. It should include visionary and motivational elements to inspire the company’s employees and stakeholders. Returning to our example of the ice cream parlor, this section of its mission statement might read, “our customers will have a place to enjoy themselves after a hard day’s work, a community event, or whenever they’re in the mood for good food and good fun.”
By making sure that your company’s mission statement adheres to these guidelines, you’ll find that it provides a framework for both its daily operations and long-term strategic goals. It will be to your organization what both a rudder and anchor are to a sailing ship: something that keeps it in the right place while steering it towards a bright future. And what firm wouldn’t benefit from that?