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Mission/Vision:  Business Plan Basics

The mission and vision statements set the tone for not only your business plan, but also for your company.  They define the path your company will follow and act as a guiding principle by which your company functions.

Your mission and vision statements tell your reader what you and your business are all about - what your company stands for, what you believe in, and what you intend to achieve.

Economy of words is critical.  This doesn't necessarily mean that they should be short at the expense of effectiveness, but that each word should be powerful and meaningful. Be clear and concise and make it obvious what your company is attempting to do. 

Is there a difference between a mission and vision statement? Yes, the differences are:

Your VISION defines your long-term dream.  It should not be achievable.   That may sound ridiculous, but the objective is for your vision to always be just slightly out of your reach.  It's what you constantly strive to attain, and it becomes your reason for being.

Your MISSION is what you intend to become or accomplish. It should be challenging but achievable. A well-written mission statement demonstrates that you understand your business, have defined your unique focus, and can articulate your objectives concisely to yourself and others.

Mission/Vision:  Common Mistakes to Avoid

Here are some of the "don'ts" to avoid when writing your Mission Statement or Vision Statement:

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

In the context of a business planÖ

Say It With Passion

Let's assume that your Executive Summary clearly outlines your idea, business concept, opportunity, market, management team, and investment opportunity. Let's also assume that it's grabbed the attention of your reader/investor and has inspired them to read on. Moving forward, your reader quickly flips past your Table of Contents and glances at your company's Mission Statement.

What will they read? Is it compelling? Exciting? Does it give them the impression that your company and you are more than just business oriented, but also passionate? What does it tell your reader about you, your company, and your chances of future success? And will it stick in their mind as they read through the other sections of your business plan? If you can answer yes to these questions, then your mission statement has done its job.

Keep in mind that you don't want to put the carriage before the horse in regards to the relationship between your mission statement and your business plan. In many ways, your business plan (i.e. your business) should develop BECAUSE you have a mission, not because The Company Mission is a section in your business plan. A great mission statement will not make up for a poor business plan in the eyes of investors, but an undefined and uninspired mission statement may lead an investor to think twice about the quality of your business and it's goals.

A mission statement isn't just for the readers of your business plan. Instead it should be viewed as the guiding principle for your entire business. It tells you, your company, your employees, your vendors, your customers, your investors, and your lenders what your goal is, what you stand for, and where you're headed. Essentially, your mission statement defines your company's values and outlines your organizational purpose and "reason for being".

A solid business plan is organized to convey information to outsiders about the nature and intentions of your business. A clear mission statement serves as the "guiding light" of your business plan, powerfully condensing the message you want to send to the reader.

A good mission statement is compelling, passionate, and energizing. It should be risky and challenging, but also achievable. If it falls between "we can't do it", but "we will do it anyway" then you're on the right track. Also remember that a mission statement isn't written in stone, and is likely to change over time as a business grows and market conditions change. Think of your mission statement like a race; give it a clearly defined finish line and determine a time period when it will be achieved.

Writing a mission statement can be a difficult and challenging task. If you don't know what you stand for and what your company believes in, then it's impossible. If you don't know what principles you operate from and how you will treat those who come in contact with your company, then it's impossible. If you're not excited about what you are doing and lack a passion for your product or service, then it's impossible. Instead of trying to just "write it" or "get it done", devote some serious thought and soul searching to your mission statement. It must boldly state what you, your company, and it's future are all about - and it's worth the effort.

A mission statement should require little or no explanation, and its length is less important than it's power. One of Nike's now famous mission statements was:

"CRUSH REEBOK"

It requires no explanation, but it motivates everyone associated with Nike, and the objective is unmistakable. Instead, Nike could have stated their mission as, "to be the best shoe company with the best customer service", but that would have done little to inspire the troops. Don't make that mistake with your own mission statement - make it passionate and inspiring, not bland and boring.

Consider two other famous examples:
∑ PEPSI - "Beat Coke"
∑ HONDA - "We will crush, squash, and slaughter Yamaha"

Attempt to keep your mission statement simple, but this doesn't necessarily mean it should be short. Try limiting it to one paragraph, although it could vary anywhere from one sentence to a full page.

Every mission statement should be different. So don't try to use one of the examples above or one that resembles the flavor of your closest competitor. Instead write a mission statement that reflects your individuality, creativity, and uniqueness.
Use a tone that best reflects the culture of your company, and get as many people as possible involved in its construction. If everyone doesn't buy into your mission statement, then it will not effectively shape your company and its actions, and thus it will lose its effectiveness. So if someone reads your mission statement and comments "great, but who cares" consider rewriting it and adding some passion. The passion and excitement you demonstrate in your mission statement will carry over not only to the rest of your business plan, but also into the day to day operations of your company.