Preparing A Mission Statement

Is Challenging Work

Simply speaking, preparing a mission statement starts the process of turning the dreams and potential of an organization into reality.

The first step in preparing a mission statement for a family business is to do some serious brainstorming - and to be able to differentiate between the organizational goals and objectives that are more aligned with the business than those that are aligned with the mission of the family.

"We recommend that two mission statements be created - one for the business and one for the family," suggests top family business expert Don Schwerzler.

"There is a phenomenon we call the "Dualism Dynamic" that family businesses should understand."

For instance, if you are going to create a mission statement for the business, FIRST you should create a mission statement for the family. If you are going to create a business plan for the business, FIRST you should create a business plan for the family. If you are going to develop a succession plan for the business, FIRST you should develop a succession plan for the family. In other words, the planning process for the family should be driving the planning process for the business."

Schwerzler has been studying and advising family business entreprenuers for more than 40 years and he is the founder of the Family Business Institute. [As a side note, we get many questions from family businesses about the difference between a mission statement and a vision statement. A great gauge for making the determination between vision and mission statements is dividing those organizational goals and objectives between the attainable (mission statement) versus those that are not yet attainable (vision statement).]

Useful tips for creating a mission statement

When preparing a mission statement for your family business, consider the difference between "External Functions" and "Internal Functions." External functions have to do with driving sales, marketing, web site strategies and business development functions. Internal functions are associated with functions such as organizational development, team building, company values and company ethics. An effective mission statement seamlessly connects the external and internal functions.

One of the most overlooked elements in preparing mission statements is:

R E S E A R C H!

Research high-profile, successful organizations and consider how well their mission statement matches the public perception of their organization.

Research the mission statements of your competitors and your vendors

Research organizations that cater to the same customer demographics of your business. For example, if your customers are "high net-worth" individuals, check out organizations that provide luxury products and services to "high net-worth" individuals.

Economy of words is critical. Not necessarily short, but each word should be powerful and meaningful, clear and concise. Make it obvious what your business is attempting to do. It shouldn't need explaining.

If you have a family business, capture the spirit and uniqueness of your business. Address family and business values that make your business different from the cold and impersonal "Big Box" store.

One huge benefit of preparing a mission statement is that it opens up the communication process inside of an organization. Effective mission statements are based on getting input and commitment from as many people in your organization as you can. Remember, preparing a mission statement is not an autocratic version of Moses and the Tablets - your people must feel and understand the mission - before they can make the personal commitments to the spirit of their mission statement.

A good mission statement is compelling, exciting, and passionate - but it must come across as real and meaningful. Don't use four syllable words if yours is not a four-syllable organization!

If you are going beyond a page, you may be including detailed objectives and tactics. Stick to broad goals and objectives when preparing a mission statement

Remember that your mission statement will likely change over time as your organization and its environment change, so you don't have to spend forever trying to cover all eventualities in today's statement.

A family should strongly consider developing its own mission statement separate from preparing a mission statement for the family's business. Often there are many more emotional issues surrounding the family and its dreams and aspirations. These do not necessarily belong in the business mission statement so capturing them separately might be more effective.

In family businesses there is a "dualism dynamic" that should be addressed. If you are going to prepare a mission statement for the business, FIRST prepare a mission statement for the family. The order in which you prepare a mission statement is important for family businesses - if you want the family values to drive the values of the business.

Some organizations find it helpful to create mission statements for the various departments within their organization - and then linking the departmental mission statements to the corporate mission statement.

Family business should remember the extended family when they prepare a mission statement, including your non-family business employees and managers, your customers, suppliers, community, lenders and family members who may not be involved in the family-owned business.

When preparing a mission statement for a family business you should reflect the tone of your family business; shows the path your family business will follow and acts as a guiding principle by which your family business functions.

To sum up - to successfully prepare a mission statement, make it realistic (even if your organizations may have to grow to meet the spirit if the mission statement), achievable, and be careful not to be too idealistic. If you are really bold, prepare a mission statement where you can include objectives that are measurable and quantifiable!

Editors Note

Does your family business have a
Mission Statement?

We invite you to post your Mission Statement on our web site.

It may be inspirational to other family businesses as they write their Family Business Mission Statement!


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Preparing a mission statement is challenging - but it is do-able!

Mission Statements are very helpful for family-owned businesses - we suggest strongly that you and your organization consider creating a mission statement for your business AND your family!

Preparing a mission statement also involves editing and sometimes a second opinion - and that's where we can help. Call or email us!

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