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The Mission Statement – Good For Small Businesses, Too

Compass DrawingAfter decades of personal selling and observing others sell, I am convinced most buying decisions are based on emotions rather than on a rational basis. The ratio of the two motivators varies with the individual buyer and the circumstances at the time, but clearly the seller must always be aware of the emotional component of the decision process. Having the best product, service, price, warranty, etc. does not ensure a sale.

This is also the best reason not to have a mission statement if you don’t intend to follow it. There’s nothing more poisonous than to have the management thumping away on some ethical tub, and at the same time acting in ways that directly contradict the espoused values. If you can’t walk it, don’t talk it!

The mission statement, like the business plan, is a useful tool for triangulation and mid-course correction. Take it off the shelf every once in a while, and see if you’re living by it. (Better yet: look at the framed version on your office wall.) And when you face a tough choice, look at that statement again for guidance. To the extent that your mission statement contains concrete business goals, make sure that you either (1) achieve those goals, or (2) acknowledge that you aren’t achieving them and take steps to bring the company’s performance into line with its aspirations.

You may not spend a lot of time on your mission statement, but you should clearly set the tone for the kind of company you’re trying to create and sustain. Culture comes from the top—that is, from you. How accessible will you be to your employees? Will you truly listen to their input, or will you just pay lip service to their ideas? What are your expectations from everyone, especially in the realm of building trust? How will your company treat its customers? What are its attitudes toward quality? Part of the point of the mission statement is the process as well as the product. If you involve other people in the development of the mission statement, you’re already sending a signal about your culture.

If disputes arise, how are those disputes resolved? Do people walk away feeling that the resolution was fair, smart, and efficient? Again, your personal example is extremely important here. One of the best ways that you can inculcate values into the fabric of your company is to embody those values.

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