Do You Really Need A Mission Statement?
Since at least the 1980s, the idea of having a mission statement seems to be everywhere in the business world. These few short sentences became an all-important part of life in the office. Committees and subcommittees sprouted up to develop and review them. Sometimes, even individuals were encouraged to write their own mission statement. But do you, as a contractor, need a mission statement? Or is it corporate lingo that should be left to the people in suits rather than those of us who work in overalls?
Of course, there’s no legal requirement to have a mission statement. It isn’t on your license application. The tax agent won’t ask for it; neither will the code inspector. Still, while it’s not mandatory, it is a great way to keep your business focused and on track.
A mission statement does show focus, so it makes a lot of sense to have one in your business plan. Lenders or investors may look for it because it’s a great summary of what you’re all about. So do you need a mission statement? No. Should you have one? Probably. Let’s look at some of the benefits of developing this simple paragraph.
It Sets Out Who You Are
A mission statement should be a concise way of saying what your company is all about. It makes clear what kind of business you have, what you do, and why you do it.
In a way, a mission statement is a definition of your business. What is your work? What difference does it make in your community? What are you trying to offer? These are generally painted in broad strokes but still specific enough to define you.
You might think those answers are obvious, but it’s easy to get sidetracked and pursue tangents. Having a clear, written mission statement is a reminder of what you’re supposed to be focusing on and why you started this endeavor in the first place.
It Keeps You Focused
To get anywhere, you have to remember where you’re going and why. A mission statement serves as a basic reminder of why you’re in business.
Let’s face it: there are a lot of distractions out there. And you have a lot of great ideas, too. But realistically, you can’t follow every new concept. You need to focus on what you’re doing and work to fulfill your purpose.
When you spread yourself too thin, you end up not being able to concentrate on anything. It’s also confusing to customers and clients, who might wind up asking what you offer. Respecting your mission statement will make sure you stay on point in everything you do.
It Guides Your Choices
Making choices is a daily necessity in business. But you have to ask yourself if particular choices conform to why your business exists.
Some ideas may go too far afield from what you set out to do. In that case, you have to look at the company as a whole and decide if you’re ready and willing to undertake something outside the scope you’ve defined. Is it better to spin new ideas off into a separate company? Do you have to re-evaluate what you’re doing and refocus your company completely? Or does it come down to just saying “we don’t do that”?
For example, if you do window installations, that’s part of your mission. You probably don’t want to accept jobs pouring concrete even if you know how. You could do the work, sure. But that would be a different kind of business entirely.
Accepting projects outside of your mission may bring in a few extra dollars. However, it can separate you from what you set out to do. A carefully-drafted mission guides you to stay inside the lines.
It Keeps Your Team On Track
Of course, the mission statement isn’t just for you as the boss. Even if you have a small team, it’s important that they have a clear understanding of what your business does and why it does it. While the paycheck is a major reason your employees are there, it’s also important that their work and attitude reflects the company’s mission. That means they can take pride in their work and strive to do it better each day.
It may sound cliché but a lot of success comes from attitude. That starts with you but has to be embraced by the whole team. This is reflected in the quality of work and in the interaction with clients. Those things will help keep business coming through the door.
It Helps You Change
A mission statement is about staying true to who you are as a company. It’s not contradictory, though, to say it should make you change, too. It states who you are – at least in a theoretical sense. But maybe it would be better to say it states who you intend to be.
When you create a mission statement, you’re writing what your business is supposed to be. Of course, we don’t always live up to that. That’s just as true in business as it is in our personal lives.
You should constantly be striving to fulfill what it says in your mission statement. It’s not a list of goals; those come after. But the statement itself is a reminder to you (and the whole company). The change comes when you recognize that you’re not there yet. You have to adjust your own way of acting, talking, and thinking to align with what you set out to do.
It Helps Determine Vision And Goals
A mission statement is a permanent, or at least long-term, identity. But from it should flow your vision and your goals. A company’s vision is a statement of where you want to be at a certain point in the future. It could be a three- or five-year concept. Goals are shorter-term – perhaps for the coming year or even shorter. But they should be based on your mission and be a means to help fulfill the mission.
A mission statement, for instance, could include having the most well-trained team in your region. Your vision, then, might be that every employee attain a certain professional certification within 3 years. A goal could be that a third of your team start classes for that certification in the next six months. Each of those elements goes toward fulfilling your mission. And every goal should be directed at that, too.
Of course, you’ll have many goals that are constantly changing. But they should all be ways to help express the mission better.
It Speaks To Clients, Investors, And Business Associates
Finally, a mission statement helps reveal who you are to people outside your business. That includes others who will work alongside you, institutions you may look to for financial support, and your clients as well. It will give them more than a name and type of work. They’ll be able to see what you’re all about.
That doesn’t make it a pure marketing piece. It has to have a realistic business sense to it. It has to speak to what your business aspires to be without making false claims or being self-promoting. It’s a yardstick by which your business is going to be measured – by both you and others.
Our Own Mission Statement
To give you an example, here’s our own mission statement. Every day, we work on being even better at it!
“Patterned Concrete® believes that quality control, customer service and employee dedication are key factors when striving to achieve the highest standards in architectural concrete finishes. It is our dedication to ensure that these guidelines are met on a day-to-day basis to guarantee complete customer satisfaction before, during, and after production. This begins with our employees ensuring that every installation is fully engineered and all design capabilities are exhausted to accomplish any specific outcome desired. Our company mission is to produce a quality end product that are second to none, and our goal is to provide architectural concrete that works hard for you, guaranteeing durability and quality craftsmanship you can count on.”
Do you need a mission statement? No, especially if you’re a small contractor with one or two employees. But even in that case, it’s helpful to develop a statement. It can keep you focused, help you evaluate yourself, and guide decisions for the present and the future. It also helps others understand what your business is about. So even though you may be able to get by without it, it’s still a great tool to help your business grow and improve.