A small business typically starts because a person with some technical/craft knowledge has the crazy idea that he/she can do something that people need done, and do it in a different manner than anyone else has.

Success creates the need for employees. Employees need direction beyond “Do this task this way.” Why? Employees want to feel part of something bigger, something inspiring. It is only human to feel that.

I often see companies that have been in business for years, even decades, without ever addressing this need. I always wonder how much more successful a company could be if the owner simply created direction for the company and his/her employees.

So how does an accidental entrepreneur create a compass for setting the direction of his/her company? Over the next several blogs I will write about each of the four major components of “The Compass.” They are:

  • Mission Statement
  • Core Values
  • USP (unique selling proposition)
  • Company Vision

We’ll start with the Mission Statement. A well-done Mission Statement says simply and concisely why the owner was motivated to create the company—or, as I often put it: Why the owner was crazy enough to start the company!
More elegantly put, here is a definition from Wikipedia: “A mission statement is a statement of the purpose of a company; its reason for existing; a written declaration of an organization's core purpose and focus that normally remains unchanged over time. Properly crafted mission statements (1) serve as filters to separate what is important from what is not, (2) clearly state which markets will be served and how, and (3) communicate a sense of intended direction to the entire organization.”

The bolding is by me. Having filters to avoid distractions, a few defined markets to serve, and a clear sense of where the company wants to go helps all in the company get and stay on the same page.

How does a company develop a mission statement?

Step 1. The owner reflects on why he/she started the company. Keep a pad handy and write down what comes up as the work day goes by. Sit in a quiet place and just think back to the beginning.

Step 2. Lay out the findings in as few sentences as possible. The best mission statements are easy to remember. Remember to address the filters, the markets and intended direction for the company.

Stuck? Can’t think of anything that seems appropriate? Surf the web. Put in “mission statement” or “mission statement examples” and see what comes up.

Step 3. Share what was created with all the employees. Ask them to review and comment. If someone says something that seems out of whack with what was presented then ask “Yes and…” questions instead of saying “Yes but…”

Consider doing the same with some of the company’s best clients. If there are a few who the company has worked with over a decade or two get their input, as they have watched the company change over time.

Step 4. Take in the input that seems relevant and useful. Revise the mission statement draft accordingly.

Step 5. Publish the mission statement. Make an easy-to-read copy and post it in the company’s office. Consider putting it on each job site. Trade contractors, suppliers and clients are surprised to see a company’s mission statement in that setting.

Step 6. At your company meetings ask employees to share specific examples of other employees bringing the mission statement to life.

By taking the time to do all the above the company owner communicates to those he/she works with and for why the company exists A good mission statement also lays out what success for the company and those it serves looks like.

You and your company deserve all the above. By creating a mission statement you start to build the compass your company needs for decision making. Take it one step at a time and see how much clearer the future looks!