There is a saying in the military that goes all the way back to the nineteenth century: “No plan survives contact with the enemy.” After becoming the 34th President of the United States, Dwight D. Eisenhower made a speech at the National Defense Executive Reserve Conference in Washington D. C., where he remarked on a truism he once heard in the Army: “Plans are worthless, but planning is everything.”
Who Needs a Mission Statement?
So why do you need a new business mission statement if it is not going to survive? Because mission statements are agreed-upon records of what a company strives to accomplish. A business has a purpose. Maybe it makes a new kind of shoe, or perhaps it perfects outerwear suited to specific regions of the country. Maybe the business offers services no one has seen before but which we will all sign right up for and enjoy immensely. Progress and change happen because sharp-eyed entrepreneurs and forward-thinking business owners do something different. The way they accomplish these things is by developing a distinct vision and knowing what they what.
A survey of new business owners revealed that making a new business mission statement and overall plan doubled the chances of the company actually achieving its goals. Why? Simply put: because everyone knew what the goal was and how they were going to achieve it. Did each company achieve the goal in exact accordance with their mission statements? Probably not. But when they drifted away from the plan, they were able to recognize this drift and correct course.
Plans and Corrections
In other words, you need to know your destination and plan the route to reach it. However, you also need to be flexible when the plan does not quite go off as you expected, which is what President Eisenhower was referring to. Part of planning is considering all the various means by which you can achieve your goal. Even if you do not make use of all the options, at least you know what is available. In this case, when the plan goes awry, you have options to choose from in order to get back on course.
So, a new business mission statement may seem terribly ephemeral when you are busy trying to lock down real concrete pieces of your business like cash and resources and materials to make the goods you plan to sell, but it is an essential part of who you will be in the marketplace and how you will establish this identity. The statement is not only for you (although it should definitely ring true when you say it to yourself in the mirror) but also your customers, your vendors and your community. You are letting them know how you plan to fit into their existing worldview. Mission statements like this become part of the narrative of your business.
When you set down a mission statement, consider why you are undertaking this business. Ask yourself who your core customers are and how you plan to reach them? What are your products or services, and how do you want to convey this information? Finally, what is the long-term relationship you hope to build with your customers?
By answering all of these questions as you write your business’s mission statement, you will realize the shape and focus of your new business. That is how you will know where to spend the money you raise and which resources you need to realize this mission statement and succeed.
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