The turn of the year is a time when many companies engage in some type of structured reflection. Mission statements can be a part of that.
Ari Weinsweig is one of the partners of Zingerman's, a company featured in the book "Small Giants: Companies that Choose to Be Great Instead of Big" by Bo Burlingham. Zingerman's started as a deli in Ann Arbor, Mich. One of their businesses is ZingTrain, which takes the business lessons Weinsweig and his partner, Paul Saginaw, have learned and brings them to life for other business owners. Weinsweig offers a straight-forward recipe for crafting a mission statement. A mission statement answers four basic questions:
- What do we do?
- Who are we?
- Who are we doing it for?
- Why do we do it?
The outcome for Zingerman's was a very simple short clear statement that answers the four questions:
We share the Zingerman's Experience:
- Selling food that makes you happy.
- Giving service that makes you smile.
- Passionate pursuit of our mission.
- Showing love and caring in all our actions.
- To enrich as many lives as we possibly can.
Per Weinsweig, the mission statement is the direction setter for the company. What is the business the company is in, and why is it in that business are incredibly important questions that many companies never address.
Secondly, the mission statement transcends any job description. When faced with a challenging client or a job gone sour the mission statement helps all involved make decisions that all can support.
Weinsweig suggests getting outside help. It is extremely rare that those who work in the company, particularly the owner, can do a mission statement on their own. An outside perspective provided by a person who is skilled at listening and facilitating can make all the difference. Strapped for funds? Contact Service Core of Retired Executives (SCORE) or your local university's business school for possible resources.
Involve as many of your people in the process as possible to create ownership. And don't bother with one unless you are planning on using the mission statement. It can be counterproductive.