You wouldn't leave for a trip to an unfamiliar city without a map, so why would you start a business without a mission statement-your guide for all that comes after?
A mission statement is the "bone-deep reason your organization exists," says Dick Barnett, a Beaverton, Oregon, business consultant with Barnett & Kutz Inc. and author of Reignite Your Business (Confident Leader Press). A strong mission statement shouldn't be a lengthy tome; ideally, the founder should be able to summarize his mission in a few words. One restaurateur's mission, for instance, is "to serve people with love."
Granted, it may take several hours of conversation with others before you can strip down the meaning of the business to its essence. Barnett starts conversations with clients by asking what they really want. Usually, the first answer is something superficial like "I want to make a lot of money." Barnett then asks why that's important and continues the discussion, asking why each of the answers is important, until entrepreneurs finally reach the core mission of the business-the one that will drive them forward in good times and bad.
How do you know when you've stumbled on the real mission of your business? "When you hit on it," Barnett says, "you'll recognize it because no one else has that answer. It's uniquely yours."
Pamela Rohland often writes about the joys and tribulations of entrepreneurship for a variety of regional and national business publications.
- Barnett & Kutz Inc., (503)629-5210, www.reigniteyourbusiness.com.