I work with really busy people, many of them farmers, so I am reluctant to ask them to do something if I am not 100% certain that it is worth the effort. So, with that in mind, I confess, I waffle a bit when it comes to mission statements. Are they worth writing? Does a farm need a mission statement? What is the value of a mission statement?
A mission statement makes your business understandable to your customers, your employees, and your community. A mission statement does not have to be complicated–in fact it should be short, simple, and to-the-point. Your mission statement should be what gets you through a bad day (or a bad season). But, a mission statement is not the first document you should write for your business plan. If your time is limited and/or you are just getting started, there are other, more important, documents for you to work on before you tackle your mission statement.
Here are the steps that I am unwavering in my support for:
Know your values! You cannot start, or operate a business without exploring your core values. Your values form the the foundation of who you are and what matters to you.
Have a vision! You need to have a dream that you are pursuing to keep you motivated and moving forward. Don’t be afraid of a big vision, embrace it! Vision statements are, by nature, larger-than-life. If you have trouble identifying a vision, imagine the legacy that you would like to leave behind. Very often your vision is embedded in your legacy.
Have goals! Goals are the mileposts that allow you to mark progress on your journey. Goals should be SMART – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Rewarding and Time-bound. Goals do need to be written down. Ideally, goals relate to your values and your vision. And periodically they have to be reviewed so that you can determine whether you are on track or lost in the weeds.
Action Plans are a must. When you have your goals written down it is important to create an action plan. An action plan is just a road map to help you move toward your vision. Action plans should relate directly to your goals. For each goal you should identify, exactly what action(s) need to be completed, what resource(s) you need to complete that action, and a deadline for getting the action done. As you check off your actions you will be moving steadily toward your goal.
Do you need a mission statement? Well, if you are clear about your values, you have a vision, you have identified some goals and formed action plans, chances are that your mission is already pretty well defined even if it isn’t written down. Don’t make yourself crazy trying to write a clever, catchy mission statement. Start with the basic building blocks identified above and when the time is right (you’ll know when) jot down some drafts and post them where you will see them often. Keep pencils handy and make changes as they occur to you. At some point you will look up and realize that you have a mission statement. In the meantime just focus on being the best farmer you know how to be.