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Following up on my previous column on what a mission statement is, why it’s important and how it can be a powerful management tool, let’s now look at a practical approach to creating a mission statement.
If you’ve checked out some mission statements, you have an idea of what those that resonate with you sound like.
If you already have one, this might prompt you to look at it again to see if it still fits. If it’s as powerful as you would like. If it’s clear and concise.
Checking out a few websites for ideas, a process to follow or general info will be useful as a place to start.
Here’s a generalized approach that’s easy to follow and get you going.
Before you begin, keep in mind that your mission statement should not be too limiting. Your organization might grow and evolve, and ideally, your mission statement will accommodate that.
Your mission statement is a great strategic guide but not a straitjacket.
To stay current, mission statements might – and often do – change over time to fit evolving organizations.
One thing to remember: Profit is not included in your mission statement; profit is a result of succeeding in your mission but not a mission in itself.
Mission statements usually follow a “what-how-why” format: what do we do, how do we do it and why do we do it.
Of course, any one of these questions could spawn a paragraph or more, so the challenge is to boil down what you’re writing to a simple, but powerful, sentence.
Ideally, your mission statement aims at both the world and your team.
A sentence is much easier to remember than a paragraph, no matter how tempted you are to embellish the short version. (That might come with your values … wait for it …).
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You might want to conduct a brainstorming session with your team to hear how they interpret what-how-why and how they might express it.
At this point, you’re likely to have more choices than you can use, so – and this is the more difficult part – it’s time to pick the most powerful words or phrases you want to include in the final product.
Those words or phrases, in turn, can be the components of your one-sentence mission statement. Your work, like good whiskey, might benefit from a little aging (although not 12 years).
Set it aside, think it over, ask your team to do the same and take another look at it in a few days.
Socialize it with your team, your trusted advisers and people who don’t know your organization that well to ensure it speaks to them.
Finally, don’t keep your mission statement secret. It’s the essence of your organization, powerful and inspirational. Post it on your bulletin boards, on your website and other messaging channels.
Use it as part of your email signature, refer to it often, keep it as a guide to what you and your associates do daily. It’s a foundational component of your organizational culture.
Add a value statement
Your values compliment and expand on your mission statement. They could be called “Organizational Values,” “Basic Beliefs,” “Core Values” or another label.
Typically, they are longer than the mission statement. Even more so than your mission statement, they are the foundation of and form the definition of your organization’s culture.
They address your higher aspirations and reflect the core of your organizational DNA. They are your commitments to your employees, customers, investors and community.
As with your mission statement, a team effort developing your values statements is a great approach.
Wordsmithing will be involved, of course, but the collective wisdom and insight of your team will be enlightening and stimulating.
A good way to avoid values statements that might sound stilted is to say them aloud.
We usually don’t speak like we write, so speaking something aloud is a good tool for ensuring something written sounds smooth.
John Stearns can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.