by Leslie Dashew
In our last issue, I wrote about Vision Statements. There is often confusion between the concept of a vision statement and a mission statement. A mission statement is a statement of purpose: it describes why an organization exists. A vision statement, on the other hand, describes a desired state for the organization at some time in the future.
Mission statements help to clarify and focus the attention of those who belong to the organization. Business mission statements help employees understand why the business exists and can help them to understand how their role helps to contribute to the company’s purpose. For example, a company’s mission statement might read: The Company provides premier precision manufacturing solutions for our customers in the diesel engine and affiliated markets. Through our collective efforts, we will achieve strategic corporate growth and attractive capital appreciation for all stakeholders. We accomplish this by operating our businesses with a foundation of ethics, customer focus, developing and respecting our employees, and operational excellence.
Many of our clients are establishing family councils. It is particularly useful for families to discuss the council’s purpose and come to consensus on why they want to have this new organization. One such mission statement is:
The family council will provide a forum to further define our pur pose, values and goals as a family, for continuous education, to foster harmony and resolve issues, to provide direction to the board of directors about the expectations of the family owners and to establish policies on matters relating to the family and its assets.
You’ll notice that there are 5 elements of this mission statement:
- Define our purpose, goals and values
- Continuous education
- Foster harmony and resolve issues
- Provide direction about expectations of family owners
- Establish policies and plans regarding family assets
Here is another example:
The mission of the Family Forum is to provide the family with a vehicle for communication, education and mutual support so that the family can maintain and/or increase assets, wisdom and harmony into future generations. The Forum will offer a regular opportunity to meet to discuss family business issues, address concerns or worries about the future, articulate our values, guiding principles and policies, share education and information and enhance our communication and relationships. In addition, we will discuss philanthropic goals and make decisions about charitable gifting. The Forum will prepare the younger generation(s) for management of family assets and will actively involve all members of the family in the operation of the Forum.
Another mission statement incorporates the family’s values:
Family Council Mission StatementOut of our deep, abiding love and commitment to our Lord, Jesus Christ and our family, we the members of the _______ Family, establish this Family Council to insure that our family remain united and our businesses strong for each successive generation. To achieve this purpose, the _______ Family Council commits to:
- Provide an open forum for all members to express concerns and ask questions relating to the family and its businesses in an environment of love, compassion and understanding, and allowing for differing views and opinions to be expressed freely and confidentially.
- Educate and inform members concerning the family: its traditions, businesses and ministries, and their respective roles therein.
- Model and teach Christian beliefs and values to all generations, encouraging them to carry on the Christian traditions of their forefathers.
- Develop consistent and compatible objectives for all family endeavors: business, investment, and philanthropic.
Some guidelines in writing mission statements:
- Be sure to focus on the purpose for which the organization exists
- The mission statement should be clear and succinct so that it is easily understood and remembered
- The statement should be able to be used as a test when setting priorities and objectives. In other words, one can ask “will the activity or goal help us achieve our purpose?” It serves as a compass for individuals in the organization.
- The mission statement should distinguish the organization from others and indicate what makes it unique e.g. the purpose of the family council vs. a foundation or a business. Individuals, families and boards can have mission statements as well. For example, my mission in life is to help people utilize, develop and appreciate their capabilities and those of the people whose lives they touch. Having a mission statement helps to focus our energies and feel a sense of accomplishment and integrity when our efforts are congruent with our mission.
This article appeared in the Aspen Family Business Group’s Spring, 2001 Newsletter.