How long have you been in business? Do you have a mission statement yet? If you do, when was the last time you leveraged its content to grow your company? I know, big sigh! It seems meaningless to spend time writing mission and vision statements, let alone a business plan when there's real work to be done, right? Wrong! This IS real work. It's the work that is going to give you a strong foothold on the mountain of competition you're facing in your industry. It's the work of a true entrepreneur.

So why is it so important to have a meaningful mission statement? The key word here is "meaningful." Your mission statement tells the world what your company stands for, what you believe in, and what you intend to achieve, as well as why you intend it. To create a meaningful mission statement, it's important to understand your personal values and how your company and its actions will align with those values. If you feel out of integrity with your value system as you take part in the day-to-day operations of your business, neither you nor your business are likely to thrive.

To determine which value(s) to incorporate into your mission statement, ask yourself what is most important to you about life and the world you live in. What is the one value that your company must adhere to, or achieve, in order for you to feel in integrity with the core of what you most want to achieve through your company? Let's take a look at some examples:

Ben and Jerry's ice cream has a great mission statement and it's not just about ice cream. It's about wholesomeness and their contribution to better health and a cleaner environment. That doesn't mean that ice cream is healthy of course, but when you consume Ben & Jerry's brand you know that you are not taking in chemicals and artificial flavorings. It's a natural, wholesome product manufactured by a company that is conscientious about our environment'¦

Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream Mission Statement: "We make, distribute & sell the finest quality all natural ice cream & euphoric concoctions with a continued commitment to incorporating wholesome, natural ingredients and promoting business practices that respect the Earth and the Environment."

This mission inspired Ben and Jerry to build a cause-related company. Their work is not just about the product or service they sell; it's about our global community. Be it ice cream or underwear, a great mission statement represents the greater cause. Take a look at Joe Boxer's mission statement:

"JOE BOXER is dedicated to bringing new and creative ideas to the market place, both in our product offerings as well as our marketing events. We will continue to develop our unique brand positioning, to maintain and grow our solid brand recognition, and to adhere to high quality design standards. Because everyone wants to have fun everyday, JOE BOXER will continue to offer something for everyone with fun always in mind."

What are they selling? They don't even mention underwear in their mission statement. Joe Boxer is selling FUN! Who wouldn't want to purchase this brand?

When you identify your core values and how they intersect with your business, you will suddenly be in touch with the larger purpose. Your company will take on a new meaning and you can more clearly identify your branding, marketing, and staffing needs. Let's look at Joe Boxer as a further example, here's more about how their "fun" value is infused through and through.

"At JOE BOXER we believe fun is an everyday experience. Not only do we embrace creativity and individuality in everything we do, but we also provide the products that meet our customer's standards through our unique, imaginative and innovative designs. We know that our customers want to experience fun at every level."

With their "fun" value so well identified, they don't have to give a second thought to a branding focus — it's fun! Their logo is fun, their website is fun, and so are their products. They even make their contributions to charitable causes fun.

When your mission statement is complete, you will have one or two values infused and you will always go back to those core values to help you in your decision-making. You will learn to take the meaning of your company and its mission beyond that of the product or service. In just a few sentences, you will feel the power of your brand and see the greater potential of your future. Give it a try and share your findings here on The Solopreneur's Million Dollar Mindset!

Published on: Jun 30, 2009
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.