Mission statements are just corporate waffle, about “empowering”, “finding new paradigms” and “evangelising findings”. Right?

Recently I have been working in developing Business Plans with two (very different) clients. As part of my preparation for this I started working on my own Business Plan.

It has been about two years since I wrote my original plan. At that point I was just beginning – exploring what I wanted to do and trying to work out what my clients valued about the work I was doing for them.

So it was very vague in some ways, but it was specific in others. For example I knew, and wrote down that I wanted to limit my working hours to school hours, and then only during term time.

This has proved really valuable – when things were going badly I could remind myself what my original idea was and see that if I could pull it off it would be worth it.

Once or twice people suggested full time roles to me which would have been financially lucrative, but demand much more time. My written down business plan enabled me to compare those opportunities to my expectations and see if a job was something that was worth sacrificing my flexibility for. Clearly it wasn’t, or I wouldn’t be writing this now!

Over the course of the last year things have gradually fallen into place and so it seemed like a good time to refresh my business plan to fill in the gaps in the previous one, and set new targets for the next few years.

I have developed my own template for my clients’ Business Plans; a bit more personal and detailed than some of the generic internet ones but basically covering the same material. So, I worked through it and finally came to the mission statement (I think you should leave the Mission Statement to last, because sometimes it’s difficult to understand what’s important until you have focused deeply on what you want to achieve and how you’re going to do that.

Initially I thought that I might just write a sentence, but I have recently read “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” which extols the benefits of having a Mission Statement that means something to use as a guide to what really matters. So I really thought about it and lo and behold I settled on:

“I will help small businesses control their outcomes by taking the time to understand their practices and problems and by respecting their hard work and their trust in me. ”

This reflects my clients’ feedback on how they feel about the way I work, but most importantly I feel that if I can stay true to this I will be really proud of and fulfilled by what I do.

With a Business Plan that’s written down I have the ability to look back in one, two or even five years and see how the actual progress compared to my plan.

So, to answer my original question, I think my Business Plan is better for having a statement at the beginning that sums up, in one sentence, what it is that’s important to me and what I’m aiming for.