Importance of a mission statement

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Dairy cows at Stollers' Organic Dairy.

The Dairy Excel 15 Measures of Dairy Farm Competitiveness bulletin was published by Ohio State University Extension to provide dairy farmers the ability to evaluate business competitiveness using financial and production information. Measure Twelve, Mission Statement, is discussed in this article.

What is a mission statement? A mission statement is a short and concise action plan based on things you do each day. It explains why you are in business and what you want to accomplish. Think of it as your elevator speech. Your mission statement provides direction to develop goals and future plans.

This statement is a reflection of the underlying values, goals, and purposes of the farm and of the management team. The mission statement must be communicated and remembered.

Example

Management team members and employees agree on why they are in business.

“Our mission is to produce and market high-quality milk in sufficient quantity to provide a good standard of living for our family and our employees. The business should be profitable enough to provide above-average compensation for employees and long-term financial security for our families.”

Why a mission statement? The mission statement is an important tool for all dairy farms. Farms that are able to clearly communicate who they are and what they stand for are often more successful than those that don’t have a true understanding of their focus.

One way to develop strong communication lines and a clear understanding of what the business does is through the process of writing a mission statement. It does not matter whether the farm business consists of two people or 50, all involved must have a clear understanding of what the business does and why they do it in order to move the business in the desired direction.

Developing a mission statement

When developing a mission statement, give attention to what is important to the business now and in the future. Start by thinking about the following questions:

  • What is the basic reason for the dairy farm’s existence?
  • How does it serve the family and the community?
  • Why is it unique?
  • What are the farm’s strengths? Conduct a Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats (SWOT) Analysis.

Think about the future of the farm business, family, standard of living, leisure time with family, duration of the farm business, passing the farm to the next generation, and retirement. Be sure to involve family members and employees in this process.

It is important that others involved in the farm operation have the opportunity to provide input. This will provide a more truthful statement of what the farm business does and what it values. This approach also provides for greater buy-in and acceptance by those involved in the business.

Second, think broadly and write down ideas as they come to you and do not limit or prioritize your ideas. Share your ideas with others involved in the farm.

Third, start thinking more specifically, maybe adding more notes, and begin to develop draft forms of the mission statement. Do not rush the process. Your mission statement can be written in paragraph or bulleted form. Either is fine. The important thing is that it be written and used.

Finally, compile the notes and drafts to write the mission statement. Once the mission statement is completed, type it, frame it, and hang it in the office, milking parlor, employee break room, or another location where it can be viewed by managers, employees, family members, and others.

Summary

The value of a mission statement comes from its active use. Use it to guide the goal-setting process and when making decisions. Successful businesses are built on strong foundations. Taking the time to develop a mission statement will provide your farm business with the meaningful foundation it needs to be successful today and in the future.

Over time, the mission statement may change as the business progresses. Periodically review your mission statement and make changes when appropriate.

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(Chris Zoller is an agricultural extension educator in Tuscarawas County and a member of the OSU Extension DairyExcel team.)

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