Ideation: Why every farm needs a mission and vision statement – and how to write one
Strategic planning may seem a vague concept found only within the walls of elite corporations and large businesses. Nothing could be further from the truth. Strategic planning is a valuable tool for every business, including all farm types.
You may think: “We run this farm as efficiently as possible and do what we can to maximize profitability. Why do we need a strategic plan?”
That’s a fair question. But it’s important to remember that strategy and planning are about far more than maximizing profits and black-inked ledgers. And it’s also about far more than simply growing a business. Those are important elements of a strategic plan, but financial considerations are just a means to an end.
What is the ultimate hope for yourself, your farm business, your family and perhaps your extended family? For farmers, business, personal and family goals are almost always intertwined. After all, how do you have a work-life balance when you can see your office from the kitchen window? What do you want your future to resemble?
Strategic planning is both the vehicle to set organizational goals and the roadmap to achieve them.
The first step to achieving success is determining where you’re aiming and what’s important to you. This shows up in two very important phrases: mission and vision statements.
Building your mission and vision statements
Many businesses and non-profit organizations develop mission and vision statements as part of their strategic planning process.
A vision statement is described as “where are we heading and what do we want to ultimately achieve?”
A mission statement, on the other hand, often tries to answer the questions: “What is my business?”, “What do I care about for myself and the people around me?”, “What do I want/care about for my farm/business?” and “How do I answer/achieve both?”
This is an aspirational exercise, so don’t set your sights low. What do you dream without encumbrance? However, the vision should be realistic and achievable as it will drive your overall plan.
For example, your plan will look different if your vision is to create something inheritable to pass onto the next generation versus becoming the most profitable in your sector and region. As you fill in your blanks, a clearer vision will present itself.
A vision statement, sometimes combined with a mission statement, speaks to: “What is our overall purpose, and why do we exist?”
Certain companies, most notably Disney, have mission and vision combined in one statement. Such an approach may feel easier if this is new to you.
[Mission]: The mission of The Walt Disney Company is to entertain, inform and inspire people around the globe [via the Vision]: through the power of unparalleled storytelling, reflecting the iconic brands, creative minds and innovative technologies that make ours the world’s premier entertainment company.
In Canadian agriculture, these statements will be unique to a farmer’s production type, business model and ultimate goals. Here’s one example from southern Alberta seed grower, retailer and handler Stamp Seeds.
Its mission is as follows:
- At Stamp Seeds, our mission is to supply the highest quality pedigreed seed and services.
Naturally, its vision is an outflow of the mission:
- Our vision is to be the number one choice for seed and services. We will accomplish this through long-term relationships, quality and service.
If you find your mission statement getting long-winded, then guiding principles may be for you.
Guiding principles set out:
- How are we going to behave as we pursue our vision?
- What is it about us that is not negotiable?
Some business owners find these statements easier to develop as they are often more accessible and feel more personal since they cover who you plan to be and how you plan to act.
- Leave the land better than when we received it. This is not your mission statement because it’s not the only thing you do, but it’s important to you and will keep you on track.
- We will treat each other with respect and communicate openly
- We make good neighbours
Guiding principles do more than make you feel good. They guide you towards the types of tools and relationships that keep you on track.
Vision: Addresses what you want to become - aspirational, concise and drives the overall direction of the operation.
Mission: Is about what you do - the core of the business. Answers - What do we do? Who do we serve? How do we serve them?
Guiding principles: Standards of behaviour that guide you and your business in everything you do in pursuit of your vision.
Putting it into practice
If you feel overwhelmed at the idea of creating such statements and are considering outsourcing the work to a third-party marketing team – don’t. Such statements should be derived from leadership teams to signal to internal and external stakeholders that these are not just phrases on a company website but rather lifelong pursuits of the company and its people.
Remember, if you don’t take the time to figure out what you care about and what you want — for you and your business — then years down the road, you may end up in a position and wonder how you got there. Farming is hard work and doing this early ideation will ensure your hard work is taking you where you want to go.
Ask yourself these key questions during ideation:
- What do I want for my farm?
- What do I not want for my farm?
- What do I care about for my farm?
- What do I want/care about for myself and the people around me?
As you answer these questions, write down re-occurring key themes. It may indicate what a mission or vision statement could look like for your farm business. The more you have to work with, the more informed and coherent your statements become.
In the subsequent articles, reality checking of your plan will come into play, so don’t worry about limiting yourself yet.
- Whatever format you use should feel right to you. As you ideate and talk through the big questions with your business partners or family, create something that suits you. Your approach might be a combined mission and vision statement or a separate vision and mission. Or it could be a mission, vision, and a set of guiding principles.
- Whatever you create should be memorable and easy to recite.
- Once your mission and vision are developed, determine how best to communicate each both internally and externally. Review is also important. These statements should not change frequently but, as you move forward, review your statements as part of your overall strategic plan when it feels right. A good indication that a review may be on the horizon is when your business is going through a change. This helps keep you, your team and the overall business on an upward, progressive trajectory.
Not sure where to start?
Another option if you need help getting started is a press release activity. It can guide you in this early ideation stage. It allows you to think through what you value and where you might be aiming in a more straight forward fashion.
Make your mission and vision clear to all
Strategic plans are often internal documents, whereas once your mission or vision statements are developed, they often become more public-facing.
By publicly setting a clear statement, it shows employees, customers and other relevant stakeholders how serious you are about both statements. In addition, it builds a greater sense of trust and ownership from those working at the farm. The goal is to create alignment both now and in the future for an overall successful operation. Done well, employee satisfaction, pride and overall buy-in rocket to a new level that money cannot buy.
Articulating what you want to become as a farm business — and how you plan to get there — will increase your likelihood of success.
Articulating what you want to become as a farm business — and how you plan to get there — will increase your likelihood of success. You and your team will be better equipped to evaluate decisions and total farm performance to make appropriate improvements.
If you follow through with the operational aspects of a strategic plan as described in subsequent articles, the benefits should multiply.
Leading is difficult, and the ideation required to create these foundational statements puts us, at times, in vulnerable situations. However, for farm businesses of all sizes, positioning the farm for today and the future is well worth the investment.