This is the first of the "Five Most Important Questions for a Business." The power of an excellent mission is that it focuses and inspires both employees and customers, thus impacting your company's growth. Does your mission inspire?

Here are 10 questions that you can have your team answer, "yes/absolutely," "no/not at all" or "somewhat" as you go through the process of refining your mission.

1. Does it inspire the team's commitment? The mission should inspire. It is what you want your organization to be known for. Are you a provider of agriculture products or are you a partner in the farmer's and our nation's success?

2. Does it define why we do what we do, and why the organization exists? There are unique, powerful and relevant reasons that you are in the business that you are in. Does your mission convey your competitive advantage or uniqueness? Too often the small company forgets the strength they have against the larger competitors. Are you just a local provider of your customers' needs, or are you a family-owned independent that can choose multi-national providers' products based on what will make your farm and your neighbors more money, not just what product you're forced to sell because you manufacture it?

3. Does it provide direction for doing the right things? The adage "In essentials, unity; in actions, freedom; in all things, trust" is in great need of emphasis with many businesses today. Your mission should help to direct action within your team. Ideally it should empower them to make more grassroots decisions and better serve the customer. Are you a company striving for quality service (like they all say) or a company that "aims to get customers to associate your brand with the absolute best service in the market, so then you can...," which paraphrases the Zappos online retailer's mission. (By the way, they are consistently rated by customers as "the absolute best" compared to the competition-coincidence?)

4. Does it address our opportunities?

5. Does it match our competence? What is your potential in your market and what is the potential of your team, given your products and services? If you are aiming to be the number one local provider of your services, or to innovate the best solutions for achieving goals never before set, then let it be known.

6. Does it say for what we want to be remembered or known for? When you've helped a customer reach an important goal, is what they would say to their neighbor included in your mission statement?

7. Is it short and sharply focused?

8. Is it clear and easily understood? It should fit on a t-shirt, and perhaps that's where it belongs. Can your team and customer remember it, and is it catchy enough to make an impression? We've seen companies imprint their mission on shirts, stationary and the back of cards. And when the benefit of what you do is clearly and concisely stated, an impression of the company and positive branding begin to be made more frequently.

9. Should the mission be revisited?

10. If so, what changes should be considered? Gather the answers of the above questions from your team and determine which aspects of your mission need refinement. Create a new version, and then conduct the self-assessment process around your next version, until a healthy version emerges.

If you are the leader of an organization and would like to take a free comprehensive online assessment of how your business is performing and where growth could be fostered, e-mail us at mark@em1990.com or john@em1990.com.