The debate over the importance of a mission statement for businesses has been going on for a long time. The answer to this debate lies not in the importance or irrelevance of the mission statement. But in a right understanding of what exactly a mission statement is and what it is expected to achieve.
A mission statement is the soul of your business and must not be mistaken for a vision statement. While a vision statement conveys a business’s optimal goal, a mission statement provides an overview of the plans put in place to realize the goal (vision) of the business.
A mission statement provides clarity of purpose and direction to your startup both for your customers and for employees all in a few succinct sentences. It is the driving force; the unseen anchor for everything else that you do in your business.
Some of the most effective mission statements define a business’s goals in at least three categories:
- what the business does for its customers
- what it does for its employees and
- what it does for its owners.
A well-written mission statement can be an effective marketing tool for any startup; it can lure or scare away potential customers. It is also a perfect blend of realism and optimism – two terms conventionally in disagreement with each other.
Smart business owners have inculcated the practice of pasting the company’s mission statement at every employee’s workstation. This helps them to take it to heart and to remain focused on what they are trying to achieve as a business.
So to address the debate at the beginning of this write-up. Is a mission statement important to a business’s growth?
The answer? Heck yes!!
Perhaps you are in the category of startup owners who are of the view that mission statements are for Fortune 500 companies or non-profit organizations alone. Or maybe you have seen some profoundly boring and terrible mission statements that are just a collection of buzzwords and not much else. You say to yourself, “I am in business for the money, nothing else”
Well, you are not in business for the money or at least you should not be. You are in business to present a solution to a problem and a mission statement will help keep you on the right path to achieving your objective. Profit (not revenue) is a consequence of business success.
Okay, we have established that having a good mission statement is vital. But do you know how to create one? If you don’t, then read on so you don’t end up creating something like the one below.
Are you planning to start a business or have you recently done so? This is the best time to develop a great mission statement. So before you go ahead, here are a few steps to review to help you create an effective mission statement.
- Create an inspiring story to aid you in your mission statement development
No one knows your business better than you; the business owner. This however does not translate into you being capable of doing your business definitive justice in a few sentences.
Anybody who has been involved in writing to any degree will give testament to the fact that writer’s block is a regular and cruel occurrence.
In this case, it helps to create a story that will inspire your writing.
Imagine a person making the actual decision to buy your product or subscribe to your service. Think of how your product meets the buyer’s needs and what perception he/she takes away from your business because of his/her dealings with you. And how said perception will reflect positively on your business’s reputation.
Thinking along these lines will help you to create a powerful mission statement that will explain the needs, wants and uniqueness of your business.
The story is just for inspiration; it is not part of the mission statement. Rather, it is just an important thing to have in your head while crafting your mission statement.
2. Define the good your business does for your customer
Start your mission statement with your customers in mind. Leverage the inspiring story you came up with to figure out exactly how your business benefits your target audience.
To make it easier, break it down by answering the questions: what who and why.
Do not undervalue your business because you are scared you might not live up to expectations of your customers.
Now you do not have to be feeding the world’s poorest or researching the cure for AIDS to be defined as a do-gooder. Running your startup in an excellent and trustworthy with your unique policies is good enough.
3. Define the benefit of your business to your employees
Your employees are not left out in the mission statement; they have to feel that they are part of a well-oiled machine working towards a common good. If your employees are in sync with the objective of your company, you would have created an environment that will foster employee happiness and satisfaction.
So be sure to define what your business does for them. If you value qualities such as fairness, diversity, creativity, innovation, and the like, make sure to put it on there. But remember to present it in a way that is concrete and unique to your businesses.
You do not want customers mistaking your company for any of the millions out there that claim to value the same qualities.
4. Define what the business does for you
You cannot shine the light on others and not do the same for yourself. You started the business so your mission statement should also reflect the benefit of the business to you as well (and your co-owners if there are any).
Now we all want to make profits but that cannot – or should not – be the only reason for establishing a startup. Let your mission statement show the benefits to you – benefits beyond profit I mean.
Do you value business growth above profit? Are you happy working with people you want to work with?
Write that into your mission statement.
5. Make sure it is a clear, understandable statement; not a novel
With all the aforementioned points you might be feeling overwhelmed with the wealth of information your mission statement is supposed to reflect. I’ll tell you right now, do not be tempted to write an exhaustive expose on your business.
That’s not what this is about. It is called a statement for a reason. You should be working on finding a way to fuse all this information into one small happy lump.
Avoid the business babble here. That is usually a consequence of not being specific enough. Also make sure your statement is jargon free. Not all customers will understand your ‘industry talk’. Most are just looking for a solution to a problem. So make sure you avoid the jargon.
Another tip would be to make sure your mission statement feels like a rallying cry; let it sound like something people will want to get behind – employees and customers alike.
To achieve this you can think of whatever it is that inspired you to start up the business (ignore this advice if profit was the reason for the startup). Tap into that inspiration when developing your statement.
To aid your understanding let me drop here a mission statement that I consider one of the greats.
Short, concise, inspiring and yes, effective.
6. Review and edit again and again
No matter how strictly you adhered to all the steps mentioned above, truth is you will almost certainly never get it absolutely right the first time. There will be mistakes such as pronunciation problems or some buzzwords and jargon may have snuck in somehow.
Another problem is that you might find your mission statement to be too long.
How do you know if it is too long? As a general rule, if you cannot be done reading your mission statement in 30 seconds or under, then it is too long. Tweet that!
And by the way, remember that a mission statement is different from a vision statement. While the vision answers the question of what you intend to do, the mission talks about how.
I believe that clears the difference between a vision statement and a mission statement.
That said,the best way to approach drawing up a mission statement would be to write down all you need while adhering to all the above steps, then go back and cut down the wordiness. Cut as much as necessary that is not unique to your business except for those special parts that – unique or not – are necessary to serve as long-term rules and reminders.
Read some other companies’ mission statement if you must to serve as inspiration (There are 24 examples for you below). But come up with a mission statement that is about your startup and does not accidentally endorse another company.
Also make sure that you actually believe in what you are writing as your employees and customers will very easily spot a lie.
Now you are at the point where you think your mission statement is ready to be put to use, right?
DO NOT ever try to come up with a mission statement on your own. Show drafts of the statement to others, ask them what they think of it and listen to their suggestions. Do not disagree with them or try to convince them, just listen. And then edit again.
Even after you have begun to use the statement, do not entertain the perception that your mission statement is written in stone. Throughout the life of your business, your mission statement should stay flexible enough to be edited accordingly as circumstances demand.
And what better way to know when it is in need of review and editing than to use it. Regularly referring to the mission statement will help you to know exactly when it becomes obsolete or inadequate and in need of review.
Bearing all the above in, go ahead and write your mission statement. If you have one already, copy and paste it in the comment section below. And please share this article.
If you are still at a loss of what to write or how to write it, take a look at this infographic of the 24 Most Powerful Company Mission Statements and get inspired.