Mission statements are the grounding, motivating factor in the non-profit world, where I spent 10 years of my career. They keep each person involved in the organization, from the donors and volunteers to the leaders and trustees, focused on the ultimate goal. A good mission statement clearly and succinctly states the reason for the organization’s existence; a great mission statement moves an individual to action with a compelling purpose and vivid language, telling a story in two to three sentences. In the for-profit world, a good company mission statement can do the same.
The company mission statement is a piece that, in about 30 seconds or less, should present the goals, values, and philosophies of your business. It gives the public a glimpse at the basics of every component of your business.
- The products you’ll offer
- The pricing you’ll choose for each service or product
- The quality of your product or service
- The market position you plan to reach
- The opportunity and potential for growth
- The steps you’ll take to grow
- The service you’ll provide
- The relationships you form with everyone along the spectrum, from production to sales.
How to Write a Good Company Mission Statement
Millions of people are looking for the basics of writing their mission statement. There is no magic formula — each company is so different, with such a variety of values, products, and value propositions, that it would be nearly impossible to create a cookie-cutter statement creation tool. However, there are a few different steps you can take, no matter what industry describes your company, that will help you create your mission statement.
Ask Yourself the Basic Questions
We’re going back to the basic questions you learned in elementary school, because they are so effective. If you’ve already started your business, you have a clear picture of what you plan to offer and present. You’ve discovered your niche, have a general experience of seeing your business in operation, and know what you hope to accomplish. Now, it’s time to put it all in words. Think through the “who-what-when-why-where-how” of your operation — each component will be an important player in writing a good company mission statement.
- Why did you start your business, and why are you still working to grow?
- What is your ultimate long-term goal?
- What do you offer, and how will the product or service be offered?
- Who do you plan to serve in your business, and how will your business help them?
- What are the values you espouse, and how will you show them to your employees, customers, suppliers, and target audience members?
- What sets you apart from your competitors?
- How will you respond with the individuals involved in your business?
- Who will you hire, and how will you make hiring decisions?
- What resources will be used to reach your goals?
- What principles will guide your business decisions?
- When do you plan to be available to different sectors or offer new products?
- Where will you operate and where will your ideal customers live?
If you haven’t yet started your business, you may find that you have both an advantage and disadvantage in creating your company mission statement. It may be harder for you to put in words the practical way your company will operate if you haven’t yet seen it in operation. Having a business plan that spells out how you plan to run your business is one thing; having real-world, practical knowledge of those operations is completely different.
On the other hand, though, going into your business with a good company mission statement gives you a clear reminder of why you started your niche business and what you hope to accomplish. When only 50 percent of new businesses make it past their first five years, starting with a mission statement can help you make it past the difficult times that will inevitably pop up in your business by reminding you of your true mission.
Hold a Brainstorming Session
While you might be only employee of your business, you aren’t, as the old saying goes, an island. You still will be dealing with customers, and you’ve probably bounced ideas off of other individuals in your life: family members, friends, business mentors and advisers, and other trusted leaders who can help you look at the details that will help you build your brand and write a good company mission statement.
The individuals you invite should be those who are able to play devil’s advocate, but truly want to see your business succeed. Having someone who can look at your business and give constructive criticism and feedback while still encouraging you and helping you grow will be the key to a solid mission statement for your company.
Once you’ve found a handful of individuals — think three to five — and set a date for them to meet, send them the questions that you have spelled out for your business, or prepare an outline and agenda. Asking them to start thinking about these facets of your company beforehand can lead to a more productive meeting.
The day of, make sure you have all of the tools necessary to conduct the meeting. Plan for at least three hours, but keep in mind that the meeting may go longer.To be respectful of their time, and to see the best results, make sure you are prepared before your guests arrive.
- White boards, dry erase boards, or easels with paper
- Paper or scratch pad for the attendees
- Printed copies of the questions and agenda
- Materials about your business
- Refreshments and/or provided meals
It can help to explain what you hope to accomplish and the purpose of writing a company mission statement. You might consider bringing examples of mission statements you like and don’t like, which will give your visitors more direction and guidance.
Whittle Down the Options to Build Your Mission Statement
Brainstorming sessions can be overwhelming. Once you’ve answered the questions and considered each angle of each component that you want to include in your company mission statement, take a break. Whether everyone steps away for an hour to eat lunch or you schedule another session, it can help to clear your head and come back rejuvenated and refreshed.
Go back to each component and look for the words that resonate most strongly with your business. Start to eliminate options that aren’t as relevant and highlight the ones that are the most applicable. As you do that, you’ll start to see the skeleton of your mission statement.
You might ask each of your advisors and participants to write a mission statement for your business. This will give you new perspectives, as they will most likely emphasize different unique components of your company. Analyze them, pull out the segments you like the most, and piece them together to start shaping the mission statement.
Look for the concepts and words that spark energy, that make you excited to go to work, and that encourage and promote action from those you’ve invited. When you only have a few sentences to encapsulate your entire business, every single word matters. Each should add value and meaning, painting a clear picture of what anyone, from any point of connect, should expect to experience when interacting with your business.
Try and avoid industry jargon, buzzwords, and terminology that, unless absolutely necessary, might not make sense to the average reader. In many cases, the one or two sentences, if well-written, can be used as your slogan. They should be memorable and impactful. Some companies have taken to adding glossaries to define terms they’ve chosen for their mission statement; if you’ve written one that accounts for the common definition and use of a word, though, you’ll see better results.
Give the Process the Time it Needs
Patience is key to writing a good company mission statement. The process doesn’t always happen overnight, so if a word doesn’t feel right, set your draft aside for a few days. You’ll be able to revisit it with a fresh mind and may find that the word you’ve been looking for will come to you much quicker.
If you have employees, consider giving each of them a draft copy of the mission statement. You’ll get a better picture of your business from another interested party, and your employees will feel more connected to you, your company, and the mission, which will add depth to their positions and your operations.
Your final version should be a positive snapshot of your company — be realistic, but be ambitious. Regularly revisit your mission statement to make sure that it continues to be an accurate representation. You may not need to re-write the mission statement, but you might find that tweaking a few words can help keep your statement applicable.
Taking a Good Company Mission Statement to the Next Level
Keeping those directives in mind, it’s important to remember that a good company mission statement is not a solid predictor of growth. Some of the mission statements of the most popular companies, including Starbucks, Wal-Mart, Facebook, and Walt Disney, were ranked by Strategic Management Insight, which grades mission statements based on the key elements that should be included. The highest possible score is 4.5.
Many of those companies listed above scored less than 2, with some, like Starbucks, ranking a .6.
A mission I love is that of KIND, a snack food company that creates “healthy and tasty” bars and clusters. They began an entire movement around their mission of spreading and celebrating kindness. They note that their “focus is on making the world a little kinder, one snack and act at a time.” There are plenty of snack bar companies, but few that choose to use their business to support so many individuals
KIND Foundation allows followers to choose non-profit organizations to receive monthly grants through KIND Causes. They are also partnering with another non-profit to hold an Entrepreneurship Summit for young adults, as well as rewarding people who have demonstrated kindness. #kindawesome lets individuals nominate people who were being kind; they receive a card and a KIND snack.
While I love their mission — their mission statement itself doesn’t do their work justice. There’s nothing about the nutrition and health value of their snacks, it’s very broad, and really, could be applied to anyone who loves food and kindness. It doesn’t meet the common criteria of a good company mission statement, and I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t get a very high score from Strategic Management Insight. However, they are doing extremely well financially, as are many of the companies listed above with poorly graded mission statements.
That’s because the one factor they all have in common is much stronger than the words they’ve chosen and the product or service they offer. Each of these companies is passionate about what they are doing.
The bottom line is that a good company mission statement can answer all of the questions in the most eloquent, descriptive language possible, but if the heart and soul of the company doesn’t come through, they are just words on a page. Companies that are doing well financially never forget their true mission: why they started the company and what they hope to achieve. Employees and leaders live out those values every single day, and their reputation for service and caring for their customers, partners, providers, and others is evident by their actions. A good company mission statement is a key part of your company — but it can never replace the actual mission. Keep your eyes on the true reason for the company, and writing a good company mission statement will follow naturally.
Does your company have a mission statement? I’d love to read it and learn what you’re passionate about! If you intentionally haven’t written one, how come? Don’t let your reason be for a lack of knowledge. Contact Business Marketing Engine today for a free consultation that will help you write a good company mission statement and develop a great plan to move your company into the future.