4 Successful Companies That Fail the Mission Statement Test

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Crafting a mission statement is something you know you need to do, but it’s also easy to keep delaying. While understanding your vision and mission provides value, it can be hard to write everything down in a brief and succinct manner. You may even wonder if having a mission statement is really worth it.

To get to the bottom of this, I decided to look at several successful companies that are lacking in the mission statement department. My goal was to understand if having a statement of purpose is really necessary.

Understanding a Mission Statement

A mission statement is a summary of your company’s purpose and goals. It is a brief statement about who you are as a brand, what you stand for and how you operate. Ultimately, a mission statement should be very high level, brief and to the point. A mission statement is kind of like a cheat sheet for your brand’s identity.

Conventional business wisdom dictates that one of the first things a new business owner should do is create a mission statement. You may understand your vision and mission on a deep level, but your team may not really get it. And why should they if you haven’t told them? Creating a mission statement and sharing this information with your organization helps to ensure each and every staff member understands the goals and objectives and truly embodies your brand.

The Value of a Statement of Purpose

Writing a mission statement sounds easy enough, but a lot of people struggle with concisely outlining the key values that represent their business. Furthermore, when you are busy working in your business, you may not have the time to write a mission statement. It seems silly to waste time writing down your mission when you are taking care of the day-to-day operations and building your business. You know what your company is about and what it stands for, so is it really necessary to write it all down?

On the other hand, having a clear and defined plan can help you steer your business. If you find yourself at a crossroads, taking a moment to remember your vision and mission can help you forge ahead in the best possible direction. A mission statement is a reminder and a compass all in one, to help you navigate your way.

Seeing Is Believing

While a mission statement can be useful, it’s still nice to see some in action to understand if they really do provide value. What happens when a business has a bad mission statement? Or rather, if they stray from their statement and take their business in another direction. Is it possible to still achieve success without a quality mission statement to guide you? I decided to find out by reviewing the mission statements from several successful companies.

Defining Success

Ultimately, the purpose of every business is to be successful, and success is typically judged by profit. With that in mind, you could argue that every mission statement should simply be to make money. However, much more goes into gauging success than profit. These various factors of success can mean different things to different businesses. For instance, one company’s success may not really be a big deal for another business. For the purpose of this comparison, we are just looking at profit to gauge success.

Four Companies with Sub-Par Mission Statements

To learn more, I looked to Strategic Management Insight (SMI). This organization conducts research on such matters, and per their own mission statement, SMI “provides free comprehensive information about strategic management and related topics for anyone who can access it.” Essentially, they have created criteria to gauge the quality and effectiveness of mission statements.

SMI has run the numbers, compared the various statements and compiled a list ranking different businesses in terms of success. The top score of SMI awards is 4.5. Keep reading to learn the mission statement and SMI ranking for several successful companies. I also included an inspiring quote from founders and CEOs of each company.

1. Starbucks
Mission statement: “To inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup, and one neighborhood at a time.”
SMI Grade = 0.6/4.5

“In this ever-changing society, the most powerful and enduring brands are built from the heart. They are real and sustainable. Their foundations are stronger because they are built with the strength of the human spirit, not an ad campaign. The companies that are lasting are those that are authentic.”
– Howard Schultz, Former CEO

2. Facebook
Mission statement: “To give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected.”
SMI Grade = 1.3/4.5

“We look for people who are passionate about something. In a way, it almost doesn’t matter what you’re passionate about. What we really look for when we’re interviewing people is what they’ve shown an initiative to do on their own.”
– Mark Zuckerberg, CEO

3. General Electric
Mission statement: GE doesn’t even have a mission statement, but instead they use an infographic to relay their goals and values.
SMI Grade = 2.5/4.5

“One might think that the money value of an invention constitutes its reward to the man who loves his work. But… I continue to find my greatest pleasure, and so my reward, in the work that precedes what the world calls success.”
– Thomas Edison, Co-Founder of GE

4. Walmart
Mission statement: “We help people save money so they can live better.”
SMI Grade = 1.2/4.5

“If you love your work, you’ll be out there every day trying to do it the best you possibly can, and pretty soon everybody around will catch the passion from you—like a fever.”
– Sam Walton, Founder

Reviewing the Results

The above companies are all synonymous with success when analyzed from a financial perspective.

  • Starbucks is an international coffee juggernaut with over 28,000 stores spread out across 76 countries. In 2018, Starbucks generated $22.4 billion in revenue.
  • Facebook has come a long way from the college dorm room where it all began. There have been some growing pains along the way, but this social media behemoth posted revenue of $13.73 billion in the third quarter of 2018.
  • With a net worth of $143 billion, GE has been a contender for over 125 years. GE has evolved, innovated and grown while introducing a wide variety of products to consumers.
  • Walmart frequently holds the number one position on the Fortune 500 list. For 2018, Walmart boasted revenue of $136.3 billion.

Despite these staggering statistics, each and every one of these businesses received horrible ratings from SMI. These businesses clearly know what they are doing, and yet they operate without the foundation and guidance provided by a quality statement of purpose.

Understanding What Is All Means

Looking at this data, you may feel compelled to erase your mission statement if you have one, or just take the task of writing one off of your to-do list. Before you do anything rash, consider how these companies could have possibly found success without a mission statement (looking at you, GE) or rather without a halfway decent mission statement.

These companies all have one trait in common that filled the void created by the lack of a high-quality mission statement. That trait is passion. Each of these brands has touched millions of lives and ultimately, made those lives better. The passion to start the business pushed the founders to move forward and build something lasting and profitable. For each founder, the company was more than just a business. It was their life and their legacy. Each of these businesses did not conform to what is considered normal. They did what they felt was in the best interest of building and growing their respective companies to reach new heights and succeed in every way imaginable.

Nurturing Passion

These founders also made the wise decision to surround themselves with other like-minded individuals who felt the same passion and drive and have continued to build upon the legacy as each company grows and expands into new product offerings and markets. The passion initiated by these early founders is alive and well in the current teams that continue to follow the early vision and guide the business to serve their customers.

Bringing It All Home

As a business owner, it is important to always remember why you began your company. You had a dream and a passion, and you set out to do something that you knew was achievable and would bring value to others. This is your passion, and this will be your legacy.

Purpose helps keep your business alive. If you aren’t sure what your purpose is, go back and read the quotes listed above. All of the quotes are essentially stand in mission statements that come back to the fuel that powers each company’s existence: serving people.

Businesses cannot survive without people. As the CEO of your company, it is your obligation to ignite your employee’s passion with your own. This will enable your team to continue to carry that passion and connect with customers. This connection will encourage customers to return again and again to experience the quality service they know they can expect from you and your team.

Showcasing Your Passion

Business Marketing Engine is my passion. As a marketing firm, my team and I help our clients create plans that convey their passion. We create custom-tailored solutions to fit each company’s specific needs all while showcasing the passion they have for their work.

Do you need help to convey your passion? Learn how we can help by experiencing a free 30-minute consultation that will address your needs. We cover marketing, design, and web development and answer any questions you have while also getting to know you and your passion. We then put this knowledge to work to create a unique plan that will help you connect with customers. There is no obligation, so sign up today!

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