If you type in ‘mission statements’ into google search like I just did, this is what you will see:
And if you ‘narrow it’ to ‘how to write mission statements,’ this is what you will see:
I guess 172 million IS less than 2.740 billion. I’m sure you’re all really excited to get started now on your assignment of formulating that perfect statement that will clearly and concisely communicate who you are, what you offer, to whom you offer it, why you are better, your superb customer service, your values and philosophy, your unique qualities…..all in 200 words or less. Of course, we all have been drilled with the necessity of this in order to drive traffic to our website and/or store which will in turn drive sales sky high! Right?
Essential or Extraneous?
I will never say that having a thoroughly thought out, well formulated mission statement is not a good idea. Scores of companies have them – and actually do refer to them often as a guide and standard for evaluating their achievements. But is it essential to success? Or is it more of an extraneous thing, not as vital as we have been led to believe?
Being the curious creature I am, I thought it might be interesting to take a look at ‘improperly’ formulated statements – the ones that actually broke all those rules and didn’t include the ‘must haves’ and see how successful they were in spite of it. After all, isn’t that the bottom line – success? Success includes many achievements beyond just financial, but for now, we will limit it to that, since a company will never be able to tag on those other achievements of success if it is unable to stay afloat financially.
4 Companies That Fail The Mission Statement Tests
Strategic Management Insight (SMI), http://www.strategicmanagementinsight.com/ according to their own mission statement, “provides free comprehensive information about strategic management and related topics for anyone who can access it.” They have compiled a list of well known companies and evaluated their mission statements based on their own grading system formulated from criteria of which they believe a mission statement must have in order to be considered top notch. 4.5 is the high score.
Below are the names of several businesses, their mission statement, and the grade they were given. You can find the complete evaluation by clicking the business name if you want to read why they received the scores they did. I have also added a quote from each of the company’s founders.
“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, CEO
“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
GE doesn’t even have a mission statement but uses an infograph.
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 in 1892
“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
Surprise! The Results Are In
I don’t think anyone would argue that all of the above companies are hugely successful in the financial realm.
Starbucks is the largest coffeehouse company in the world with 20,891 stores in 62 countries and expects to see a positive impact of $110 – $120 million in 2014 from the falling coffee prices.
Though Facebook took a dive in profits in 2012, with their mobile app addition, it is now surging once again and up 100% over last year’s third quarter report – to the tune of $621 million. Not bad for that guy who’s still not 30 years old.
GE has done a magnificent job of passing on something intangible since 1892 and that is of far greater value than just a mission statement to all the CEOs who have followed its original founders.
Walmart landed the #1 position once again on the Fortune 500 list for 2012.
Yet according to the ratings by SMI, they all failed. Miserably. Hmmm….
The Heart Of The Matter
Does this mean we should all throw out the mission statements we worked for hours, days, and even weeks on? No. But at the very least, we should consider looking outside the box of so called formulas (remember that 70 million?) that tell us the right way to achieve success and ask some questions.
How did these companies succeed without a ‘proper’ mission statement?
What do these companies all have in common that somehow even surpassed the importance of a mission statement?
All of these companies are far more than just financially successful. They have touched millions of lives and made them better. Each founder had a driving passion that was behind the start up of their company. It was the fire in their soul. It was something they believed in and were willing to give everything they had to make it a reality and share it with the world. And they have kept that passion alive. They did not let it be squelched by limiting themselves to what works for others or just by standard practices. They became the new standard. Again and again. Their mission statements, though sub-par by most every evaluation, communicate much more than facts.
They communicate a heart and a soul. They are alive – and life begets life.
Never forget why you began your company. Never sell your soul to Average Joe, Standard Procedure, Business As Usual, Policy Over People, or any of their friends. The life blood of your business flows from your passion. Keep it alive with purpose. What is the purpose? Read all those statements and quotes again. They all have one essential common denominator that fuels their everyday existence.
Serving people. As obvious as it is, we forget – a business will not survive without people.
You are the CEO of your company. It is your passion which will ignite your employee’s passion which will ignite a connection with your customer. And that connection will bring them back – with friends in tow.
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