A mission statement defined is this: a formal summary of the aims and values of a company, organization, or individual.
Unfortunately, most mission statements for businesses like yours are just meaningless hype. They could be describing any business in your industry. Those whose mission statements are like this really don’t understand what a mission statement’s value is. They’ve simply written one because someone told them to or it was on a “How to Start a Business Checklist” that they read.
YES: A mission statement should define a business so well that it feels like strategy.
NO: A mission statement should not make generic, stale, and completely useless language that represent equally generic, stale, and completely useless concepts.
A mission statement is your opportunity to define your company’s goals, ethics, culture, and norms for decision-making.
Strive for perfection in your mission statement.
In the perfect world, a mission statement defines the company’s goals on 5 levels:
- What it does for its customers
- What it does for its employees
- What it does for its owners
- What it does for its community
- What it does for the world
These levels should be expressed in language that is concise – taking only about 30 seconds to read out loud. It should answer the “Who the company is” question.
Who the company is includes:
- What you do and why you do it
- Who you serve and what benefits you offer and problems you solve for them
- What type of internal work environment you provide
- What you stand for
- What you aspire to be
A good mission statement helps a company’s leadership team understand and develop their fundamental business objectives and communicate them out to all of the business’s stakeholders (customers, employees, owners, community, world).
A mission statement is critical to your business.
Simply by looking at the definition, you can tell that a good mission statement gives you a basic set of guidelines from which you can build a real, useful business plan.
Without a mission statement you have no compass for staying on track and you have no guiding light to remind you why you’re doing what you do. A mission statement gives you a starting place for realistically reaching your hopes and dreams.
With that thought in mind, realize that you shouldn’t wait to write your mission statement until your company is “big enough.” After all, your mission statement is giving you a starting place and you need a starting place from the beginning!
Without a mission statement:
- Your business is probably reacting aimlessly instead of proactively pursuing a specific path of growth.
- You have no gauge for your business’s success.
- You can’t tell when you’ve reached your destination because you’ve never stated and planned where you’re going (so you don’t know where you’re going).
Don’t just write your mission statement, use it.
Your mission statement should be easily discernable, meaningful, and visible so it can inspire you and your staff to make decisions that support where you want your business to go. Your mission statement is a tool that will help you stay on track and maintain the focus that you intend for your business to have. It is of no value to your business if you do not use it.
Since your mission statement is this critical, make sure it is a good one.
You can do this is 5 steps.
- Think through your market-defining story. Put yourself if the shoes of those you buy what you sell and then imagine the complete scenario: why they want what you sell, how they find you to buy it and what buying from you does for them. No pretending here. Make this real.This helps you define your target customer (some people call this a buyer persona) and what makes your business unique. It also helps you simplify things and clearly states what your business isn’t and what you don’t do.Think of this as your mission statement background material. It will help you more accurately write your mission statement.
- Define how buying what you sell makes your customer’s life better. You should start your mission statement by expressing the good that you do. This helps you do this. Be sure you don’t undervalue your business here. This is a crucial part of your mission statement so take your time figuring it out.
- Define what your business does for its employees. Keeping employees is good for attracting more good employees, good for cultivating a productive culture, and good for your bottom line. You can define how you want your culture to be in your mission statement and then make it forever so. Keep it real here, too. Try not to be cliché.
- Define what your business does for its owners. Instilling goals for growth here, give owners a business that they are happy to be part of and make prosperous.
- Discuss your mission statement, put it away for a while and digest it. Pull it back out and polish it, review it. Revise it if necessary. You can almost always cut the wordiness out under review and the more concise your statement is the better it will be understood and put into action.Watch out for buzzwords and hype. Cut out what sounds like every other business and keep the unique aspects. The exception is those special guidelines and reminders that will keep you on track over the long haul.
After publishing and posting your mission statement, listen to what others have to say about it. Just listen. Don’t defend, argue or try to convince others of why it says one thing or doesn’t say another. You can revise your mission statement. In fact, you should review it and revise it when it is necessary and appropriate.
Believe your mission statement.
It’s critical to believe the mission statement that the 5 steps above help you to produce. If you don’t believe it, there is no way your customers and employees will.