Every business needs to have a mission statement. A good mission statement is useful tool for well-run business. It’s the “why” of business strategy. A mission statement’s purpose is to define what the company does for its customers, employees and owners. Writing your company’s first mission statement, or renewing one is an opportunity to create a statement that defines the company’s purpose. Below are five steps to writing a mission statement that will stand out.
1. Start with a market-defining story
You need to write a mission statement that gives the customer a reason to buy.
2. Define what your business does for its customers
Start your mission statement with the good you do. Use your market-defining story to share whatever it is that makes your business special for your target customer.
3. Define what your business does for its employees
Your missions statement should be able to define company culture and what it does for it’s employees. Your message should focus on the company’s relationship with its employees as well as branches of the company.
4. Add what the business does for its owners
In business school they taught us that th e mission of management is to enhance the value of the stock. And shares of stock are ownership. Some would say that it goes without saying that a business exists to enhance the financial position of its owners, and maybe it does. However, only a small subset of all businesses are about the business buzzwords of “share value” and “return on investment.”
In the early years of my business I wanted peace of mind about cash flow more than I wanted growth, and I wanted growth more than I wanted profits. So I wrote that into my mission statement. And at one point I realized I was also building a business that was a place where I was happy to be working, with people I wanted to work with; so I wrote that into my mission statement, too.
However, this element too, as with the suggestion about including employees, is unusual. Few mission statements do it. That’s understandable, since most mission statements are outward facing only, aimed at customers and nobody else.
Still, some of the best mission statements incorporate a much broader sense of mission that includes, or at least implies, the mission of ownership.
Warby Parker, an eyewear company, does a great job at voicing a higher mission that includes customers, employees, and owners.
“Warby Parker was founded with a rebellious spirit and a lofty objective: to offer designer eyewear at a revolutionary price, while leading the way for socially-conscious business.”
How to write a mission statement revise
5. Discuss, digest, cut, polish, review, revise
Whatever you wrote for points two through four above, go back and cut down the wordiness.
Good mission statements serve multiple functions, define objectives, and live for a long time. So, edit. This step is worth it.
Start by considering developing a full mission statement for internal use and using a customer-facing subset for general publication. That’s common. Many companies have segmented mission statements, with sections set aside and categorized by type or goal. Use bullet points or sections if that works for you. Part of the reason people confuse mission with mantra and vision is that many businesses use them together, and many others also redefine them to fit their context. So what a company does for customers is often called vision, despite the formal definition.
Remember, form follows function, in mission statements, as in all business. Make it work for your business. Or don’t do it at all. If you want to call it a vision, and that works for employees and customers, then do that.
As you edit, keep a sharp eye out for the buzzwords and hype that everybody claims. Cut as much as you can that doesn’t apply specifically to your business, except for the occasional special elements that—unique or not—can serve as long-term rules and reminders. Unique itself, the word, means literally, the only one in the world. Use it sparingly. Phrases such as “being the best possible,” “world-class,” and “great customer service” mean little because everybody uses them. Having great customer service is way harder than writing that into a mission statement.
Read other companies’ mission statements, but write a statement that is about you and not some other company. Make sure you actually believe in what you’re writing—your customers and your employees will soon spot a lie.
Then, listen. Show drafts to others, ask their opinions, and really listen. Don’t argue, don’t convince them, just listen. And then edit again.
And, for the rest of your business’s life, review and revise it as needed. As with everything in a business plan, your mission statement should never get written in stone, and, much less, stashed in a drawer. Use it or lose it. Review and revise as necessary, because change is constant.
*Should I apologize for putting the word “easy” into the title of this piece? Sometimes I confuse interesting, useful, and important with easy. I always underestimate tasks I like doing.