Most successful companies in the world – Google, Facebook, Airbnb, and more – have mission statements that show what they want to accomplish, and how they plan to do it.
The goal: to help people (employees, partners, customers, community, and the public) understand what makes them different from other businesses.
A mission statement is a short document that describes your company or organization’s purpose and goals. It’s often written at the beginning of a new project or initiative and helps guide decisions throughout the life cycle of the project.
Mission statements are important because they provide a clear vision for the future of your organization. They also serve as a reminder of why you started your business in the first place.
But how do you get down to writing a mission statement? What should it include? And how do you create one for yourself or your business?
In this guide, we’ll define what a mission statement is, who it’s written for, and how it differs from a vision statement. We’ll also delve into the steps you need to take to create one for your company or organization.
Let’s dive in.
Source: Pexels, Pavel Danilyuk
The mission statement describes your personal or business goals and objectives. So, it should include the vision, values, and strategies that guide you or your organization.
Mission statements are often included in the company’s articles of incorporation, but they also appear in other documents such as the annual report, the corporate handbook, and the employee manual.
They’re also useful for internal communications within the organization besides being used in marketing materials to help potential customers understand what the company does and who it serves.
A mission statement defines what your business does and what it stands for. It’s usually a sentence or two that defines the purpose of an organization.
So, it should be memorable, concise, and focused on customers. It needs to convey what the company does, who it serves, and why it exists.
The following are some examples of mission statements:
“We help people find their passion.”
“We provide opportunities for children to develop skills that lead to lifelong success.”
“We build leaders who create economic opportunity in their communities.”
From these examples, we can see that a mission statement is a concise and clear expression of what an organization is trying to accomplish. Make it a short, yet powerful sentence that reflects your organization’s goals and values.
While mission statements are often short, they can be as long as you want.
Ideally, your mission statement should not be too vague or too specific. It should also not contain any information that would not apply to the company’s current state or future goals.
The mission statement should also not make any guarantees about success, as this could lead to disappointment in the future if the company fails to meet those expectations.
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Source: Unsplash, David Iskander
You need to be careful when making decisions like creating your mission statement. That’s because you could end up copying your competitors’ ideas. Doing research before coming up with your own mission statement will help you create a unique one for your company.
The best mission statements, as we’ve mentioned, are brief and to the point. Howard Schultz, the former Starbucks CEO, believes that if your mission statement doesn’t fit on a t-shirt or coffee mug, it’s too long to be useful.
Ideally, you should write your company’s mission statement for three primary audiences:
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- Customers: To answer why they should buy from you
- Employees: To convey to them what your business cares about
- Investors: To define to them what’s unique about your business, what you do, how you do it, and why they should invest in you
For a mission statement to be effective enough for these stakeholders, it needs to answer the following questions, even before you start writing it:
- What is your business: This question speaks to your business’s core operations. Your response should encapsulate that.
- How do you do it: Give a description based on your values, how you operate your business, and what you hope to achieve.
- Who are you doing it for: What’s your core customer base? Those are the people for whom your mission applies.
- What are your core values: Why does your company exist? The answer should capture the “why” of your business.
Here’s a real-life example from Starbucks’ mission statement:
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It’s not only effective, but it answers the questions above as follows:
- What is your business: One cup – a coffee retailer.
- How do you do it: Prioritizing every customer and their community no matter what the company does.
- Who are you doing it for: Starbucks company and its community. The emphasis here is a concern for the well-being of Starbucks customers, team members, and the community.
- What are your core values: Inspire and nurture the human spirit.
Here are a few more real-life examples of mission statements drawn from leading businesses. Notice how they answer the four questions any mission statement should capture.
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Cradles to Crayons
Source: Cradles to Crayons
Source: Invisible Children
A mission statement is a road map for the company’s vision. The mission statement should clarify what the company wants to accomplish, who they want to help, and why they want people to help them.
A vision statement describes where the community or the world should be as a result of your company’s services.
Mission statements are literal quotes stating what a brand or company is setting out to do, while visions statements are more conceptual, as they’re a glimpse into what the brands can become in the eyes of consumers and the value it brings in longevity.
A mission statement describes the current purpose a company currently serves. The company’s functions, target audience, and core offerings are elements that are usually mentioned in a mission statement.
An example here is: “We provide software solutions to help our customers manage their businesses.“
A vision statement looks into a company’s future or what its overarching goal is. The same elements as a mission statement can be included, but they’re described in the future tense.
For instance, you can say: “Our goal is to become the leading provider of business management software by 2023.“
Next, let’s look at the steps to take when writing a mission statement.
As mentioned, a good mission statement should answer several key questions about what you do, why you exist, your customers, and your values.
Other than that, there are some elements that must appear in your mission statement including:
- The company/organization’s name
- A sentence describing why the company/organization exists
- A sentence that lays out what products or services your company offers
- The benefits of your products/services
- Your company/organization goals
- Why people would want to work for your company
- The value of your business to employees and customers or your community
The statement must also sound reasonable and be specific or tied back to your business.
For instance, Honest Tea’s mission statement promises to make healthy products by creating organic beverages that taste great. This is not only reasonable because they don’t promise to cure diseases, but it also ties the statement back to the brand.
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Source: Honest Tea
There are several things you need to do before you can write a mission statement. And it starts with defining your individual or business values and goals – what you want your personal or company’s vision and purpose to be.
Here’s a simple four-step guide to getting you started with writing a mission statement for you or your organization/business.
- State what your company or organization does
- Describe how you do it
- Be clear on the ‘why’ of your company
- Put the mission statement to work
In this section, you just need to put out your mission statement in a simple format – nothing fancy.
What is your business offering to your customers or community? Which product or service do you produce or provide? From the Starbucks example, the response here would be a cup of coffee.
Don’t add any fillers. Just write down the bare basics, and then elaborate on it in the next section.
So, for example, you can say: My company/organization’s purpose is to provide financial advice or provide pet sitting services.
Source: Unsplash, Scott Graham
Here, you’re looking to describe how your business operates in general – not a detailed description of the physical running of it. So, you’ll go back to your company’s core values and incorporate one or more of them into the description of how you do what you do.
For instance, your core values could be integrity, accountability, and so on. List all of them down, especially those that are important to express in your organization.
Some common values you could use in your mission statement may include:
- To provide superior customer support
- To offer high-quality products
- To protect the quality of the environment or practice sustainable development
- To encourage creativity and innovation
- To ensure equal employment opportunities or equal access to resources
The key is to focus more on the core competencies of your organization when deciding on the kind of values to include in the mission statement.
Narrow down one or two that you’ll include in the description of what and how your company does what it does.
For instance, if you provide pet sitting services, it’s an unfinished statement. You still need to add value to it.
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You’ve written down what your company does and how it does what it does. The next step is to say your ‘why’.
This part describes the passion behind your company or organization. It’s the spark behind the business. Why do you do what you do?
Simon Sinek, the author of Start With Why, explains that the ‘why’ of what you do can help potential employees self-select as to whether they want to work with you – do they believe in your cause? If so, they’ll buy into your ‘why’ and what you do. It’s this that will sustain them through the challenges and difficulties of the job.
At the core of the ‘why’ is an articulate statement that describes the purpose of your business. Why does it exist? Why do you come to it every morning, and why should anyone care?
Starting with ‘why’ gives people the reason to buy from you.
For example, Apple may not be different from its competition in several ways, but it communicates from its ‘why’. They exist to challenge the status quo and empower the individual.
In everything Apple says and does, they’re challenging the status quo, which is why its customers perceive the company as authentic.
In your case, you may say: “My company’s purpose is to provide pet sitting services that allow pets of all types to feel loved, cared for, and cherished,” for example.
A real-life example is the case of Nice footwear. The company’s mission statement is as shown below:
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Source: NICE footwear
This statement already explains the why, while placing their customers’ needs and satisfaction at the center of everything they do.
Once you have a rough draft of your ‘why’ added to the statement, see if it captures everything you’d like to say, or you can phrase it better.
So, for instance, you can say: “At PetXYZ, we treat pets in a way that’s good for their health and exceeds our customers’ expectations.”
Source: Unsplash, Clark Tibbs
You’ve taken time to craft your mission statement and it’s good to go. The next and final step is to put it to work right away.
You want everyone to see the mission statement. For employees, it gives direction as to where the company is going and the plan. For your customers and community, you want the statement to be front and center in their minds as they interact with you.
They can clearly see who you are, what you do and how you do it, and your ‘why’ so they know why they’d want to transact with you.
You can also use your mission statement in your advertising campaigns if you want. Otherwise, just make sure it’s clearly visible on your business assets i.e., the office, website, and other marketing assets.
Your mission statement is more than just a fancy slogan – it’s the foundation of your operations manual. If people aren’t familiar with it, then they won’t get the guidance or direction it seeks to provide in the first place.
Source: Pexels, Tara Winstead
There are multiple ways and methods of writing a mission statement, but it’s not without some do’s and don’ts to guide you along. Here are a few things to look out for as you create your mission statement.
- Be brief and concise: Use a few sentences to sum up your company or organization’s mission. Don’t be verbose. A mission statement isn’t an essay. If you write long-drawn-out prose or sentences, the statement might end up losing meaning and confuse your employees and customers. Let it be tethered to your brand. Make it memorable.
- Think long-term: Your mission statement should be open enough to reflect your company’s long-term goals. It’s an investment into your organization’s future.
- Don’t narrow it down too much: The mission statement shouldn’t be too limiting. You want something that captures your aspirations and still speaks to the customer and your community.
- Ask around: Find out what others think of the mission statement, especially your workmates or employees. The statement is for them too, so their opinion counts. Ask where it could use some improvements or what they dislike about it.
- Be ready to change: Don’t be afraid to change your mission statement when it calls for that, especially in cases where it no longer represents what your business is about. Rewrite it based on the changes in the business world and your company.
- Share it: The mission statement is of little or no use if it’s written and kept away in a file. Make sure you share it with your partners, employees, investors, customers, and the public at every turn. Put it on your marketing materials, internal communications, and even your new hire training documentation.
Whether you head a Fortune 500 company or own a small business, you’ve probably figured out why you’re doing what you do.
That’s because you have a sense of mission. And this is the first step toward writing your personal or business’s mission statement.
Remember, it should be short, clear, and concise, describe the goals of your company, and the values and principles that guide your decisions. And, you don’t have to commit to writing it right away – just jot it down in pencil, and spend some time tweaking it before you sign off on the final version.
Cassie Riley has a passion for all things marketing and social media. She is a wife, mother, and entrepreneur. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling, language, music, writing, and unicorns. Cassie is a lifetime learner, and loves to spend time attending classes, webinars, and summits.