When you're coming up with the concept for your business, an important component of your overall strategy plan is a mission statement. This brief statement declares the purpose of an organization and defines the reason for the company's existence. It provides the framework and context to help guide the company's strategies and actions by spelling out the business's overall goal. Ultimately, a mission statement helps guide decision-making internally while also articulating the company's mission to customers, suppliers and the community.
What is the purpose of a mission statement?
A mission statement is not the same as your company's slogan, which generally serves as marketing tool designed to grab attention quickly. The mission statement is also not necessarily the same as your vision statement, which defines where you want your company to go. While you may include the statement in your business plan, a mission statement is not a substitute for the plan itself.
It's also important to remember that a mission statement is not evergreen. As a company evolves over time, its mission and intent may also change. A mission statement will keep your company on track, but it shouldn't become stale or irrelevant, so revisit it every few years to fine-tune it if necessary.
What does a mission statement include?
A good mission statement answers several key questions about your business:
- What are the opportunities or needs that the company addresses?
- What is the business of the organization? How are these needs being addressed?
- What level of service is provided?
- What principles or beliefs guide the organization?
The mission statement should be short, yet resonate with both employees and those outside of the organization. A statement should express the organization's purpose in a way that inspires support and ongoing commitment. It is up to the mission statement to set the tone of the company and to outline concrete goals.
Here's what business leaders say a mission statement should do for a company:
"A good vision or mission statement will fill a few roles: It will be toothy enough to engage the media, analysts and other industry watchers. It will be aspirational enough to give employees something to reach for, and bind them together in their day-to-day work. And it will be clear and specific enough to build the brand and affect public perception of the company. In an ideal world, it will even give your customers a sense that they're buying into your vision when they purchase one of your products." – Kyle Monson, partner at Knock Twice hybrid creative agency
"A company's mission statement is the cornerstone on which it is built. Its strategic plan and its culture are directly tied to the vision the mission statement puts forth. It is important that a mission statement support the overarching goals and purpose of the company and explain why [you] exist as a business in a way that can be understood internally within the company and externally to consumers." –Gerry David, president and CEO of healthy lifestyle company Celsius Holdings
"Creating a mission statement takes time and a lot of decision making. It lays down expectations for how your customers and employees will interact with one another, so take your time with it. Clearly write down your vision of the company and ask yourself, 'What am I trying to accomplish?' Think about how you want others to perceive your company, what's important to you and your organization, and then prioritize it. Most importantly, make sure it's clear, concise and easy for anyone to understand." – Bobby Harris, president and CEO of BlueGrace Logistics
Developing a mission statement
The best way to develop a mission statement is to brainstorm with those connected to your business. Ask employees and customers what they see as your biggest strengths and weaknesses. It's important to see how others see your company and your brand so that you have more than one perspective. Take your time when writing the statement; it may take more than a few hours, so set aside a day to piece everyone's ideas together.
A good place to start is by defining your company's core values, said David Wolfe, founder of men's sportswear company OLIVERS Apparel. For Wolfe and his team, this involved identifying the values held by people they respected most in their lives, and trying to find what overlapped.
"When we set about creating our mission statement, we thought about a few things," Wolfe told Business News Daily. "We wanted to define in one sentence what our higher purpose was, in a way that had no bearing on our specific business niche. For our mission, we thought in terms of taking that larger vision and distilling that in a way that was relevant specifically to our business niche."
You can also use your mission statement as an opportunity to tell your company's story in a concise, aspirational way.
"Start with a story," said Dan Pickett,CEO of enterprise technology infrastructure company nfrastructure. "What are you trying to accomplish, and how do all the characters — employees, customers and partners — play into that? If you keep your company story in mind, you will always have a mission that speaks to everyone and pushes your company forward every day."
A mission statement should motivate those connected to the organization, as well as those that the organization hopes to influence. The statement should be articulated in a convincing, yet easy-to-understand manner, without using industry jargon.
"The value of a mission statement only comes from when all stakeholders — management, staff, suppliers, partners and customers — can internalize it and use it as a kind of internal business compass for when they make their day-to-day decisions," said Gee Ranasinha, CEO of startup and small business marketing firm Kexino. "As a result, mission statements need to be written using words and sentences that 'normal' people use and understand. If it's written in MBA 101 speak, then what's the point?"
Once the mission statement is complete, it should be displayed to those inside and outside the business with pride. Post the mission statement in the office, print it on company materials and be able to recite it to potential customers.
Examples of mission statements
If you need help figuring out where to begin with your mission statement, here are some examples from large corporations.
Nike: "To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world."
Starbucks: "To inspire and nurture the human spirit — one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time."
Chevron: "To be the global energy company most admired for its people, partnership and performance."
Amazon: "To be the most customer-centric company in the world, where people can find and discover anything they want to buy online."
Intel: "Delight our customers, employees and shareholders by relentlessly delivering the platform and technology advancements that become essential to the way we work and live."
eBay: "Provide a global trading platform where practically anyone can trade practically anything."
Additional reporting by Elaine J. Hom, Business News Daily contributor.
Originally published Jan. 17, 2013. Updated Jan. 7, 2015.