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What is a Mission Statement?

mission statement
A mission statement is a declaration of the purpose for your business.
Credit: 3Dprofi | Shutterstock

A mission statement is a statement declaring the purpose of an organization or company — the reason for this company's existence. A mission statement provides framework and context to help guide the company's strategies and actions by spelling out the company'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.

It's important to note the distinction between a mission statement and a slogan. A mission statement is not a marketing tool designed to grab attention quickly. While it should be catchy and memorable, a mission statement is a thoughtful declaration designed to articulate the goals and philosophies of a company.

A mission statement is also not a business plan. A business plan is an organized outline of your ideas about how the business functions. A mission statement differs from a vision statement. A mission statement says what the company currently is; a vision statement states what the company hopes to become. 

A mission statement is not an evergreen statement. As a company evolves over time, the company's mission and intent may also change. A good rule of thumb is to revisit the mission statement every five years to see if it needs to be fine-tuned or rewritten. A mission statement will keep your company on track, but it shouldn't become stale or irrelevant.

What does a mission statement include?

A good mission statement addresses several questions:

  • 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. The organization's purpose must be expressed in a way that inspires support and ongoing commitment. It is up to the mission statement to set the tone of the company and outline concrete goals.

Here are some examples of mission statements from large companies:

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.

The statement reflects every facet of a business – the range and nature of products offered, pricing, quality, service, etc. A good mission statement reflects how the business fits into a certain niche in a unique way. A mission statement answers one main question: How does a business differ from its competitors?

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 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. It's tempting to use jargon or terms common within the company's market. But a mission statement should be free of the shorthand that is common in the field, as it may be unfamiliar to anyone outside of the organization or market.

Don't use passive verbs – use proactive terms and speech to describe what the company does. Using radiant language, like colorful verbs and adjectives, will help create a dynamic and memorable mission statement. However, it's more important that a mission statement use firm goal and action-driven statements than fuzzy sentimental language. Most importantly, a mission statement must reflect the difference that your business wants to make.

It's also easy to go overboard in terms of length. Trying to convey a purpose while also inspiring may seem like it needs a lot of words, but a solid mission statement is short enough to be readily repeated by members of the organization while also being catchy.

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. [Related: How to Create an Effective Marketing Plan]