When you start a business, you need to figure out the practical elements like finances, staffing, location, etc. But on a deeper level, a business owner needs to establish what message they want to be associated with their business. What do they want their potential customers to know about them? How do they want to be viewed by others in the industry?
These questions, and more, can be found in a company's mission statement. This is not the same as your company's slogan, which generally serves as a 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.
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 statement should be short, express the organization's purpose in a way that inspires support and ongoing commitment, set the tone of the company, and to outline concrete goals.
As far as what a mission statement should do for a company, business leaders agree that it is one of the most crucial parts on which the business is built. Engaging the media, analysts and other industry watchers should be a goal of the mission statement, but its also important for it to give employees something to reach for and be clear and specific enough to build the brand and affect public perception of the company, according to Kyle Monson, partner at Codeword communications agency.
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.
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 finding what overlapped.
"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 specific to our business niche," Wolfe said.
The value of a mission statement comes from when all stakeholders (management, staff, suppliers, partners and customers) can internalize it and use it as some sort of internal business compass for their day-to-day decision making, according to Gee Ranasinha, CEO of Kexino marketing agency.
"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?" Ranasinha told Business News Daily.
Dan Pickett, CEO of nfrastructure, suggests starting with a story: "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 everyday," he said.
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 of irrelevant, so revisit it every few years to fine-tune it if necessary.
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."
Bristol-Myers Squibb: "To discover, develop and deliver innovating medicines that help patients prevail over serious diseases."
Levi Strauss & Co.: "People love our clothes and trust our company. We will market the most appealing and widely worn casual clothing in the world. We will clothe the world."
Patagonia: "Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis."
Additional reporting by Nicole Fallon and Elaine J. Hom. Some source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.