How to Write Your Mission Statement

Summing up your business's mission helps you focus on the steps you need to take to succeed. Here's how to create a mission statement that's uniquely yours.

Mission Statement, Defined

The mission statement, according to Wikipedia, is a formal, short, written statement of the purpose of a company or organization. It’s the company’s reason for existing. The mission statement should guide the actions of the organization, spell out its overall goal, provide a sense of direction, and guide decision-making. It provides “the framework or context within which the company’s strategies are formulated.”

An effective mission statement often includes the following information:

  • Purpose and aim(s) of the organization

  • The organization’s primary stakeholders: clients/customers, shareholders, etc.

  • How the organization provides value to these stakeholders, for example by offering specific types of products and/or services

The commercial mission statement consists of 3 essential components:

  • Key market Who is your target client/customer? (generalize if needed)

  • Contribution What product or service do you provide to that client?

  • Distinction What makes your product or service unique, so that the client would choose you?

The "Write" Words

To come up with a statement that encompasses the major elements of your business, start with the right questions.

The most important question is, What business are you in?

Answering the following questions will help you to create a verbal picture of your business's mission:

  • Why are you in business? What do you want for yourself, your family and your customers? Think about the spark that ignited your decision to start a business. What will keep it burning?

  • Who are your customers? What can you do for them that will enrich their lives and contribute to their success--now and in the future?

  • What image of your business do you want to convey? Customers, suppliers, employees and the public will all have perceptions of your company. How will you create the desired picture?

  • What is the nature of your products and services? What factors determine pricing and quality? Consider how these relate to the reasons for your business's existence. How will all this change over time?

  • What level of service do you provide? Most companies believe they offer "the best service available," but do your customers agree? Don't be vague; define what makes your service so extraordinary.

  • What roles do you and your employees play? Wise captains develop a leadership style that organizes, challenges and recognizes employees.

  • What kind of relationships will you maintain with suppliers? Every business is in partnership with its suppliers. When you succeed, so do they.

  • How do you differ from your competitors? Many entrepreneurs forget they are pursuing the same dollars as their competitors. What do you do better, cheaper or faster than other competitors? How can you use competitors' weaknesses to your advantage?

  • How will you use technology, processes, products and services to reach your goals? A description of your strategy will keep your energies focused on your goals.

  • What underlying philosophies or values guided your responses to the previous questions? Some businesses choose to list these separately. Writing them down clarifies the "why" behind your mission.

Fuel Your Creativity

Studying other companies' statements can also help guide you through the process.

Consider the following best-in-class mission statements:

1. Chipotle's Mission Statement

Chipotle's About Us page states, "...Our focus has always been on using higher-quality ingredients and cooking techniques to make great food accessible to all people at reasonable prices. But our vision has evolved. While using a variety of fresh ingredients remains the foundation of our menu, we believe that "fresh is not enough, anymore." Now we want to know the sources for all of our ingredients, so that we can be sure they are as flavorful as possible while we are mindful of the environmental and societal impact of our business. We call this idea, Food With Integrity, and it guides how we run our business."

2. The Virgin Mission Statement

Virgin explains in its about us section, "Our mission state is simple, yet the foundation of everything we do here at Virgin Atlantic Airways... to embrace the human spirit and let it fly."

3. Zappos' Mission Statement

The mission statement of Zappos.com, also referred to by Zappos employees as their "WOW Philosophy," is... "To provide the best customer service possible."

These mission statement examples are clear and succinct so all employees can understand them, yet broad enough to encapsulate the corporate perspective. They define what the company is, yet allow for creative growth. They are unique and help differentiate one company from a competing company.

Putting It All Together

Like anything with lasting value, crafting a mission statement requires time, thought and planning. However, the effort is well worth it. In fact, most start-up entrepreneurs discover that the process of crafting the mission statement is as beneficial as the final statement itself. Going through the process will help you solidify the reason for what you are doing and clarify the motivations behind your business.

RELATED: MISSION STATEMENTS AND CONTENT MARKETING

Here are some tips to make your mission statement the best it can be:

  • Involve those connected to your business. Even if you are a sole proprietor, it helps to get at least one other person's ideas for your mission statement. Other people can help you see strengths, weaknesses and voids you might miss. if you have no partners or investors to include, consider knowledgeable family members and close friends, employees or accountants. Be sure, however, to pick only positive, supportive people who truly want to see you succeed.

  • Set aside several hours--a full day, if possible--to work on your statement. Mission statements are short--typically more than one sentence but rarely exceeding a page. Still, writing one is not a short process. It takes time to come up with language that simultaneously describes an organization's heart and soul and serves as an inspirational beacon to everyone involved in the business.

  • Plan a date. Set aside time to meet with the people who'll be helping you. Write a list of topics to discuss or think about. Find a quiet, comfortable place away from phones and interruptions.

  • Be prepared. If you have several people involved, be equipped with refreshments, extra lists of topics, paper and pencils. Because not everyone understand what a mission statement is about, explain its meaning and purpose before you begin.

  • Brainstorm. Consider every idea, no matter how silly it sounds. Stimulate ideas by looking at sample mission statements and thinking about or discussing the questions in the previous section. If you're working with a group, use a flip chart to record responses so everyone can see them. Once you've finished brainstorming, ask everyone to write individual mission statements for your business. Read the statement, select the best bits and pieces, and fit them together.

  • Use "radiant words." Once you have the basic idea in writing, polish the language of your mission statement. Every word counts. The statement should create dynamic, visual images and inspire action. Use offbeat, colorful verbs and adjectives to spice up your statements. Don't hesitate to drop in words like "kaleidoscope," "sizzle," "cheer," "outrageous" and "marvel" to add zest. If you want customers to boast about your goods and services, say so--along with the reasons why. Some businesses include a glossary that defines the terms used in the statement.

Once your mission statement is complete, start spreading the word! You need to convey your mission statement to others inside and outside the business to tell everyone you know where you are going and why. Post it in your office, where you, employees and visitors can see it every day. Print it on company materials, such as your business plan or even on the back of your business cards. And incorporate it into all of your marketing activities keeping the message consistent throughout.

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