What is a mission statement and how do you write one?
Because your mission statement communicates something about your company's culture and purpose, it's important for everyone in your organization to know and understand it.
But what is a mission statement? How do you write a mission statement that's bold and compelling? Read on to find examples and a step-by-step guide for crafting your own mission statement.
What is a mission statement?
According to Investopedia, a mission statement is a brief description of your organization's purpose. It can be a short paragraph or as brief as a single sentence. However, all mission statements must answer the fundamental question of why the company exists.
It's common to include a mission statement as part of your larger business plan. But while a business plan describes your corporate strategy and core values, a mission statement will explain your motivations and what drives you toward your goals.
Mission statement vs. vision statement
Some companies merge their mission and vision statements together. While these two statements overlap, there's a crucial difference.
A vision statement describes the company's future, according to MasterClass.com. It might therefore offer more descriptors about what your company aspires to be. A mission statement focuses on the company's identity in the present. In other words, vision statements ask the question, "Where are we going?" while mission statements address the question, "Who are we?"
The importance of your company's mission statement
Having a compelling mission statement is vital to the health of your small business. A clearly articulated mission can help you, your employees, and your customers gain a shared understanding of your company's goals. In turn, this understanding can solidify your business relationships.
For you and your employees
The best mission statements give workers a unified understanding of their company's purpose. This can go a long way toward improving employee morale, as many workers thrive when they know they're contributing to something greater than themselves.
This is why your mission statement should be a major part of your onboarding materials. Your mission statement can help build community in your workplace by uniting your staff around a common purpose.
A well-worded mission statement can also bring a broader strategic focus to those who manage your company, so don't be afraid to incorporate your mission statement into the agenda for meetings.
For your customers
Your company's mission statement isn't just internal. Your mission statement can help your customers understand something about your core values and your larger goals.
This understanding might be particularly helpful if your company provides a lot of business-to-business services. Your clients may be more likely to partner with you if your company culture mirrors their own.
Mission statement examples
Before you write a mission statement of your own, it might help to look at some of the mission statements of today's most well-known companies.
Note that some of these mission statements are only one sentence long, while others are more of a paragraph. TED, for example, goes for a two-word mission statement that encapsulates its goals: "Spread ideas."
Here are some examples of mission statements from other large companies.
"Our mission is to be Earth's most customer-centric company. This is what unites Amazonians across teams and geographies as we are all striving to delight our customers and make their lives easier, one innovative product, service, and idea at a time."
"Here at Costco, we have a very straightforward, but important mission: to continually provide our members with quality goods and services at the lowest possible prices."
"Tesla's mission is to accelerate the world's transition to sustainable energy."
"Become essential to our customers by providing differentiated products and services to help them achieve their aspirations."
"To give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together."
"To bringing the best user experience to its customers through its innovative hardware, software, and services."
"To inspire humanity — both in the air and on the ground."
How to write a mission statement
Creating your own mission statement isn't hard, but it takes time to refine your language and zero in on what you want to say. Follow these steps to create and refine a strong mission statement for your company.
1. Identify your company's purpose
Start by thinking about the reason(s) your company exists. What are your company's goals? At this phase you can simply phrase it as a fill-in-the-blank: "My company's purpose is to..." You can reword this later to be more compelling.
If you work for a large company, you might start by interviewing senior-level management and asking them to complete this exercise with you. Jot down their answers regarding the company mission, then look for common themes.
For instance, you might say that your company's mission is to save people money or to connect people to the right business solutions. This is enough to get started for now, and you can build on this core statement in the steps that follow.
2. Connect your company's services
Next, you want to identify how the products or services you offer fulfill this purpose. For example, you might say something like: "My company's purpose is to provide excellent customer service through our interactive software solutions."
Again, the goal is to be brief and general. You don't need to offer a detailed description of your full line of services, but simply summarize how your company achieves its goals through your services or product line.
3. Summarize your core values
Now you want to explain the "why" question of what you're doing. In step 1, you identified your broad purpose. But here you want to offer a brief description of why you hope to achieve this goal.
Some companies, for example, place a high value on sustainable energy, while others place value on outstanding customer service. Whatever your motivation, you want to include that in your mission statement.
4. Put the pieces together
Now you're ready to put the pieces together. At this point, your mission statement might read something like:
"Because we value excellent customer service, our company exists to connect people to a compelling shopping experience through our convenient eCommerce platform."
It's okay if your mission statement sounds a bit clunky at this point. Your main goal should be to ensure that all of the right pieces are there: (1) your purpose, (2) your services, and (3) your core values.
5. Edit and polish
Now the fun begins. Your goal should be to refine your mission statement until it's smooth and succinct. You don't have to shave it down to a single statement, but it still helps to keep your mission statement as short as possible.
Here's a tip: write more than one mission statement. Then, sit with these mission statements for a while — say, 24 hours to a week. You may find that one of these mission statements begins to stand out to you and might be a good fit for your organization.
6. Get feedback and refine
Even if you're a gifted writer, never trust your instincts alone. Share your completed mission statement with others to ensure it makes sense to a wider audience. They may have feedback that helps you refine your mission statement even further and turns a good mission statement into a great one.
Even if you're a sole proprietor, you can still solicit input from family and friends. In fact, those outside your company might be some of the best people to tell you if your completed statement is memorable and easy to understand.
Tips for crafting better mission statements
What should a good mission statement include? There's no real rule here, but some of the best mission statements share a few commonalities. Here are a few tips on crafting a mission statement that will bring inspiration to your business.
1. Work together
Teamwork makes the dream work. Start the process with a brainstorming session. Pass out post-it notes and have each team member write down what they believe is the company's main purpose. Then, post these notes on the wall or whiteboard.
This allows everyone to see common themes — though it can also surface clear disagreements about the central purpose of your company.
2. Be specific
It's easy to slip into generalities about your purpose. But try to be very specific about your company's reason for existing. What makes your business distinct from others in your industry? The more specific you can be, the more your mission statement will stand out.
3. Avoid insider jargon
Remember: your mission statement will be seen by your customers, employees, and other stakeholders, so you want to avoid a lot of technical language. Instead, focus on using words that everyone can easily understand so that your mission statement is universally accessible to anyone who reads it.
4. Keep it brief
While some mission statements are longer than others, shorter is usually better. A single sentence is ideal and can help others remember your mission statement more easily. That's also why it pays to be specific — it's easier to condense specific ideas into simple statements.
5. Make it "sticky"
In their book Made to Stick, Chip and Dan Heath emphasize the need to make your ideas "sticky," or memorable. One of the key takeaways from the book is that good ideas surprise hearers, and this helps them remember your organization more easily.
Try to find a way to make your mission statement clever or catchy, as long as you don't distort the meaning you wish to convey.
Where to display your mission statement
Once you have a completed mission statement, where do you display it? The answer, of course, is "everywhere." Since your mission statement describes the purpose and goals of your business, you want to clearly communicate that mission as often as possible.
So you might put your mission statement in such places as:
- Your company website
- Your marketing materials
- Your employee training manual
At a minimum, your mission statement should find its way into the "about" page of your website, possibly along with your vision statement. You can also offer a short summary that further explains the nature of your company and your mission. This explanation can help others better understand your business plan.
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Frequently asked questions
Need some additional help writing your mission statement? Here are some answers to common questions about the process.
A mission statement succinctly explains why a company exists and what its purpose is. According to Investopedia, it should describe the overarching meaning of a business.
A tagline is a concise, memorable phrase that captures the unique value of a brand. The goal of a tagline is to help the audience associate the brand with a specific idea and value. It plays a key role in solidifying a brand’s positioning.
A slogan, while also catchy and concise, focuses more on a theme of a marketing campaign. A tagline represents the brand and a slogan represents the products or services. A tagline can focus on features, benefits, emotions, differences, or broader idea. Slogans are more flexible that taglines and can change from one campaign to the next. To use famous examples from Apple. “Think Different” was a tagline for the entire brand, while “A thousand songs in your pocket” was a slogan for the iPod.
The best mission statements are short and memorable. If you look at the mission statement examples above, you'll notice they all generally fall into the category of a sentence or two. That should be a good goal for your own mission statement, since the wordier you are the less likely people will be to remember your company's mission.
As your company evolves, your mission statement might also need to change. Make a habit of revisiting your mission statement every one to three years, or any time your company goes through a period of transition.