Defining the purpose of your business in one or two simple sentences can seem like a very daunting task. . . . Or perhaps the words instantly flow mellifluously from your mouth. But probably not.
So, where to start? Before delving further, I’ll give you a few formal definitions of a “mission statement” so you’re somewhat certain of the purpose of this important collection of words before moving forward.
According to . . .
“An effective mission statement must be a clear, concise declaration about your business strategy.”
“[A mission statement is] a sentence describing a company’s function, markets and competitive advantages; a short written statement of your business goals and philosophies.”
“A mission statement is used by a company to explain, in simple and concise terms, its purpose(s) for being. The statement is generally short, either a single sentence or a short paragraph. These statements serve a dual purpose by helping employees remain focused on the tasks at hand, as well as encouraging them to find innovative ways of moving toward an increasingly productive achievement of company goals.”
“[A mission statement is] a written declaration of an organization’s core purpose and focus that normally remains unchanged over time. Properly crafted mission statements (1) serve as filters to separate what is important from what is not, (2) clearly state which markets will be served and how, and (3) communicate a sense of intended direction to the entire organization.”
Want to see those conceptual definitions in action? I reviewed a lot of mission statements (and I do mean a lot), and a collection of my favorites is compiled below. . . . I found these companies’ statements to be relatively straightforward while being sufficiently descriptive.
“Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”
”At eBay, our mission is to provide a global online marketplace where practically anyone can trade practically anything, enabling economic opportunity around the world.”
“To enrich people’s lives with programmes and services that inform, educate and entertain.”
“Dedicated to being the leader in quality family programming, ABC offers opportunities extending from the expansive ABC Television Network and 10 owned television stations nationwide, to more than 60 owned radio stations and the ABC Radio Networks that serve nearly 4800 affiliated stations.”
“We strive to be the acknowledged global leader and preferred partner in helping our clients succeed in the world’s rapidly evolving financial markets.”
“J.P. Morgan’s mission is to be the best financial services company in the world. To achieve this goal, we focus relentlessly on carrying out our business principles of aspiring to be completely client focused by building a great team from within.”
“Walgreens mission is to be America’s most-loved pharmacy-led health, well-being and beauty retailer. Its purpose is to champion everyone’s right to be happy and healthy.”
“We will be the easiest pharmacy retailer for customers to use.”
“Our mission is to eradicate poverty and increase social mobility through the power of partnerships. Our work provides support for the immediate needs of families and children in the community and encourages solutions that lead to the self-sufficiency and social mobility that break cycles of generational poverty.”
“Prematurity is the #1 killer of babies in the United States. We are working to change that and help more moms have full-term pregnancies and healthy babies. From polio to prematurity the March of Dimes has focused on researching the problems that threaten our children and finding ways to prevent them.”
“The mission of Make-A-Wish International is to grant the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions to enrich the human experience with hope, strength and joy.”
“To give customers the most compelling shopping experience possible.”
“To build a place where people can come to find and discover anything they might want to buy online.”
“Our mission is to make Target your preferred shopping destination in all channels by delivering outstanding value, continuous innovation and exceptional guest experiences by consistently fulfilling our Expect More. Pay Less. brand promise.”
“Versace will pursue its sales goals on national and international markets through the offer of fashion, luxury and high quality products at competitive conditions and in compliance with laws designed to protect competition.”
“It is our mission to provide the highest level of service in all aspects of automotive dealership operations, providing our customers with the highest quality products and services at a fair and competitive price.”
“To accelerate the advent of sustainable transport by bringing compelling mass market electric cars to market as soon as possible.”
“To bring the best user experience to its customers through its innovative hardware, software, and services.”
“To lead in the creation, development, and manufacture of the industry’s most advanced information technologies, including computer systems, software, networking systems, storage devices, and microelectronics.”
“Dole Food Company, Inc. is committed to supplying the consumer and our customers with the finest, high-quality products and to leading the industry in nutrition research and education. Dole supports these goals with a corporate philosophy of adhering to the highest ethical conduct in all its business dealings, treatment of its employees, and social and environmental policies.”
“To create and promote great-tasting, healthy, organic beverages.”
“To inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.”
“We believe in Bringing People Together. With Wine. We believe that life’s more fun when we’re together. That’s why our mission is to introduce new friends to wines that are fun, flavorful, and approachable.”
“We are all stewards of football. We unite people and inspire communities in the joy of the game by delivering the world’s most exciting sports and entertainment experience.”
“By showcasing golf’s greatest players, we engage, inspire and positively impact our fans, partners and communities worldwide.”
“We take pride in making the best Mexican style fast food, providing fast, friendly, & accurate service. We are the employer of choice offering team members’ opportunities for growth, advancement, & rewarding careers in a fun, safe working environment. We are accountable for profitability in everything we do, providing our shareholders with value growth.”
“To offer reasonably priced quality food, served quickly, in attractive, clean surroundings.”
“To be our customers’ favorite place and way to eat and drink.”
ANATOMY OF A MISSION STATEMENT
As you may have noticed, most mission statements are comprised of the same basic components. I’ll use our Mission Statement for Brand Building for Small Business as an example:
While I have the different parts listed numerically for clarity, the order isn’t important. As you’ve seen throughout the dozens of examples, these components can look very different from one company to the next. All that matters is that you’ve clearly and fully communicated the purpose of your company.
MISSION STATEMENT GENERATOR
So, now it’s your turn. Are you ready? Try creating a mission statement for your business based on the structure below.
Need one more example? For good measure . . .
If you’ve gone through the exercise of filling in the blanks and feel like you have a good mission statement in hand, you may be wondering, is that it? Am I done? That answer really depends on you and your business. For very small operations, the owner may be the only one involved in the process. If that’s the case, we recommend that you at least have a few people review your mission statement – ask for feedback on content, flow, grammar, etc.
In larger companies, the process can become extremely complicated. First, a decision has to be made about who should have input into the process. Then, consensus on the content must be achieved among those parties. Very often, special seminars or retreats will be employed to brainstorm the matter. In the case of the mission statement of our former employer, the process was done about two decades ago, and the entire management team met at an off-premises site to craft the message. Discussions were held and multiple flip charts filled with notes that got compressed down to about 50 words. (While some minor adaptations have been implemented over time, the message has remained largely intact.)
A Quick Cautionary Note: Mission Statement vs Vision Statement
These two different kinds of statements are sometimes confused. In the words of one authoritative source (i.e., ClearVoice):
“The vision statement focuses on tomorrow and what the organization wants to become. The mission statement focuses on today and what the organization does. While companies commonly use mission and vision statements interchangeably, it’s important to have both.”
Stay tuned for an article on Vision Statements.
Keep your mission statement at the forefront of your operations. That way, if you find yourself veering away from your original intentions, your mission statement will either reign you in or remind you that a re-draft is in order because your business’s revised course is welcome and deliberate.
Use your company name, logo, target audience, and mission statement as a basis for creating your business’s style guide, which will help you formalize your brand and be consistent going forward. Read the last story in our “The Beginning” series: The Role of a Brand Style Guide.