Your company’s mission is the reason your company exists. It’s the ‘why?’ that drives you. Many companies turn their mission into a simple statement.
A mission statement differs from a vision statement in that a vision is where you want to be at the end of your mission. One of the most famous vision statements of all time is computer giant Microsoft’s original vision:
“A computer on every desk, in every home.”Microsoft Mission Statement
There’s no indication of how they will do this, but it’s what will happen if Microsoft’s mission is achieved. It’s aspirational, but not very useful. A vision statement is an outcome and although these are good to have, at the start of your journey you should prioritise how to get to your goal. A vision statement is the kind of thing that you should have in the back of your mind, something to inspire you.
A mission statement should be at the forefront of your mind.
Google’s mission statement is: “To organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”
At the start of a company’s life, or during a transition or rebrand, the focus should be on its mission and, therefore, its mission statement, because it’s a light that guides you on your way, not a distant one on the horizon.
What should a mission statement do?
A mission statement will define what you do to the different stakeholders you interact with: your customers, your employees, your owners and the world or community around you. It will give your company a purpose. All of these things make a mission statement seem daunting, but in reality, it can be very simple. And the effects can be transformative.
A good mission statement will allow you to create your branding, persona, values, priorities, ethics and culture. It will provide you with a star and will allow the rest of your company’s solar system to rotate around it. The gravitational pull of your mission will ensure everything else moves in tandem.
Under no circumstances should you create a mission statement just because someone tells you to. A mission statement will have a fundamental effect on your business and if you create one without thought, and then follow it blindly, you could have big problems. To create a mission statement, you need to understand why. Not having a mission statement is bad. Having a bad one is worse.
Further into this book I will discuss your rivals and what they can tell you about your own business. I won’t go into too much detail here, but a great way to see whether your mission statement is useful is to ask if it could also describe the mission of your biggest rival. If it can, then it’s too generic and not personal enough to your business.
To write a good mission statement, you need to understand what your story is. Why did you start your business and what is the reason you think your customers would want to use you? This isn’t something that will necessarily go into your written mission statement, it’s the kind of thing that comes across between the lines.
Your mission statement should define what you do for your customers, employees, owners and community.
- What does your company do that makes it special or unique for your customers?
- Why is your culture the way it is?
- How do the owners help foster the first two answers?
- What good does it do in the wider world?
Once you have the answers to the questions, it’s time to craft a two or three sentence statement.
How to use a mission statement
A mission statement is a living thing. It’s not something to do once and put in a drawer somewhere. Remember to constantly evaluate, discuss and refine your mission statement.
You need to use it to advise and scrutinise every decision you make in your business. If you plan to advertise, look at what you are doing and see whether it meets all the criteria set out in your statement.
If you want to do something, and you think it would be good for the business, but you don’t think it’s compatible with your mission statement, it’s time to evaluate not only the thing you are trying to do, but also the mission statement itself.