How to Create a Mission Statement for Your Company
A mission statement lets you define your company's goals, ethics, culture and norms for decision-making. The best mission statements define your company's goals in three dimensions: what the company does for its customers, what it does for its employees and what it does for its owners. Some of the best mission statements extend themselves two dimensions more: what the company does for its community and what it does for the world.
Here's a process for developing a useful mission statement so that you can steer clear of a bad message:
1. Start with a market-defining story.
You don't have to write the story, because it won't be part of the actual statement, but you do have to think it through. Imagine a real person making the decision to buy what you sell. Use your imagination to see why he or she wants it, how he or she finds you and what buying from you does for him or her. The more concrete you can make the story, the better; and as for the eventual mission statement itself, the more concrete, the better.
Any really good market-defining story explains the need or the want or the so-called why to buy. It defines the target customer or buyer persona. It explains how your business is different from most others — its uniqueness. It simplifies thinking about what a business isn't, and what it doesn't do. It's important to have this story in your head when you write the statement. It's in the background between the words.
2. Define how your customer's life is better because your business exists.
Start your mission statement with the good you do. Use your market-defining story to suss out whatever it is that makes your business special for your target customer.
Don't undervalue your business — you don't have to cure cancer or stop global climate change to be doing good. Offering trustworthy auto repairs with your unique policies narrows down your specialty in your neighborhood, and that is doing something good. So is offering excellent slow food with an emphasis on organic and buying local at a price premium. These nuances can be a part of your mission statement — a crucial part, so write them down.
3. Consider what your business does for its employees.
These days, good businesses want to be good for their own employees. You're interested in culture and employee happiness, so defining what your business offers its employees is part of your strategy.
Qualities such as fairness, diversity, respect for ideas and creativity really matter. Strive to be a differentiator in the way you make these goals concrete and specific. If your business is friendly to families or remote or virtual workplaces, put that into your mission statement.
4. Add what the business does for its owners.
The mission of management, we've been taught, is to enhance the value of the company's stock (for companies that issue shares). Are you building a business that's a place where you're happy to be working, with people you want to work with? If so, put that into your mission statement too.
5. Discuss, digest, cut, polish, review and revise.
Go back to what you wrote, and cut out the wordiness. Good mission statements serve multiple functions, define objectives and live for a long time. So, edit. And as you do, keep a sharp eye out for any buzzwords and hype that other companies are already taking advantage of and delete them. Cut everything that isn't unique to your business.
Write a statement that is about you and not any other company. Make sure you actually believe in what you're writing — your customers and employees will know what doesn't sound authentic.
Show drafts to others, ask their opinions and really listen. Don't argue, and don't try to convince your audience; just listen. Then edit again. Review and revise again, as necessary, because change is constant.