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The Anatomy of the Mission Statement

The Mission Statement is the cornerstone of every strong business. It not only allows potential customers to understand what you do, but it also acts as the guiding star for your all business activities. Some of the most successful and well-respected businesses became so because they made sure that all their actions aligned with the values and goals of their mission statement.

Maybe you’re starting a new business, or maybe it’s time to adjust your current mission statement to reflect your company’s changing values. Either way, writing your mission statement will be a key component to help reflect your brand. Start brainstorming words to describe your company. Answer questions about what your company does and who you serve. Here’s a great article from Fortune to help you get started: http://www.forbes.com/sites/patrickhull/2013/01/10/answer-4-questions-to-get-a-great-mission-statement/

Writing Your Mission Statement

Once you’ve addressed these questions, and written down all your ideas and goals, it’s time to put everything together! Taking all these words and thoughts and expressing them in a single statement might seem daunting, but there’s no one more qualified to write about your business than you. We’ve assembled some tips to help you out.

Keep It Brief

Good mission statements are short and sweet, which seems contradictory considering all the brainstorming you just did. But mission statements should be to the point, able to express your values and goals as concisely as possible. TED Talks’ mission statement is only two words! “Spread Ideas.” While you don’t have to work to make your statement that short, it is important to keep things brief and to the point. Let your other content tell the story of how your company was born and where you see it going. The mission statement is your elevator pitch, your short description of who you are and what you do.

Set Your Sights High, But Be Realistic

The mission statement is, at its core, your goal for your company. It should describe what you hope to accomplish, but walk the fine line between what your perfect world is and what is actually achievable.

For example, Disney’s mission “To make people happy” encompasses the spirit of the Disney enterprise, but is extremely broad and hard to quantify. While it’s a great mission to have, and certainly one that can cover all of Disney’s vast businesses, most companies will want to be more specific.

However, you don’t want to be specific to the point where you have to update your mission statement every five years. Mission statements that use phrases like “completed by 2050,” or “raise $1 million” come across shortsighted. These businesses will find themselves changing their mission statement more and more.

The American Heart Association’s mission is both realistic yet inspiring: “To build healthier lives, free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke.” This statement is specific, but not so specific as to prevent growth. It is broad enough that they can find new ways to move towards their final goal, while still remaining in a single industry.

Avoid Cliches

One of the most important things to keep in mind when writing your mission statement is to avoid the cliches. Your company is unique, with its own ideas and personality that set its apart from other businesses in your field. A mission statement should help demonstrate your personality and allow you to stand out from the rest. Yes, we know you want to be a profitable company that delivers excellent service with high ethical standards. But doesn’t every company?

We’re not saying these are bad ideas, but the language is so overused that we don’t get a sense of your unique purpose. Instead of telling your audience that you have a purpose, show it. Find another way to demonstrate your goal while allowing your personality to shine through.

A personal favorite of ours is Ben and Jerry’s Mission Statement: “To make, distribute and sell the finest quality all-natural ice cream and euphoric concoctions with a continued commitment to incorporating wholesome, natural ingredients and promoting business practices that respect the Earth and the Environment.” 

Not only do you understand that they make ice cream, but you also get a feel for the value they place on green practices as well as for their vibrant personality. This mission statement never uses the words “values,” “integrity,” or “purpose” but you get the sense that this company has all three.

Get to the heart of your business. What makes it unique? What is the reason you get up every morning and go to work? What do you hope to achieve? It might sound impossible to answer these questions in one short sentence, but you’ll find that the deeper you dig, the simpler things appear.