“A computer on every desk and in every home, all running Microsoft software.” (Microsoft)
Every business large or small has a mission (and it’s not just to make money). Every business is guided by values, beliefs and ideals. These values and beliefs may or may not be known to everyone within the business, but until they are articulated in a clear, concise statement, no one beyond the business will truly understand who you and your business are. That’s the purpose behind crafting a mission statement.
Certain critical questions must be addressed before writing this statement:
Why are you in business?
What does your business do?
Who do you do it for?
How does it serve and benefit others?
What makes you different from your competitors?
How do you plan to succeed today and in the future?
All of the answers to these fundamental questions won’t fit into a succinct mission statement of two to four sentences, but you can’t get anywhere without knowing them first.
A group process
“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.” (Ben & Jerry’s)
A statement meant to convey the essential purpose of your business can’t be tossed off in a few minutes. Prepare to spend several hours (a day, if possible) and involve as many people as possible. If you’re a sole proprietor, bring in someone familiar with what you do.
Together with colleagues, partners, and/or others, compile a list of list that includes your company’s value proposition, activities, employee contributions, differentiating factors—in essence your reason for being. Summarize this list in a series of individual words that are active, dynamic and colorful.
By the end of your brainstorming session, you should have plenty of raw material to work with.
A bold statement
“Every book ever printed, in any language, all available in less than 60 seconds.” (Amazon Kindle)
In a statement of one sentence or (at most) one paragraph, every word counts. Avoid clichéd language like “we offer the best service available.” Instead, strive for adjectives and verbs that “radiate” your purpose. While you’re not crafting a Shakespearean play, you are attempting to write something memorable (like Ben & Jerry’s “euphoric concoctions”). Remember, this statement is intended to serve as your moral compass in good times and bad.
Work through several drafts, with the goal of making each succeeding version clearer and shorter. Avoid repeating concepts or words. Look for fresh language that evokes both a higher sense of purpose and the value you bring to your customers. It won’t be easy, but you’ll see that the process itself helps clarify your own understanding of what you do and why.
Share with the world
“Guided by relentless focus on our five imperatives, we will constantly strive to implement the critical initiatives required to achieve our vision. In doing this, we will deliver operational excellence in every corner of the Company and meet or exceed our commitments to the many constituencies we serve. All of our long-term strategies and short-term actions will be molded by a set of core values that are shared by each and every associate.” (Albertson’s)
After hours of hard work, your mission statement is finally ready. Don’t file it away and forget about it. Post a copy in your office and wherever your employees can see it every day. Include the mission statement in your marketing materials, your business plan, your company website, even your business cards. Let the world know why you created your business and how it will grow and serve customers in the years to come.