A company’s mission statement can come in many forms. Do you promise to put your customers’ needs first or to develop quality products, innovative applications or intuitive technology? Some statements are only a sentence, while others may run several paragraphs.
By definition, a mission statement describes the purpose of a business, so product and service claims may be apropos. A meaningful mission statement can also distinguish a company from its competitors, suggest potential directions for future growth and provide team members with a common goal to work toward.
Crafting an impactful mission statement that your staff will adopt and customers will laud is an art. Here are four techniques I have found useful when developing a mission statement for my company, Varsity Tutors:
1. Define your purpose.
Ask yourself why your company exists. Say it exists to offer cleaning services, then identifying your service is a great starting point, along with defining for whom this service is for, how you plan to deliver it and why it's valuable. Together, these elements communicate your purpose to consumers and team members.
For example, Zappos’ mission is “to provide the best customer service possible.” Company staff works toward this goal every day, and customers experience it via free and easy returns on their shoe orders. The company’s growth trajectory and eventual acquisition by Amazon speaks to its success in living up to its mission.
2. Be specific.
Buzzwords and jargon are generally ineffective in a mission statement. If you tell people that you “deliver business efficiencies using optimized software solutions,” they’re unlikely to commit this phrase to memory.
When your mission is hard to remember, it’s difficult for team members to align their daily activities with the goals outlined. Choose your words wisely and use terms that are easily understood and relevant to your business.
Consider U.K.-based fast-food chain Pret a Manger, which is dedicated to providing economical, natural food. It clearly communicates this by printing short blurbs on its products’ packaging that explain how these items specifically relate to its mission statement. A Pret a Manger sparkling water can indicates that the company has added “No Nasties” and no "any weird chemicals or additives.”
While it’s important to make your mission plausible and attainable, it can also be powerful to include an inspirational element. This element can encourage your team members to work toward your vision. You might also find it useful to tie your mission statement to specific activities or behaviors, which can move it from the conceptual realm to the practical world.
Patagonia, for instance, aspires to “build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.” While its mission might start off not directly referencing the products made, it quickly becomes aspirational. The company links (making apparel) with its fundamental values (saving the planet).
Consumers have come to realize that the company does more than manufacture clothing for outdoor enthusiasts, and Patagonia’s staff members recognize that their work supports environmental causes.
4. Keep it succinct.
Some of the biggest companies in the world devote full pages to their mission statements, but that may not be the ideal way to convey your enterprise's particular message. When writing your mission statement, try to be as concise as possible. If it’s lengthy, pare it to sharpen your vision and delivery.
For example, Chipotle’s phrase “food with integrity” captures the company’s commitment to sourcing, cooking and serving good food in just three words.
Once you’ve written a mission statement worthy of your business, your job is only half-finished. A mission statement is most effective when you impart its message to your team -- and when they align their actions with the mission’s vision.
The process of carrying out the actions implied with the words often begins with your actions. Everything you do can ultimately reflect the values, purpose and enthusiasm behind your company's mission statement. An impactful statement can serve as a reminder of why you founded your business, and a mission statement worthy of memorization can guide you for years to come.