If you’re launching a new company or startup, you really need a mission statement. You may have already heard this bit of advice, but ignored it because it didn’t seem all that important. But we’re repeating it here to emphasize the fact that a mission statement really is that important.
What’s a Mission Statement?
A mission statement is what tells people about what your company does, who it is doing it for, and why you started the company in the first place. It should be short and sweet, inspirational, timeless (instead of trendy), and reflective of the values and purpose of your company.
Here are some examples that should give you an idea of what we’re talking about:
- Google. To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.
- Philips. Improving people’s lives through meaningful innovation.
- Walmart. We save people money so they can live better.
- Facebook. To give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected.
- BBC. To enrich people’s lives with programs and services that inform, educate, and entertain.
- Kickstarter. To help bring creative projects to life.
- TripAdvisor. To help people around the world plan and have the perfect trip.
- Tesla. To accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.
So with these examples in mind, how then you go about coming up with a mission statement that people won’t forget when they hear or read about it? Here are some of the basic rules that should help.
Speak to Your Key Audience
You need to think of it as talking to the most important people for your company. These are, in order of importance, your customers and clients, your employees, and your investors. To your customers, your mission statement will help them understand what makes your products and services different from others in your industry. Your workers can read your mission statement to realize the importance of their job and how they fit within the mission parameters. Your investors will look to your mission statement to reassure them that you actually plan on offering value.
So when you create your mission statement, you have to think of it as spreading a specific message to these groups of important people. It’s a way for everyone to stand together behind a unifying purpose.
Affirm Your Purpose
When you come up with your mission statement, see if it answers the following questions:
- Why am I launching this particular startup?
- Why should start this specific business instead of going with other types of employment?
The basic question here is WHY. It needs to be addressed with a very specific answer. Now your reasons can be any of the possible million reasons, but it has to be genuine. It has to be true to your company mission and to your own personal mission.
This means you have to put down a reason beyond simple profit. You need a reason to drive you, to help inspire you to do your best. This reason is why your workers will also work just as hard, why your customers will join with your efforts, and why your investors are reassured. By having a real mission, you’re signifying that serious about what you’re embarking on. It isn’t just a get-rich-quick scheme that you abandon at first opportunity. When you have a mission and a mission statement, you’re planning for the long haul.
Use Simple Words
Look at the examples we’ve listed earlier. Are there any words there that you can’t understand? No, for the most part, these are very simple words that come across as genuine and heartfelt. When you go with simple words, you’re not trying to impress people with your apparent intelligence and sophistication due to an extensive vocabulary. Instead, if you impress people you do so with your ideas—and what you’re trying to do.
Try to use specific words as well. Generic words tend to be rather vague and people may not have the same interpretation as others. They may not even understand your mission statement clearly. This is especially true for buzzwords, for which people tend to have different definitions. As an added negative, buzzwords are often trendy and overused—after a while, people don’t like to encounter these words as they’re just so passé.
So do try not to use words like synergy or paradigm shift. Just go with simple, specific words. By using precise phrasing, you don’t leave any doubt as to the purpose of your company and your efforts.
Give It Some Pizzazz
This may seem counter to our earlier bit of advice regarding the use of simpler words. But your words and even your ideas can be simple, and yet they can also be inspirational and motivational.
Think of it as establishing a Great House in Game of Thrones and you want memorable House words. For the Starks, their words are “Winter is coming.” That’s all they need to say to explain why they’ve been leading the North for the last 8,000 years.
You want something as memorable for your mission statement, and you want your employees and your customers to remember it. Don’t be afraid to be bold and dramatic. A lofty mission that people won’t easily forget is exactly what you want. It may be as simple as “to provide the best Italian cuisine experience to the people of Brooklyn”, but that’s certainly dramatic and exciting to foodies everywhere.
Just Give It Enough Time
Just like with coming up with your company name, coming up with a mission statement doesn’t take all of 5 minutes. Come up with possible options, and then see how it feels when it’s your mission statement for the whole day. Talk to customers, employees, and investors and see how they feel about it. Get their input so you can get it right.
When you do come up with a mission statement that works, let it be. Don’t needlessly amend it by changing certain words every week or every month. The power of the mission statement lies also in its seeming permanence—it’s the North Star in the sky that can guide your actions as you navigate the treacherous trails of your industry!
Also, check out these 30-Point Checklist for Your Startup