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Published on March 20, 2019

How to Write a Powerful Mission Statement for Your Business

How to Write a Powerful Mission Statement for Your Business

Have you ever felt lost in the minutia of your job?

As a business owner, I can relate to getting bogged down in the day to day operations of my business. Things like inventory, payroll, scheduling, purchasing and employee management take up the bulk of my day.

While these things are important and need to get done, focusing too much on the details can make you lose sight of the big picture. This is why having a good mission statement comes in handy.

What is a Mission Statement?

Put simply, a mission statement is an internal document that provides a clear purpose for the organization. It provides a common reference point for everyone in the organization to start from.

In other words, after reading your company’s mission statement, managers and employees should be able to answer the question “What are company’s main objectives?” For example, Southwest Airlines mission statement reads:[1]

“Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit. We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth.”

In this single statement, Southwest conveys the company’s goals of providing the highest level of customer service as well as providing a good working environment for their employees.

Mission Statement VS. Vision Statement

While the mission and vision statements are related, there are subtle but distinct differences the you should be aware of.

First of all, a mission statement is designed primarily as an internal company document. It provides clarity and direction for managers and employees.

While there’s nothing wrong with sharing your company’s mission statement with the outside world, its intended audience is within the company.

While a mission statement provides a general framework for the organization, the vision statement is usually a more inspirational statement designed to motivate employees and inspire customers. Going back to Southwest Airlines, their vision statement reads:[2]

“To become the world’s most loved, most flown, and most profitable airline.”

This statement inspires good feeling from the customer while motivating the employees to achieve that vision.

What Does a Good Mission Statement Look Like?

When coming up with a mission statement, it’s important to take your time and do it right. Too often, people (especially entrepreneurs) just write down the first thing that comes to mind and they end up with worthless or (worse yet) a generic mission statement that is utterly useless.

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Remember, a mission statement should provide a common framework for everyone in your organization.

When writing a mission statement, you should always try to incorporate the following;

  • What we do?
  • How we do it?
  • Whom do we do it for?
  • What value are we bringing?

Now, you can see how tempting it is to just come up with something generic that ticks off those four boxes. Something like “We provide the best widgets available online for the consumer.”

After all, that did check off all the boxes:

What we do? Provide widgets.

How we do it? Online.

Who do we do it for? The consumer.

What value we bring? The best widgets.

The problem with this mission statement is that it could apply to any number of companies producing the same widget. There is nothing to distinguish your company or its widgets from any of your competitors widgets.

Compare that mission statement to this one:

“We provide the highest quality widgets directly to the consumer at an affordable price backed up with a 100% satisfaction guarantee. If our clients aren’t 100% satisfied, we’ll make it right.”

What’s the difference?

Both mission statements answer all the same questions of what, how, whom and value. But in the second statement, they are differentiating their company from all other competitors by answering the question “what makes us unique”.

Another way to read that is, “Why you should buy from us.” In this example, it’s because our widgets are of the highest quality and we stand behind them 100%.

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You might have noticed the statement didn’t say that we sell widgets at the lowest possible price. That’s because we are emphasizing quality and satisfaction over price.

A different company’s mission statement may emphasize selling widgets at the lowest possible price with little to no mention of a guarantee.

Hallmarks of a Good Mission Statement

1. Keep It Brief

Your mission statement should be no longer than three sentences. This is not your company’s magnum opus.

You should be able to distill the what, how, who and why questions into a succinct message.

2. Have a Purpose

A company’s missions statement should include the reason it even exists.

Make clear exactly what the company does with statements like “We strive to provide our customers with …….”

3. Include a “How”

Take this as an opportunity to differentiate your company from its competitors.

How do you provide a product or service that’s different or better than how your competitor provides it?

4. Talk About the Value You Bring to the Table

This is where you can really set yourself apart from the competition. This is the “why” customers should buy from you.

Do you offer the lowest prices? Fastest delivery? Exceptional customer service? Whatever it is that sets you apart and gives your particular products, services or company an advantage talk about it in the mission statement.

5. Make Sure It’s Plausible

It’s okay to shoot for the stars just to settle for the moon, but not in a mission statement.

Being overly ambitious will only set you and your employees up for failure, hurt morale and make you lose credibility. You will also scare away potential investors if they think that you are not being realistic in your mission statement.

6. Make It Unique and Distinctive

Imagine if someone who knew nothing about your business walked in and saw how it was operating, then they read your mission statement. Would they be able to recognize that mission statement was attached to that business? If not re-work it.

7. Think Long Term

A mission statement should be narrow enough so that it provides a common framework for the existing business, but open enough to allow for longer term goals. It should be able to grow as the business grows.

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8. Get Feedback

This is very important, especially from managers and employees.

Getting their input can clarify how they currently see the company and their role within the organization. It’s also a good way to get people “on-board,” as studies show that people are more likely to go along with an idea if they feel included in the decision making process beforehand.

9. Review Often and Revise as Necessary

You should review the missions statement often for two reasons.

First, as a reminder of what the essence of the company is. It’s easy to forget when you are in the day to day grind of the business.

And two, to make sure that the mission statement is still relevant. Things change, and not everything can be anticipated at the time a mission statement was written.

For example, if a mission statement was written before the advent of the internet, a company that use to sell things door to door now probably has a website that people order from. You should always update the mission statement to reflect these changes.

The Value of Mission Statements: Why Go Through All of These in the First Place?

It may seem like a lot of work just for a few sentences that describe a company, but the value of a well written mission statement should not be discounted.

First of all, if you are an entrepreneur, crystallizing the what, how, whom and value questions will keep you focused on the core business and its values.

If you are a manager or other employee, knowing the company’s basic tenants will help inform your interactions with both customers and colleagues alike.

Strategic Planning

A relevant mission statement acts as a framework for strategic planning. It provides guidance and parameters for making strategic decisions for the future of the company.

Measuring Performance

By having the company’s mission in a concrete form, it also allows for an objective measurement of how well the organization is meeting its stated goals at any one time.

Management can identify strengths and weaknesses in the organization based on the criteria set forth in the mission statement and make decisions accordingly.

Solidifying the Company’s Goals and Values for Employees

Part of a well run organization is nurturing happy and productive employees.

As humans, we all have an innate need for both purpose and to be part of something larger than ourselves. Providing employees with a clearly defined mission statement helps to define their role in the larger organization. Thus, fulfilling both of these needs.

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Now I’m not saying that a mission statement can overcome low pay and poor working conditions, but with everything else being equal, it can contribute to a happier and more productive workforce.

To Hold Management Accountable

By creating a mission statement, a company is publicly stating its highest values and goals for the world to see. By doing so, you are inviting both the public and your employees to to scrutinize how well the company lives up to its ideals.

So if you state that you only provide the highest quality products, and then offer something less, it’s fair for both the public and the employees to question, and even call for a change in management.

If management doesn’t take the mission statement seriously, no one else will either; and the legitimate authority that management rely’s on will be diminished.

To Serve as an Example

This is the opposite side of the coin from the previous statement. If the highest levels of management are seen taking the mission statement seriously and actively managing within the framework of the statement, that attitude filters down throughout the organization.

After all, a good employee knows what’s important to their boss and will take the steps necessary to curry favor with them.

Finally, use the company’s mission statement as a way to define roles within the company. You can do this by giving each division in the company a copy of the mission statement and challenge the head of each division to create a mission statement for their respective departments.

Their individual mission statements should focus on how each department fits in and ultimately contributes to the success of the company’s overall mission statement. This serves as both a clarifying and a team building exercise for all parts of the organization.

Final Thoughts

Developing a mission statement is too often just an after-thought, especially for entrepreneurs. We tend to prioritize things that we perceive will give us the biggest “bang for our buck.”

Somehow, taking the time and effort to sit down and think seriously about the what, whom, how and value of our business seems like a waste of time. After all, we got in the business to make money and become successful, isn’t that all we need to know?

That mindset will probably get you started okay, but if you find yourself having any success at all, you’ll find that there really is such a thing as growing pains.

By putting in the time and effort to create a mission statement, you are laying the groundwork that will give you a path to follow in your growth. And isn’t building long term success what we are really after?

More Resources About Achieving Business Success

Featured photo credit: Fab Lentz via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Southwest Airlines: About Page
[2] Fit Small Business: 10 Vision Statement Examples To Spark Your Imagination

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David Carpenter

Lifelong entrepreneur and business owner helping others to realize the American Dream of business ownership

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Last Updated on October 22, 2019

How Do You Measure Success? Here’re 10 Better Ways

How Do You Measure Success? Here’re 10 Better Ways

“Larry is a failure at everything except life.”

That was a memorable line from a somewhat forgettable Ted Danson movie in the 1980s. Pithy, it did encapsulate one eternal truth, namely that life is the goal. Making the most of one’s limited time in this world is the core measure of success.

So how do you measure success?

Money is meaningless until you do something good with it. Fame is fleeting and tertiary at best. But life and how you live it – in business, in family, in everyday interactions – is the true measure of accomplishment.

The Inside and Outside of Success

Life occurs within and outside of you. The two – yourself and everyone else – are interconnected. Their lives, and thus their success, are influenced by you and your success which is influenced by them.

It becomes clear that any measure of “success” cannot be one dimensional. There are many metrics, but if a person looks only at those that directly affect them, then they lack a complete measurement. It is good to succeed in business, but it is important to succeed in life. The two are not mutually exclusive, and in some ways positively reinforcing.

10 New Ways of Measuring Success

For a Successful Business

In business, it is not always the bottom line that defines success. I won’t argue against it – profitability is the first rule of business, because unprofitable companies do not survive. Just beyond that are some success measurements that are nearly as important:

1. Hitting Your Goals

If you call “8 ball in the side pocket” and scratch, then you failed to hit your goal. Knowing and achieving your business goals is important.

But goals in business have many manifestations. Aside from profitability, some business goals include growing your market share, disrupting a market, having very high customer satisfaction rates, reducing product defects, and more, and more, and more.

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However, you cannot achieve your business goals unless you know what they are, communicate those goals to your employees, and measure the results. Many people in business are vague about their goals. They are not clear in making everyone in the company embrace the goals or checking on progress.

None of these success-generating steps is difficult, but success will likely not come without them

2. Growing Your Business

“Growth” is quite personal, even to an executive.

In this, a business is a bit like a child. As the business’s parent, you get a certain satisfaction in raising it, helping past the stumbling toddler years, seeing it blossom into adulthood, and ever expanding its horizons. In the process, you grow the lives and fortunes of your employees, your shareholders, your community and your country.

3. Low Turnover

According to an article in Forbes, the turnover rate is the highest it has been in a decade. My company, Micrel, had the lowest employee turnover rate in our industry, as well as having the highest “boomerang employee rate (people who left the company and decided to come back).[1]

This form of success is a reflection of the corporate culture you created. A bad culture creates a high turnover rate, and a good culture a low one.

4. A Well-Balanced Life

All work and no play make Jack a dull boy, and often a jerk. The reason is that life is not work, only a part of it. A wealthy captain of industry that never takes long and relaxing walks holding the hand of a loving spouse is not a success.[2]

Measuring balance in your life is non-productive. But when you lack balance, it is easy to measure. The shortfall of joy, the failing health, the shattered marriages, the estranged children … these are the heavy weights placed on the wrong said of life’s scale, and they are a clear enough measure.[3]

5. Sharing Your Success with Others

Ebenezer Scrooge, and Jacob Marley before him, horded their wealth. It cost Marley everything.

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“But you were always a good man of business, Jacob,” faltered Scrooge, who now began to apply this to himself.

“Business!” cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again. “Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!”

Sharing is perhaps the true measure of all success, be it a wealth of money, time, patience, knowledge, wisdom or good will.

For a Successful Life

Which brings us to the non-business side of the business life. As your business affects your personal life, so too does your personal life affect your business. The two cannot be separated. Some elements that should be on your success scorecard include:

6. Good Health

The enjoyment of life is at best incomplete in poor health. At worst, it is hellish.

Now take poor health outside of your body. How does being sickly affect your company (when you cannot lead fully), your family (their support and their stress over you), your community (when you can no longer serve)?

Good health is a gift unto itself, but also to everyone you touch. Don’t cheat anyone out of your good health. Do what is necessary to keep your machine in good working order as the first imperative toward success.

7. Healthy Family

Family is love and support. Every person’s role is to grow their family, to stay connected, to provide love and support. In that giving to others, you improve their lives while improving yours.

It also lays the groundwork for you receiving love and support when you need it. If you are launching a business and taking the risks that go along with it, you will need that love and support.

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8. Learn to do the Tough Things First

In or out of business, we are all faced with seemingly insurmountable obstacles. But we humans have this funny knack of overcoming them.

Indeed, we do it so routinely that out sight miracles that go against nature – flight, the internet, leaving the planet on rocket ships – has become almost blasé.

None of these things were accomplished instantly. They were the result of many small successes. The ones that happened fastest were where a person or a team looked at all the problems, took on the biggest and toughest first, then conquered it. They did the Tough Things First, which made the rest of the project much simpler and more exciting for everyone.

This applies to daily life as well as business. If you are planning to relocate your spouse, several children, pets and all your worldly belongings across country, the task likely looks overwhelming. But the moment you prioritize the list of tasks, and knock the biggest and ugliest off the list, the rest seems like a cakewalk.

9. Being a Teacher

One of the highest compliments I ever received was from an industry analyst who said that I was a “teacher”.

Yet we all are, or can be, teachers. It may be providing basic life lessons to a child on your knee, instructing an employee in complex processes or technologies, or even teaching by example via living a good life.

For me, one joy has been writing a good book on management and leadership, and another about the intersections of people, society and business. It is by teaching, and in my case writing, that you directly benefit others.

Life can be complex, filled with many topics and problems. By sharing knowledge and wisdom, we lead others past difficulties and on toward their own greater success.

10. Dignity and Honor

My marketing director is a proper Southern Gent, which is easily discernible by a well-honed sense of honor. You don’t have to be a southerner to live a life of dignity and honor, but if you are male you do have to be a gentleman.

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Dignity circles around self-respect and honor involves acting with honesty, fairness, and integrity. The latter leads to the former. Indeed, you cannot have self-respect without practicing the basic virtues of honesty, fairness, and integrity.

Why is this a measure of success? Because we humans are social animals, and society exists only because of trust.

Honesty, fairness, and integrity are the cornerstones of trust, and thus the foundation of society. A person is truly successful when they add to society.

Final Thoughts

All this brings us back to the dictionary definition of “success”, which is:

“the favorable or prosperous termination of attempts or endeavors.”

You may or may not be a businessperson, but you are always a person. Your endeavors are both in and out of the office. Since each sphere affects the other, the true measure of success lies in how you managed your affairs in all facets of existence, for they cannot be viewed in isolation.

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Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

Reference

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