A mission statement is one of the most powerful tools you have for leading your business or organization to success. The trick is knowing how to craft the perfect one, before you start posting it around your office or on your website. There are a few tips and tricks to nailing exactly the right wording to articulate your vision and values - to yourself, to your employees, and to your target audience. Let’s jump in and review what makes an effective mission statement and how to write one for your business or organization. Plus, we’ve included seven excellent mission statement examples at the end for your very own inspiration.
What is a mission statement?
Let’s start with the basics. You’ve probably heard that a mission statement is the lifeblood of your business. But what really is it? A mission statement takes the ‘why’ of what you do and consolidates it into about one to two sentences (and no, a run-on sentence that’s the length of a paragraph does not qualify). This abbreviated expression of your values and purpose helps everyone who encounters your work to immediately understand what you’re all about. And it serves to remind you and your employees why you continue walking in the door each morning.
A strong mission statement will contain four key elements:
As in, readers will walk away understanding the value your works adds to the world or to their lives, feeling inspired to join your mission, convinced that your goal is achievable, and crystal clear on the nature of your business or organization. Once these four components are present, you’ve got yourself a mission statement that is dressed to impress.
Why your business needs a mission statement
The mission statement ingredients sound all well and good, but why exactly is it important for you to adopt one? There are both inward and outward-facing reasons. Internally, it acts as a guiding statement to frame all of your strategic business decisions. It’s easy to reference every time you need a reminder of the values you embody as a company, or the vision you are pursuing. Furthermore, it becomes an important contributor to workplace morale, serving up a dose of inspiration every time your declared purpose starts fading behind administrative emails and fundraising campaigns. Those are the moments when you write your mission statement down on a little sticky note and post it on your computer screen.
Externally, this expression is a critical figure in the landscape of brand identity. Readers will associate your tone and register key words you select, and values you highlight with the larger persona of your company. The mission statement, then, communicates to outsiders who you are, and what you do. In its concise form, its task is to explain how to foster a connection with the curious minds viewing its several sentences, and explain why yours should be the right business or organization for them to choose.
How to write a mission statement for your business in 5 steps
Ask yourself three fundamental questions: What does your business do? How does it do it? And why? With the first question, evaluate your response through the lenses of your customers or beneficiaries, your employees, and - of course - yourself. When relevant, you can widen the perspectives to also define what your business does for your community, or even for the world. The exercise of answering these three questions will help you tease out your purpose, clarify the value you offer, and reconnect to your motivating passion.
Hold a brainstorming session: Either by yourself or with your team, throw around words and phrases that convey the answers you generated in the previous step. Of course, we know each of those questions could give way to an essay - sometimes even a book. Yet, here, brevity comes above all. Try instead for “snapshot words” that capture the sentiment of your business’ value and purpose. Don’t hold back here: All ideas are acceptable at this point, and you never know when a phrase that’s slightly off can spark the suggestion of the phrase that’s exactly right.
Narrow down your choices: Either through a group voting process or by soliciting the feedback of a few people you trust, whittle down the list you generated in step two. At the end of this step, you should emerge with a curated list of your favorite words and phrases that are fitting and truly reflect your brand.
Refine your words into sentences: Set aside a few hours, a quiet area, and put on your best ‘eureka moment’ playlist. It’s time to start massaging your list of chosen words and phrases into one to two complete sentences, keeping in mind all of the key elements we reviewed earlier. Check in frequently with those four criteria to ensure you’re on the right track. Finally, remember to write in the present tense. This an active proclamation of what you do - not what you hope to do someday.
Review what you’ve written: The editing stage is best done with fresh eyes, after you’ve had some time away from your first draft. Notice points where you can tighten the phrasing, or make your wording even more precise. Run through potential future developments for your business. Will the statement you’re crafting now stand the test of time and an evolving business strategy? Take care to build some of this flexibility into your final version (without losing sight of the specificity, of course). Lastly, cut out the fluff. Big words that sound fancy but don’t add much value or clarity for your readers should be directed straight to the trash can. What survives your editing annotations will be the strong, durable, and exact material that quality missions statements are made of.
Now what? Where to display your mission statement
Once you have your mission statement polished and gleaming, it’s time to debut it to your colleagues and target audience. Find a place to print and proudly display it in your workplace so you and all of your team members can look to it as a source of guidance whenever a big decision is in front of you, or you need an inspirational boost.
Additionally, your new mission statement should appear across all of your marketing and promotional materials, from printed brochures to your beautiful website. Due to its short length, it also makes for an excellent bio lines on your social media channels. It’s a snappy answer to people’s initial question of ‘What is this?!’ after they stumble across your profile - and on the Internet, it’s important to keep information flowing fast to keep a web visitor’s attention engaged. Your mission statement makes your point quickly and succinctly, giving your online traffic a reason to stick around. Now, that’s good for business!
P.S. One little hint from us to you: Keep a note of all places where you feature your mission statement. In the event you update it, you will want to be able to make an easy sweep of your office and your online presence to implement the new edits across the board.
Get inspired by these mission statement examples
Enjoy some of these examples of great mission statements that have hit the ball out of the park with their bold precision:
Amp’d: “To provide people with limb loss/difference resources that allow them to live to their fullest potential.”
Southwest Airlines: The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of customer service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and company spirit.
Honest Tea: Honest Tea seeks to create and promote great-tasting, healthy, organic beverages. We strive to grow our business with the same honesty and integrity we use to craft our recipes, with sustainability and great taste for all.
S’well: It’s S’well’s ongoing mission to create products that are both beautiful and eco-friendly, that infuse innovation with inspiration, and that continue to give back to communities in need.
Girl Scouts of the United States of America: Girl Scouting builds girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place.
Snap Inc.: Snap Inc. is a camera company. We believe that reinventing the camera represents our greatest opportunity to improve the way people live and communicate. We contribute to human progress by empowering people to express themselves, live in the moment, learn about the world, and have fun together.
The New York Times: We seek the truth and help people understand the world. This mission is rooted in our belief that great journalism has the power to make each reader’s life richer and more fulfilling, and all of society stronger and more just.
By Joanna Kramer