Writing a mission statement can be one of the most difficult things to do when starting a new business. It sounds like a simple task but it’s not, at all. We consult a lot of clients for business development who completely get hung up on this. But the truth is, the reason that its difficult is simply that the client isn’t ready.
This is not a bad thing. And it certainly doesn’t mean that the business has to be on hold!
It just simply means that you are taking your time when deciding the direction of your company for the next ten, twenty, or one hundred years. But for now you can go on with your 1-week, 6-month, or 2-year plans, make some money while killing time as you find your footing to fuel the fire to write your mission statement.
Find Your Way as an Entrepreneur before You Can Decide What Your Mission Statement Is
Some of us have this calling for being an entrepreneur above anything else. It’s just in our blood to start and run a business no matter what that business is. While, I truly believe in running a business in the industry that you love yet I also believe that there are some of us who are attracted to and addicted to the thrill of building something from the ground up and the topic or industry is secondary. If you are a first time startup entrepreneur and I just described you then at this point your mission is simply just to run a successful business. While this is a good personal mission statement to have, you have to do a little more soul searching to come up with a great business mission statement.
Please do not take offense to this because I encourage you to stay in this discovery state for a while. Take your time to find out what industry truly inspires you and find out where there are great opportunities. This is where its takes time. Run a business, intern at another business, do a lot of research, fail at a venture, moderately succeed at another, full-on succeed at another and later find that you hate the industry. Once you find that business and industry that you love and are passionate about, then and only then stake your flag in it and pursue with zeal.
And then even after that I encourage you to take more time and get comfortable in that industry and business. Establish your place in the world. And then look up, 6 months, 1-year or even 2 years in the business take the time to write your mission.
Now, if you are a seasoned entrepreneur or even an entrepreneur who became one out of necessity due to some great passion that later forced you to entrepreneurship, then writing a mission statement might be something that you feel like you’re ready for early in the game. In some cases you might be right, but let me remind you of a couple of things before you decide to.
- Customers or clients typically don’t go looking for your mission statement. They won’t say “Hey, I’m not going to do business with Mary’s Cleaning Service because she doesn’t have a mission statement.” They really won’t miss it… at all. If they do, you probably don’t want them as a client/customer anyway. They’re completely neurotic.
- It doesn’t hurt to wait and let it marinate. Think about it for as long as you can. Your mission (if it’s a true mission) will guide your marketing language, your about copy, the types of customers/clients you attract, and even possibly your revenue (based on the actions you take as a result of defining your mission).
Don’t Confuse Your Business’ mission with Your Business’ Goals
We recently had a business development consulting client that we were working with and he was in desperate need of help with writing a mission statement for his company. His business has been around for 5 years and up until this point he’s been successful. He hired us because he’s been feeling stagnant over the last 2 years and realized that one of the things stunting his growth was his lack of attention to the softer side of the business. His company is a blue-collar company that involves a lot of labor and though he and his team have been working physically hard to serve their clients, the owner felt that his lack of an overall mission had been hurting him.
And I completely agreed with him. But this wasn’t the problem.
The problem was he was in the midst of repositioning his marketing efforts to target a new market. This normally wouldn’t be a problem but in our sessions to develop the mission statement he kept insisting that we add language about this new sector of the industry he was attacking.
Without giving up too much information about the client’s identity I’ll change the details to protect the innocent. Lets call him Joe and Joe was in the business of selling wood and his new marketing efforts called for him to niche down to selling cedar planks because he saw a market opportunity. Joe insisted that his mission statement say something like this:
“Our mission is to be the #1 provider of cedar planks”.
He was completely emotional and “turnt up” about his newly discovered business opportunity that he wanted to incorporate it in his company’s mission.
My response was this: “Remember your mission statement is exactly that, a statement of your mission…its states the reason your company exists.” I asked him this question… “if the Cedar market went away, would you feel like you have lost your place in the business world or will you simply sell another type of wood and your business will simply go on without major marketplace interruption?”
His answer was “We would just sell another type of wood”
So I replied “then this is a medium-term goal and not your mission”
In your efforts to niche down don’t confuse a short or medium term goal for a mission.
Here are some questions to ask yourself if you are confused about the two when deciding on a mission statement:
- Is the accomplishment of this goal or mission tied to my existence as a business in all or any market conditions?
- Does the accomplishment of this goal/mission fuel my purpose as a person/business?
- Is this goal/mission large enough to make this all worth while if I died the moment after it was accomplished? If yes then its a mission. If no, and you still feel like you would have more work to do then its just a goal.
Your Mission Statement Should Be Larger Than Just You
A really great (not good) mission statement should be larger than just you. It should look to serve the public in some way. It should look to solve some problem large or small and it should be on a large scale that impacts the world around you… all while positioning the business to achieve its goals. This is another reason why I recommend that you take your time to write your mission statement. It can certainly be a while before you start to look at your business from a bird’s eye view like this. You have to first get your footing as an entrepreneur and balance the ups and downs of your new lifestyle before you can start thinking about impacting the world. You have to take care of you and your employees before you figure out how you really fit in the community around you.
Here are some examples of great mission statements because I know you love examples:
“We seek to be Earth’s most customer-centric company for four primary customer sets: consumers, sellers, enterprises, and content creators.”
“To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world.”
“To give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected.”
“At American Express®, we have a mission to be the world’s most respected service brand. To do this, we have established a culture that supports our team members, so they can provide exceptional service to our customers.”
“Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.”
To improve the local and economic conditions and overall quality of life of our environment through:
1. The most effective use of new media technology;
2. Continuous education of ourselves, stakeholders, and clients; and
3. Providing small business development in the community.
You know, I had to throw ours (Lidyr) in there…lol. We literally waited 2 years to write it. We didn’t even attempt to until we knew what was in our hearts and then we knew the time was right.
Here are is a questionnaire that will help you to write a great mission statement when the time is right.
Mission Statement Questionnaire
- What are your core competencies?
- Outside of money, why do you offer these core competencies?
- What drew you to this industry?
- What do you do better than your competitors?
- What is your point of difference? Learn more about point of difference here.
- If you could remedy one of the major or minor problems of the world what would it be? (world hunger, racism, improve education, decrease delivery time for online shopping, bad service at the grocery store, improve quality of presidential candidates…lol)
- Who does the success of your business impact?
Answer these questions, when you are ready, and the answers will help you uncover some language and key phrases that will help you in developing your business’ mission statement.