Every successful organization has a mission that unites their team and guides their purpose, and the written form of that is the mission statement.
Put simply, a mission statement is a clear and specific reason for an organization's being. A strong mission statement articulates why a company exists and what they hope to achieve, helping employees and consumers alike understand the business and its trajectory. It's an important way connect with employees, customers, investors, and other stakeholders in a way that’s clear, concise, and authentic.
When you’re first starting out, it can be difficult to distill your company’s mission into a single, catchy phrase. But with a little time and thought, you can develop a mission statement that will serve as the foundation for your business.
Writing a mission statement isn't easy – distilling your company’s entire mission into one or two sentences is a big ask – but it's necessary to communicate your team's higher purpose.
To help you get started on the right foot, we've assembled this guide to help you understand everything from who should lead the conversations to what elements are involved in an effective, memorable mission statement.
Coming up with the perfect mission statement requires patience, planning, and creativity. Breaking the writing process down into smaller steps makes the experience much more manageable.
Crafting the perfect mission statement starts with leadership. Bring together a team that can help you capture the company’s vision. This team should be large enough to include leaders from various departments but small enough to move quickly. For some organizations, that might include a few executives, whereas others might need up to a dozen.
Your organization's work impacts a wide range of people, from employees to customers and more. Don’t forget to gather information from these folks before starting your process.
Front-line employees have a unique perspective, being so close to the customer. Likewise, understanding customers through direct conversations can add a tangible aspect to any company's mission. Others like vendors, local communities, and investors, will each bring something to the table when it comes to understand your mission.
Research different stakeholder groups to equip your core mission statement team with the right context at the beginning. That could include interviews, surveys, or other research methods. The main goal is to bring in outside perspectives.
Once you've gathered and reviewed research for context, it's time to look at what you do as an organization. What are you currently doing?
The purpose of your company is central to your mission statement, so you should start by identifying what exactly the business does .
You don't have to write it out in perfectly eloquent terms, but make sure your team is clear about what you do as an organization. Maybe you manufacture fabrics, sell equipment, or develop apps. Whatever it is, write it down.
Now that there's something concrete that everyone agrees on, let's take a step back and figure out why you're doing this. How does what you're doing help you get to your vision, your "promised land."
The company exists for a reason, and that reasoning is an important element of the mission statement. What inspired the creation of the business? What was the market lacking that your company provides? And how does what you do build to something bigger?
Why should consumers care about the brand?
One common mistake in writing a mission statement is focusing only on what you want to accomplish for yourself. While it's expected that you want the company to grow and turn a profit, this shouldn't be the main idea presented in your mission statement. Instead, focus on what your organization offers the world and why the market is better because your company exists.
For example, a clothing retailer doesn't just sell clothes to make money. They might sell high quality, ethically sourced outerwear that shoppers can wear with pride. Don't worry, we'll share more examples in a bit! 😉
Now, what are your company's guiding values?
In what manner should the team work to achieve their goals?
What do you want people to think of when they hear about your company?
If your brand was an animal, which one would it be?
Ask yourself creative questions to get a better understanding of your brand's values. Your company's core values could relate to the quality of the product or to the customer experience you offer. They should provide your team with your brand's "personality" and encourage them in their own actions as representatives of the organization.
If your brand promotes ideas like philanthropy, environmentalism, or innovation, those may be values worth mentioning in your mission statement.
When you establish your purpose, you state what the company does. Your core values should be an explanation of how the company does what it does.
You probably have plans and hopes for the organization to expand over time. Don't limit your mission statement to its current state of operations. Don't just consider the future you see for the company...use that future vision to guide your team.
Think about your mission in a way that will stay relevant as you evolve.
The statement doesn't have to be set in stone, though. You may find that your company has outgrown its mission statement after a few years, and adjusting it to fit your new vision is perfectly acceptable. Your mission statement should leave room for growth, but it shouldn't be so vague that it lacks substance.
Once you've completed the previous steps, you're ready to make your mission statement a reality. Give your core team time to write out mission statements of their own before you come together and compare.
Once the team has shared their statements, it's time to discuss. The facilitator of the discussion should allow the team to share their opinions while keeping the team on track. Don't commit to anything on the day-of. These kinds of decisions need some time to mull over.
There should be an appointed decision-maker, oftentimes the CEO, who makes the call and shares a mission statement draft with the team. Next, it's time to unveil the new statement draft with the team.
Unless you're the only person operating the business, the organization is made up of many different parts. Your mission statement should represent the team and the work they do. Before you finalize any mission statement, run it by your team to get their feedback.
They already have strong understanding of the company, so their insight is invaluable. Anything new is bound to get some criticism, so look deeper for any common themes or trends in your team's suggestions that might warrant another review.
In some cases, it might require going back to the drawing board, but after once your team feels heard and the last bits have been honed, it's time to commit.
Observing successful companies is an excellent way to get inspiration for your mission statement. Read as many mission statements as you can, and notice what you like or dislike about them. Although you can't copy another brand's mission statement, you can use a similar style or format if you think it will work well for your company.
Here are three examples of high-quality mission statements:
“To accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.”
Tesla's mission statement is very succinct and memorable, and it finds the middle ground between broad and specific. The statement makes the company's purpose clear: to increase sustainability. It also highlights that we're in the middle of a transition to sustainability, so it acknowledges the current state of the world while looking ahead to the future.
Notice that the mission statement doesn't mention what Tesla sells. This open-ended approach allows room for the company to expand their niche while still fulfilling their mission.
“Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.”
This is a great example of a mission statement that lists several goals. It includes Patagonia's intention to sell products, but it also acknowledges their efforts to support environmental causes. The company's values are clear in their mission statement, so everyone who reads it will know that Patagonia emphasizes environmentalism.
This is possibly the shortest mission statement of any brand, but its brevity makes it memorable. In TED's case, this is all they need to say to explain their purpose. This short phrase articulates their goal of spreading knowledge, and it explains their core values: wisdom and education.
Not all brands can have such short mission statements, so don't worry if yours is longer. However, TED's mission statement is a valuable example of how you can express your goals without going into intense detail.
Take your time when crafting your company's mission statement. Gather inspiration from other companies, and work with your team to develop a clear mission. Follow our previous steps to assemble an effective written mission statement, and it should represent the future of your organization, be something your employees take pride in, and resonate with your target customers.