What is a good mission statement?

One of the first questions I was asked during an interview some time ago was, what I knew about the company. I had a very clear answer to this question based on my experience with their website. I just wasn’t sure whether my opinion was in line with their mission statement. As it turned out later, it did not and that’s because their mission statement was unclear and most importantly nowhere to be seen on their website or any company related sources.

It’s irrelevant whether you are a part of a bigger team or ventured out on a solo entrepreneurial journey. You need to be clear on one primary thing, your purpose. Is it expansion to foreign markets? Or allowing your customers to save more money? Is it letting your audience book all the gadgets they require in one spot? There must be one specific reason why you undertake a project.

Why is mission statement necessary?

There is never enough emphasis put on the mission statement within organizations. Why? In a data driven society, metrics, especially those that show negative figures, grab the attention more easily than words. But numbers are not enough. Dropping average daily rate or a declining load factor are just indicators that the business is in a poor shape. They do not express the idea behind the business just the result of bad decisions or no decisions at all. The one idea around which your business revolves, is what it takes to get the focus. And with that, come closer to achieving success.

What does it take to build a successful mission statement?

Inspiring and succinct statement

Narrowing down a carefully curated list of what the company aims to achieve is a good point to start with. Mission statement responds to the question of what your purpose is. It might also say who your audience is, and what you plan to do for them. It may also state where you want to be in the future, adding the component of vision to it. All in all, the aspect you choose should be encapsulated in a brief sentence or two, without rambling about your ambitions or giving too detailed descriptions how you want to make people feel.  There are succinct mission statements that in under 10 words explain what keeps the companies going.

Great examples belong to TED – “Spread ideas” and Netflix – “Entertain the world” who without the use of pompous words explain their pursuits. What could be more straightforward than that?

Customer – centric mission statement

The mission should put the client in the spotlight. Clients’ have little interest in how big you are or how quickly you have grown. We, as potential clients, tend to be selfish and what to know straightaway the benefits for us first. The background is a secondary thing which we might explore out of  curiosity at a later stage. A perfect example of a broader and powerful mission statement is Linked in which clearly states the benefits for its users – “Connect the world’s professionals to make them more productive and successful”. This mission ticks all the boxes of a perfect mission statement definition. It says what they will do, for whom and what’s the outcome. Walmart’s mission statement is brief and straightforward. And it does show without a shadow of doubt what to expect of their services – “To save people’s money so they can live better”.

Focused

You might have many ideas around how you want to cater to your customers but listing all of them in a mission statement might lead to information overload and dilute the message. If there are five things you want to deliver, there might be the pivot point to help you come up with a single statement which conveys most of those ideas. Being brief adds to clarity so necessary to grab interest and engage, whether it is with your team or your potential customers. HBSC chose this path to club together several objectives in one statement : “Connecting customers to opportunities, enabling businesses to thrive and economies to prosper, and ultimately helping people to fulfil their hopes and realise their ambitions”.

Why do mission statements miss the mark?

It is tempting to overuse grandiose, yet vague words to give your mission more importance. The most powerful statements incorporate simple language, combinations of words that strike a chord rather than impress. Others try to tell too much; they lack focus leading to chaos of ideas even though they resonate with most of us. Jargon is an enemy too. It addresses a handful of people, but you most likely want to break the boundaries and reach out to a wider audience. Whys stick only to those that already know what your business is about?

Knowing what it takes to build a successful mission statement, how would you rate your mission statement?

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