This article is part of a larger series on Starting a Business.
A mission statement is a short, meaningful phrase that summarizes the purpose that drives your business. Similar to your business’ vision (the “what”) and values (the “how”), your mission statement answers the question of why you do what you do.
We’ll take you through a simple six-step process to develop your business mission statement. We’ll also provide you with a template and examples to inspire you.
Once you create your company mission statement consider posting it on your business website.
Mission Statement Template
As you go through the template, think of your mission statement as a haiku or tweet — less is more.
Here are the six steps to help you create your company mission statement.
Step 1: Ask Questions
You may want to do this alone, with a business partner or with a group of trusted advisors like your top managers, business coach, accountant or even your spouse. The point is to start asking questions about what your business does and why.
Ask yourself and your team basic questions like these about your business:
- What is it we do?
- What do we create?
- Why does it matter?
- Who does it matter to?
- How does it make a difference?
Take your time. In fact, it may be best to schedule a meeting or two to accomplish this. For example, in one meeting you may want to review other business’ mission statements. Look on the internet for companies that you admire, or those that do work similar to yours.
Then ask yourself and your advisors:
- How is our business different than our competitors?
- How could we improve upon other’s mission statements?
- Which mission statements resonate with us?
- What kind of description feels right for our business?
Here’s an example:
Let’s say you own a tire store and want to come up with a mission statement for your business. These are the answers that you might give to the questions above:
- What is it we do? Install tires
- What do we create? Safer vehicles
- Why does it matter? Fewer accidents
- Who does it matter to? Vehicle owners and their families like parents of teen drivers
- How does it make a difference? We make traveling within our community safer
Nothing in those questions or answers refers to how much money you make or how many tires you sell. They’re about your customers’ needs, as a mission statement should be.
Next, ask some competitor questions:
- How is our business different than our competitors? We’re locally owned
- How could we improve upon other’s mission statements? Example: Big O’s mission is to offer better service than customers can get anywhere else; we could say instead that we care about you and your safety
- Which mission statements resonate with us? Superior Tire in California says, “Value pricing and feel-good customer service.”
- What kind of description feels right for our business? One that focuses on keeping your family safe providing hometown service
Step 2: Brainstorm Based on Your Answers
This may seem like the easiest part, but it can prove difficult because people tend to edit themselves. Instead, just write. Ask yourself or your team to start saying words or short phrases out loud. Some words and ideas will be great while others will be silly. Don’t judge.
In fact, don’t edit at all as you’re brainstorming. Just write down the words that pop into yours or their heads. Write exactly what they say. Don’t reword their ideas or 1) they’ll stop contributing and, 2) you may miss the nugget of their contribution.
This is a data gathering phase only. What you’ll end up with are some common feeling words or short phrases that begin to make sense and start to resonate with you and others.
Step 3: Cull Your List of Words
If you alone are coming up with the words (not a recommended approach), it’s easy to edit by crossing out the terms that you don’t like or don’t fit. However, a fun approach is to do this in a meeting or group setting and give attendees the chance to “vote” on words or phrases they like.
Consider posting the words on a chart or document and then let your team vote with stars or checkmarks next to the terms or descriptors they like best. This feedback provides the benefit of getting the “buy-in” of your staff, which we’ll discuss the importance later on in this article.
This process will cull that list of words to the ones that are most representative of your company and most important in representing what your company does and why.
Step 4: Create a First Draft
This is the part of the process you or your marketing, public relations, human resources or another creative-writing resource may want to take charge of. It’s not done as a group — it’s best done alone. Here’s an example of five first-draft ideas for the tire company mission statement.
You can summarize your thoughts into one first draft mission statement. Alternatively, you can come up with a few first-draft mission statements from which to work. The point is to get your mission statement/s on paper. You can edit later.
Step 5: Solicit Feedback
Oddly, this is an important step some business owners skip. It’s important because you want to be sure that what you mean to say is understood by others. If you publish your mission statement without asking others what they think, you may end up with something that inspired you but no one else. Another mistake is to let a PR or HR person alone craft your mission statement without yours or other’s input. It’s your mission statement and should be reflective of your voice, so take the time to get it right.
Again, a meeting works. You can also type up your mission statement and shop it around your office. Get feedback from customers, employees and other business owners. Listen to their input on how the mission statement makes them feel.
Note that some people will not want to hurt your feelings, so they’ll simply nod and say, “it’s fine.” A few good questions to get them to open up with honest input are:
- How does this make you feel about our company?
- What would you change in the wording?
- What about this phrase isn’t working for you?
- What is it missing?
Steps four and five may need to be repeated until you end up with something everyone can agree gives purpose the business and that they can buy into. Author Brandon Peele explains why:
Brandon Peele, Author, ‘Planet on Purpose’
“People who are connected with their purpose are four times as likely to be engaged and are five times more productive than those who are not connected with their higher purpose. This research and much more (on the effects of purpose in the workplace and in health and society) is available here: http://scienceofpurpose.org.”
Just keep editing and getting feedback until you and those who you trust all agree that you’ve nailed it.
Step 6: Finalize & Share It
Once you’ve firmed up your mission statement, it’s time to finalize it. You’ll probably feel relief once you decide, “this is it — this is our mission statement.” Be sure to write it down somewhere so that you don’t forget the exact words you used because the next step is to begin using your mission statement in company communications.
Our Tires & Service Keep You & Your Family Safe on All Wheels
Communicate Your Company Mission Statement
There are many ways to share your mission statement, so we’ll focus on some of the more common. Keep in mind that you have more than one audience. Your mission statement should be shared with your employees. It should also be shared with your customers and perhaps even your vendor-partners.
The communication vehicles you use to share your mission statement may serve multiple audiences. Here are two examples:
- Employee-facing documents: You can include your mission statement on workplace posters, your company handbook, offer letters, your company careers page or employee paycheck stubs. Also, include it in job ads and print it on employee swag like t-shirts, hats and coffee mugs.
- Customer-facing materials: You can include your mission statement on business cards, product brochures, business proposals, your company website, advertising billboards, mailers and even on company vehicle vinyl decals.
Document Where Your Mission Statement Is Posted
Make sure you document every place that your company mission statement is displayed, communicated or shown. If you ever modify it, you’ll want to make sure it’s revised consistently everywhere it’s used.
3 Examples of Mission Statements from Top Companies
We asked some business experts for mission statements that inspire them. We hope these three mission statement examples give you a flavor of what one should look like. Notice how they make you feel about the business. Check them out:
Benefits of a Mission Statement
In addition to helping you convey the purpose of your business and serving as a branding tool, your mission statement can be used to attract customers and employees to your company. Use it to inspire your employees with internal branding. Use it as external branding to motivate customers to call you instead of the competition.
Your mission statement can help you establish your employment brand and encourage top talent to work for your company. It can motivate and engage employees if they buy into your mission statement.
It’s not uncommon for employees to share where they work with their friends and family. Social media takes their enthusiasm far outside your four walls. If you’re lucky, they may share what they like about your company and its mission with their social network, improving your brand reputation. Here’s an example.
Your mission statement is yet another tool in your marketing arsenal as well. It can be used to promote your brand, social media campaigns and community engagement initiatives.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Why write a mission statement down?
Your mission statement is out there already. It exists. It’s just not written down, and it’s being misinterpreted by those who don’t yet know your business well. In other words, if you don’t give your employees and customers the words or phrase to convey your mission, they’ll do it in their own words. By writing down your mission statement, you control the message. You control the brand.
2. How best to share my mission statement?
In addition to sharing your mission statement on your website, business cards, job postings and the side of work vehicles — get creative. Ask your employees where would they like to see your mission statement posted. On the back of their work jackets? On buttons they wear? On packing slips inside boxes they ship? Your mission statement can be shared whenever or wherever you’re interacting with others. Ever been to a trade show? Mission statements are everywhere.
3. What if my mission statement changes?
Sometimes, it happens that you find a better way to convey your mission or your company mission actually changes. Think about all the places where it’s posted, from your employee handbook to your highway billboard. If you followed step six above, you’ve already documented all the places that your mission statement can be found.
Plan to make the changes all at the same time. Updating your mission statement may warrant a press release to promote your new updated mission. You may also want to recommunicate your mission statement in a company meeting (to employees) and in a customer letter (to clients). Use that opportunity to explain the rationale behind the change, and you may earn additional admiration and loyalty.
4. What is different when writing a personal mission statement?
Instead of focusing on what the business does and why, focus on what you do and why. Otherwise, the steps for writing a personal mission statement are mostly the same. The only difference from the six-step process above is that your group of advisors may be small — perhaps you and your partner, you and your business coach or you alone.
Here are personal mission statement examples from a business leader and a sports hero.
Oprah Winfrey: To be a teacher.
Merlin J Olson: The focus of my life begins at home with family …
5. What is different when writing a mission statement for a nonprofit organization?
Instead of focusing on the for-profit products and services of a business, a nonprofit mission statement will focus on the nonprofit product or services. Because both are outwardly focused (on those they serve), nonprofit and for-profit mission statements are very similar and can be created by following the same six steps above.
Two samples are provided below by one of our nonprofit contributors:
The Bottom Line
A mission statement is nothing but words. They should be your words. They describe your business — the reason your business exists, what it does, who it serves and why it matters. We hope you create a mission statement that inspires you, your team and your clients. Once you’ve created that mission statement, share it with us in the comments; will you?