What Is a Mission Statement?
A mission statement is used by a company to explain, in simple and concise terms, its purpose(s) for being. The statement is generally short, either a single sentence or a short paragraph.
- A mission statement is used by a company to explain, in simple and concise terms, its purpose(s) for being.
- It is usually one sentence or a short paragraph, explaining a company's culture, values, and ethics.
- Mission statements serve several purposes, including motivating employees and reassuring investors of the company's future.
- To craft a mission statement, consider how your company impacts customers, donors, investors, or your community and why you strive to help these parties.
- A mission statement might slightly overlap other marketing content, but it is different from a vision statement, value statement, brand, or slogan.
How a Mission Statement Works
Mission statements serve a dual purpose by helping employees remain focused on the tasks at hand, and encouraging them to find innovative ways of moving toward increasing their productivity with the eye to achieving company goals.
A company’s mission statement defines its culture, values, ethics, fundamental goals, and agenda. Furthermore, it defines how each of these applies to the company's stakeholders—its employees, distributors, suppliers, shareholders, and the community at large. These entities can use this statement to align their goals with that of the company.
The statement reveals what the company does, how it does it, and why it does it. Prospective investors may also refer to the mission statement to see if the values of the company align with theirs. For example, an ethical investor against tobacco products would probably not invest in a company whose mission is to be the largest global manufacturer of cigarettes.
It is not uncommon for large companies to spend many years and millions of dollars to develop and refine their mission statements. In some cases, mission statements eventually become household phrases.
Mission statements aren't just for small or large companies. Many successful individuals, professionals, and investors have taken the time to craft a personal mission statement. These personal mission statements often incorporate the financial, professional, spiritual, and relational aspects of life. This, in turn, helps an individual maintain a healthy work/life balance that increases their personal achievement in all of these areas.
Drafting a Mission Statement
While it may be difficult to narrow down the focus of your company in a single statement, here are some tips to help you write a good mission statement.
- First, outline what your company does. This may be a good you produce or a service you provide to your customers—whatever makes your business run.
- Next, describe the way in which your company does what it does. Instead of being technical—that's not the point here—think of what values go into the core of your business. Maybe you value quality, customer service, or being sustainable. Alternatively, you may foster creativity and innovation in your business. These are key points to outline in your mission statement.
- Finally, include why you do what you do in your mission statement. This is key. It helps you stand out as a business, highlighting what sets you apart from the others in your industry. Remember to keep the mission statement short and to the point.
After you've drafted it, remember to look it over, edit it, and have someone else give it a once over. After you've approved it, you'll need to find a way to incorporate it wherever you can. In addition, be mindful to periodically review your mission statement. Although it's never ideal to constantly pivot your image and change your mission statement, your company may outgrow or shift directions resulting in the need of a new statement.
A company’s mission is its identity, and its vision is its journey to accomplishing its mission. A company should take as long as it needs to craft the right statement to describe its mission.
Displaying a Mission Statement
Once a mission statement is crafted, it's up to the company to make it publicly known. A mission statement only holds value if it is shared with existing and potential customers, vendors, donors, or employees.
Because a company's mission statement is often pretty short, it is easy to incorporate into marketing material. A mission statement should always be found somewhere on a company's website. In addition, it can also be used in marketing documents. A company may solicit employees to incorporate adding its mission statement as part of a company-wide standard e-mail signature block.
A mission statement is also a perfect "elevator pitch" sentence that key members of your company should know. Because it's so brief, it is easy to memorize. In addition, it's a perfect introduction for someone who has never heard of your company or wants to know more. Whether it's at a networking event, social gathering, or bus ride to work, a mission statement is an easy way to captivate a stranger's interest in your company should they ask what your company does.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Mission Statements
Companies can benefit from having a mission statement. First, it outlines a company's goals and position in the industry for its customers, competitors, and other stakeholders. It also helps the organization focus and stay on track to make the right decisions about its future.
Furthermore, the mission statement helps clarify a company's purpose. With a mission statement, a company's customers and investors can rest assured that the company is fully committed to achieving its goals and maintaining its values. It is also useful to guide and motivate employees, keeping them in line with the company's values.
Last, a mission statement adds validity to an organization. From the outside looking in, a mission statement demonstrates that a company has considered the big picture and the major goals it wants to accomplish. It demonstrates thoughtful leadership, reputability, and inspiration to potential investors, employees, or donors.
There are drawbacks to having a mission statement. Mission statements may sometimes be very lofty and far too unrealistic, which can distract employees from the company's goals. Management may become too distracted with high-level targets that shorter-term, necessary steps to get there become neglected.
Even though a mission statement is short and concise, it may take a lot of time and money to develop. The resources spent on a bad mission statement could be better spent elsewhere, creating an opportunity loss. The difficulty of crafting such a concise statement is many parties often have ideas, and there's not room for many of them. After the bulk of the work has been done, companies may struggle with "wordsmithing" or simply rearranging words instead of trying to generate value.
Last, by publicly announcing to the world the company's mission, some people on the outside (or even the inside) may disagree with the mission. In the examples below, some individuals may be skeptical of alternative sources of energy and may be scared away when learning of Tesla's mission statement. A mission statement doesn't give much opportunity for a rebuttal to clarify or further explain what a company is all about.
A mission statement is not required, though it may be a grant application for a nonprofit or asked for by an interested investor of a company.
Mission Statement Examples
Mission statements vary considerably from company to company. The following examples are the mission statements of some of the trending companies as of 2022:
- Nike (NKE): "Our mission is what drives us to do everything possible to expand human potential. We do that by creating groundbreaking sport innovations, by making our products more sustainably, by building a creative and diverse global team and by making a positive impact in communities where we live and work."
- Walmart (WMT): "We save people money so they can live better."
- Starbucks (SBUX): "To inspire and nurture the human spirit—one person, one cup, and one neighborhood at a time."
- Tesla (TSLA): "To accelerate the world's transition to sustainable energy."
- JP Morgan (JPM): "We aim to be the most respected financial services firm in the world."
Mission Statements vs. Other Statements
A mission statement is often confused or grouped with other types of organizational statements. Here are some other types of content and how they vary from a mission statement.
Mission Statement vs. Vision Statement
A company’s mission statement differs from its vision statement. While the mission statement remains unchanged for the most part and represents who the company is or aspires to be for the entirety of its existence, the vision statement can change. The latter outlines what the company needs to do to remain the way it has presented itself to be. In effect, a company’s mission is its identity, and the vision is its journey to accomplishing its mission.
Mission Statement vs. Value Statement
A company's value statement is also centered around a company's core principles and philosophy. However, it is more direct in guiding how decisions will be made and what will impact the daily culture of the organization. A value statement often includes actionable direction such as "taking ownership", "acting ethically", "doing what is right", or "being transparent." Whereas a mission statement describes the highest level of purpose, a vision statement starts to describe how that purpose will be achieved.
Mission Statement vs. Company Goals
A company's goals or business plan may be publicly disclosed or kept private/internal. In general, a company's goals are often even more specific, potentially referring to specific business lines, growth percentages, geographical regions, or new initiatives. While a mission statement often does not mention a specific aspect of the business, company goals are often measurable relating to departments or products so a company can track progress. A company's mission statement should drive the goals that are set.
Mission Statement vs. Brand
A brand is an suite of elements that encompasses a company's identity. This includes its marketing materials, engagement in community events, reviews from current and former employees, and its logo presence. A company's brand is also shaped by its mission statement. Though a small component, a mission statement helps customers, employees, and investors form an opinion of a company.
Mission Statement vs. Slogan
A slogan is a very brief, often memorable phrase that people primarily outside of your company can remember. Utter a great slogan such as "Just Do It" can invoke memories, commercials, logos, brand ambassadors, and emotions through a successful ad campaign. Although a mission statement is brief, it is longer and relatively more detailed compared to a slogan. A mission statement isn't meant to necessarily be catchy; it's meant to be informative and useful for guiding high-level decisions. Alternatively, a slogan is a very pointed marketing phrase used to be memorable even if it is less informative.
What Is a Mission Statement?
A mission statement is a brief description of the overarching meaning of the company or nonprofit. A mission statement does not explain what a company does or how it does it. It attempts to succinctly explain why a company exists and what its purpose is.
What Is an Example of a Mission Statement?
Microsoft's mission statement is: "Our mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more."
What Is in a Good Mission Statement?
A good mission statement is concise. It should be limited to one sentence, though it shouldn't be too limiting as it should encompass the entire company's purpose. A good mission statement also focuses on the long-term goal it wishes to deliver to customers.
How Do You Write a Mission Statement?
There's no single best way to come up with a mission statement. In general, the mission statement writing process should start with considering what a business does for the customers, employees, and general public. It's often best to begin by collecting more content than needed, then later refining the mission statement into a single sentence.
One method of brainstorming ideas of a mission statement is to think about personal experiences from the company. This could also include soliciting ideas or memories from employees. Instead of focusing directly on the narrow business element of your company, embrace the broader aspect. For example, Microsoft did not craft its mission statement around delivering Windows '98. Rather, it crafted its mission statement around the possibilities it presented through its product.