17 Tips for Writing a Mission Statement

Nearly everyone has seen the movie, Jerry McGuire, and remembers the beginning when Jerry pens his mission statement, only to have everyone refer to it as a memo.  Memos are usually less than a page in length, and Jerry’s manifesto was well over two dozen pages – clearly it was more than a memo.  But was it really a mission statement?

What is a mission statement?

We will forego the Wikipedia definition and take from more reputable sources to find out what, exactly, a mission statement is.  According to Entrepreneur Magazine’s online encyclopedia of business knowledge:

A mission statement defines what an organization is, why it exists, its reason for being. At a minimum, your mission statement should define who your primary customers are, identify the products and services you produce, and describe the geographical location in which you operate.

Kinesis provides a thorough article regarding mission statement composition that says, in part, “[a] well-crafted mission statement can provide the focus and motivation you need to take your business to the next level. These are the values that drive your business personality, customer service, and marketing messages. In fact, your mission is the soul of your brand. It is your Why. It is the very reason that your company does what it does.”

Before you can develop a mission statement, your company has to have a primary purpose.  This can be an industry-specific product or service, or it can be the delivery of ideas and concepts on a more general scale.  Regardless of what your company does, you have to know what it was created to accomplish before you can compose a statement of it’s mission, values, and beliefs.

Here are 17 tips for writing a mission statement for your company:

  1. Keep it simple, stupid.  The “K.I.S.S.” principle applies to a lot of things, especially those involving the composition of written content.  As stated in an Inc. article, it is a mission statement, not a mission essay.
  2. Make the creation of a mission statement a joint effort among everyone on your staff.  By giving them the ability to contribute to the end result, you are empowering them to be more deeply invested in the company.
  3. Your company will evolve over time so make sure your mission statement does, too (especially if it was written during the company’s infancy).
  4. A mission statement is an overall sense of your company’s identity, so it should receive as much professional attention, deference, and adherence as your personal identity does.
  5. If your mission statement is being revised or recreated from a previous version, don’t toss it in your employees’ laps without allowing them to have some input or giving them the opportunity to test the statement through real-world application.
  6. Decide whether you want your mission statement to reflect your company’s short-term or long-term goals, especially if your goals may be more dynamic than static.  Keep in mind that short-term statements need to be revised as the company’s goals, accomplishments, and plans change.
  7. Try to be as succinct and concise as possible,because the perfect mission statement should also be able to double as your company’s slogan.
  8. Include the four key elements of an effective mission statement (according to Inc.).  Those elements are value, specificity, plausibility, and inspiration.
  9. Avoid vague phrasing and conceptual generalities.  A mission statement that says your company aims to be an industry leader of quality products, outstanding customer service, and cutting edge innovation for tomorrow’s consumer today might as well have been written on toilet paper and flushed.  EVERY company has that mission, but your mission statement should be much more exacting, precise, and specific.
  10. Examine the mission statements of other companies, especially those with whom you compete for customers or sales.  Reading what others have written can fuel your creativity when it comes to writing your own statement.
  11. Be specific with regard to what you can do for your customers, why your company’s products or services are superior to your competition, what makes your customer service extraordinary, and why your company exists in the first place (the “why” behind the creation of your company).
  12. After you have written an initial statement, don’t think that you are finished and it’s ready for framing.  Read it, revise it, read it again, revise it again.  It is not complete until it encapsulates everything about your company’s purpose in all aspects of business, and until you are 100% satisfied with every word, phrase, sentence, and piece of punctuation contained in the statement.
  13. Use descriptive words that convey a dynamic, visual impression of your company’s mission to readers of the statement, but don’t use any words or phrases that are unnecessary to the overall statement.
  14. Keep sales pitches out of your mission statement.  For example, Microsoft’s old mission statement used to say, “A computer on every desk and in every home, running Microsoft software,” which sounds like nothing more than corporate greed.  Microsoft’s new mission statement is equally crappy, however (“to enable people and businesses throughout the world to realize their full potential“).
  15. Write your mission statement around what makes your company stand out from the crowd.  If you’re no different from your competition, why should customers come to you instead of them?
  16. Don’t say that your company is “the best” at this or “the world leader” of that or the “undisputed, undefeated heavyweight champion” of anything, really.  Pompous terminology is a turn-off and customers tend to avoid overtly arrogant people and businesses.
  17. Apply the “front page” guideline to your statement.  Would you be proud to have your company’s mission statement printed boldly on the front page of the newspaper?  If not, go back to the drawing board.

Once created, your mission statement should be expressed to all your employees so they will know their reason for being where they are.  Everything undertaken should be done in such a way as to reflect the core principles of the company and to fulfill the purpose(s) of your mission statement.

After creating a mission statement, the last thing you want to do is have it attractively framed and nailed to a wall to be forgotten.  The statement should be reviewed periodically to make sure of two things – one, that your company’s purpose and goals are still in line with the statement, and two, that the statement still accurately reflects what your company’s intentions and direction are.

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