Your Mission Statement: Time to Fly That Flag
Updated: May 20, 2022
Yeah, You Do Need One
If you own your own business, I want to start this article off by saluting you. You are doing something hard and meaningful, and I’m totally impressed with you.
That being said, I want to understand what you do. Or really…why you do it? Where are you going? What’s the North Star?
I work with mission-driven entrepreneurs. They’re my favorite group to support, but every once in a while I wonder…what’s the mission? It’s clear to me when a client has no idea.
It shows when they wrestle with priorities. It shows when they try to follow every trend instead of leading with their values. It shows when they lose hope - when they forget why they started all this.
Do you know your mission? Like...do you have it written down? No? Okay - stop.
Seriously - stop.
Let’s go back to the beginning.
Let's nail down what it is you’re trying to do here.
Because - even if you're the only one on the staff - your mission, your mission statement is what makes sense of your work.
“[A] mission statement captures, in a few succinct sentences, the essence of your business's goals and the philosophies underlying them,” says Entrepreneur Magazine. “[T]he mission statement signals what your business is all about to your customers, employees, suppliers and the community.”
Good mission statements define who you are and how you serve. All that in one concise - and I do mean concise - message. We’re talking about a statement that's one to three sentences long. About 100 words.
And in those 100ish words, your mission statement encapsulates your long-term aim and how you intend to get there. It describes the destination, the beneficiaries, and the character of your business in the most inspirational terms possible.
For instance, Tesla’s is - “To accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.”
Pretty snappy! But in it we see that their aim is lofty. Tesla plans to push the world toward normalizing sustainable energy.
It’s a snapshot of the future this business intends to create.
Why Writing A Mission Statement Matters
A mission statement is a flag you fly under, it’s the map in your pocket that keeps you on the road to where you truly want to go.
Besides creating cohesion for your brand, writing a mission statement is sort of a philosophical yardstick for you to measure your work against. It helps you prioritize, select strategies, make decisions, hire the right kind of people, and be the right kind of leader.
You come back to a good mission statement again and again for clarity and direction.
Most of all, it reveals the heart of your company.
You might not feel like you need a mission statement yet. But not having a mission statement is a little like getting into the car and driving - with no decision about where you’re going, how fast you’re willing to drive, and who’s getting in the car with you.
So let’s take a little time on this.
Feel like you don’t know where to start? Don’t worry. In this article, I'm going to give you 7 tips on how to write a solid mission statement.
So, let's get going! Time to create a flag for your business.
1. Talk to Your Ideal Client
Honestly, I feel like I say this every blog. But whenever you’re writing, creating, pitching, making statements of any kind, you should speak to a very narrow audience. If you generalize, what you write is going to come out pretty vanilla - and that's not your business, right?
No matter how lofty your ideas are, you can’t tailor your message to everyone. In fact, when you talk to everyone, you usually sound like you’re talking to no one. So, talk to someone special about the change you want to make.
Remember the avatar of your favorite client. The one who gets you. The one who can and will internalize your message.
This can be a real person or it can be an imaginary client. But speak directly to them. If you do, you'll start to unlock something special and specific. Not something that sounds like you copied from a bumper sticker.
2. Answer Questions, But Go Deep
A good mission statement tells the public what you do and who you do it for. But the answer isn't chiefly about your obvious product - not necessarily - it’s a deeper question than that.
For instance, Nike’s mission statement answers the what and who with: “to bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world.”
Notice the what we do portion doesn’t say “we sell athletic equipment.” What they do is about the underlying things they sell - they produce inspiration, innovation. That’s the real product.
Do you sell order to artists, hope to new students, efficiency to single parents, a competitive edge to mom and pop shops?
When you answer the who and what questions, remember that what you really sell may not be immediately obvious. Get ready to really dig.
3. The Clearer Your Mission Statement, The Better
The mission statements that say the most are the simple ones.
Speak in clear, concise, non-jargony language. Don’t be flowery. Don’t try to impress by pulling out your thesaurus.
And don’t try to sell or persuade with it, either. A mission statement isn’t a slogan or a jingle. It’s the aim and character of your business.
Keep it real. Speak with confidence and dignity. Remember that simple, sincere statements speak the loudest.
4. The Best Possible Future
A mission statement should have a note of inspiration to it. It should point to that glowing vision you see in your mind’s eye as you fall asleep at night.
Remember this statement is your business’ flag. It isn’t about marketing, metrics, or even your personal goals. It’s about a vision of the future that, best-case scenario, your business will create for the world.
Look at these 3 mission statement examples:
Microsoft - “To empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.”
Paypal - “To build the web’s most convenient, secure, cost-effective payment solution.”
JetBlue - “To inspire humanity — both in the air and on the ground.”
All these are spoken in plain English but make you feel like you’re on a mountaintop staring into a better, and possible, future.
Dream your big dream for your business and for others - then write it down plainly.
5. Try Freewriting
Sometimes the 100 words/3 sentence goal post is hard to hit. Given everything you know about your business, finding those few right words can seem daunting.
Yep, I totally get that. So don’t do that part first.
If you’re having trouble - just give yourself permission to ramble. Take out a notebook and let it go in a freewriting frenzy! Talk about everything you want your business to be and do.
Answer the basic questions about what you do - copywriting, tutoring, accounting.
Then answer the question - what do you really do? What’s the impact of your business? What are you dreaming about for others? How would you change the world with your work if you could?
Do you bring optimism? Sustainability? Affordable luxury? What will your business bring, change, transform? Just go nuts. No edits.
Sometimes that’s all you need to get the real nuggets on paper without the pressure of coming up with those few perfect words.
From here you can sift through your words and find the mission inside.
6. Get Feedback
Once you have a succinct mission statement that you’re pretty happy with, run it by a few people for feedback.
By “a few people” I don’t mean any old person. Choose people who understand what a mission statement is. Talk about the impact you aim to make. See if your statement resonates with them.
Better yet, get feedback from someone who knows your business. Either a colleague - if you have one - or someone who’s benefitted from your work. See if your mission statement rings true to them. How does it make them feel?
7. Make Your Mission Visible
Once you create your statement, don’t keep it a secret. Post it on your website, reference it in your livestreams, weave it into your public-facing identity.
Remember - your mission statement is your flag. Flags are meant to be flown. They stay out in front of the army so that everyone can identify who you are. And so you and your cohort have something to rally beneath during the toughest times.
When companies create mission statements and then hide them in a drawer, it usually denotes a bogus mission statement. Lofty words that have nothing to do with how they actually conduct operations.
So write it. Say it. Wave that flag.
And One More Thing…
Be sure to revisit this statement every once in a while. Make sure you’re still interested in the original destination. Sometimes businesses change for the better. They evolve, become more defined after a while. And that’s fine.
Don’t become imprisoned by your first mission statement. It’s supposed to be the thing that sets you off in the right direction. Sometimes course-correcting is part of that deal.
So take this seriously. It’s the blueprint of your quest. Create it with honesty, courage, and real love.
A good mission statement can bring you back to life when you begin to ask yourself if it’s all worth it. It can keep you from becoming something you don’t want to be. It can even inspire others to make their world better through their own work.
Not too shabby for 100ish words.
Wondering about how you’ll fly that flag? I got you covered in Brave Biz Lab, free coaching with a new theme each month.
Mission Statement, By Entrepreneur Staff