Nothing makes an entrepeneuer cringe like being asked, “What’s your mission statement?” It’s possible that the only thing more annoying is logo selection or picking out the office furniture. Mission statements should be easy, but they just aren’t most of the time.
Having a simple, easy to understand mission statement is powerful. It helps focus everyone on your team on the real purpose of your startup. It gives the CEO and board of directors clarity. It helps the management team and workers put their work in context. Here’s one of the best methods I’ve ever seen to create a mission statement that works (and lets you move on and actually get work done):
Step 1: Lose all the cliches. Let’s get this straight. You are in business. All business do certain things like:
- Delivering value to shareholders, customers and employees.
- Getting great people so you can do great things.
- Being the leading provider of whatever you do.
- Having bylaws and corporate charters.
- Making a profit.
None of those things really make a strong mission statement. We are all in business to deliver value to owners, customers and employees. We all like to make a profit. All of those things are part of owning a business and happen if you make a great company. None of those things really are your mission.
Step 2: Figure Out What You Actually Do
Here’s an easy question: What does your company really do? Boil it down to two words, “we” and what you do:
- We create
- We make
- We provide
- We dominate (this is going to be fun)
- We serve
- We sell
You can simplify to just the verb:
Ok, now we’re half done. Pretty easy so far.
Step 3: Tell us what you are selling.
So, you make stuff. Great. What do you really make? This is a trick question because in many cases, your company makes or delivers a lot of things. Look for the common thread between all the things your offer. Then look for the easiest to understand words that best describe it:
- Dominating search …
- We sell networking equipment …
- We deliver packages…
- Solving legal problems…
Step 4: Tell us who you do it for.
- Dominating search for global retailers.
- We sell networking equipment to customers that expect 100% reliability.
- Delivering packages for companies that demand on time, every time.
- Solving legal problems for immigrants and their families.
- We sell cars to people with financial challenges.
- Working for people that don’t have time for work.
Congratulations. You now have an actually useful mission statement. It’s says what you do, and who you do it for. Everyone in your company can understand it, believe it and live it in minutes. When you tell it to prospect, they get it. And best of all, the whole process took 10 minutes, didn’t require a $12,000 consulting bill, and you have the rest of the day left to do something productive.