When you hear the phrase “mission statement,” what comes to mind?

A fancy, adjective-heavy sentence in a corporate retreat packet? A far-fetched dream that falls flat in the face of practical business? Or, is it a 10-hour meeting that starts out well, then ends in a fight over the company’s interpretation of vision?

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Actually, it’s none of those things. A mission statement is two to three sentences that drive your business, determine your focus, and set you up for success.

A mission statement is 2-3 sentences that drive business, determine focus, and set you up for success.

Defining Mission Statements

To write a proper mission statement, it’s important to understand what one is… and what one isn’t.

A mission statement is a concise, clear iteration of your business strategy. In other words, it’s a framework detailing how and why you, and your employees, conduct business. It is not about your vision for yourself or your company — a vision should have a much broader sense of purpose and impact.

World-renowned entrepreneur, Richard Branson, describes mission statements this way, “You need to explain your company’s purpose and outline expectations for internal and external clients alike,” he says. “Make it unique to your company, make it memorable, keep it real, and, just for fun, imagine it on the bottom of a coat of arms.”

.@RichardBranson mission statement tips: Keep it real and imagine it on the bottom of a coat of arms

Key Elements of Writing a Mission Statement

So, how do you go about making a unique, memorable, and fun mission statement? Start by asking some questions about your business.

Forbes recommends asking the following:

  • What do we do?
  • How do we do it?
  • Whom do we do it for?
  • What value are we bringing?

Additionally, you can ask:

  • What are our (company’s) core values?
  • How do we differ from the competition?
  • Why are we in business? Why did we start our company in the first place?

Taking some time to answer these questions can help you gain a better understanding of your company’s direction. And once you have that, you can start crafting a mission statement that counts!

How to Make it Count

Use vibrant, exciting words. Keep it short and simple (two to three sentences at max). But most of all, make sure that it means something to you.

Remember, your mission statement doesn’t have to be perfect. (In fact, you can return to it in the future and tweak it along the way.) However, it doesn’t just need to reflect your business. It needs to reflect you.

Your mission statement doesn’t have to be perfect. But write one down. Make a plan. Set a course!

If you don’t believe in what you do, how can you expect that of your customers or employees? As branding expert Simon Sinek says, “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” So, it’s a good idea that you buy into your “why” first. Then, write it down. Make a plan. Set your course.

Some Inspiration

Big-name companies have bought into the concept of the mission statement. Just Google the phrase “Fortune 500 company mission statements” and you’ll find a plethora of examples.

Here’s some inspiration from some well-known businesses:

  • Starbucks: “To inspire and nurture the human spirit — one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.”
  • Nordstrom: “In store or online, wherever new opportunities arise, Nordstrom works relentlessly to give customers the most compelling shopping experience possible. The one constant? John W. Nordstrom’s founding philosophy: offer the customer the best possible service, selection, quality and value.”
  • Microsoft: “Our mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.”

Mission statements certainly take a lot of patience and thought, so they shouldn’t be aimless. Take some quality time to think about your work and values. When it comes time to make important business decisions, you won’t be left in the dark. You’ll be able to look back on the mission you set for yourself, and your company, and make the right call.