What is your company all about? What do you really value most as an organization, and what is your overall goal? What do you give to clients, partners, and the business community you work in?
All of these are great questions to answer in your company’s mission statement. Your mission statement often appears on your website’s “about” page and even at the bottom of press releases and so forth. It should summarize what you do and what your goals are while encapsulating the soul of your business. This seems like a fairly easy project, right? Simply write all about what your company does and why you’re awesome.
It might seem simple, but even large companies have trouble, and can see a lot of critical backlash from having a poorly written mission statement. Everyone from clients to customers to investors and even employees might look down on a badly written statement. The goal of your entire company summarized in a short paragraph is nothing to take lightly.
A recent example of mission statements gone bad comes from Apple. A Business Insider article sums it up very well with its title, “Apple’s ‘Mission Statement’ is making people worry that the company is going to hell.” Is that something you want people to think about your business? Probably not.
Apple’s mission statement isn’t really horrible per se, but it’s really not great either:
Apple designs Macs, the best personal computers in the world, along with OS X, iLife, iWork and professional software. Apple leads the digital music revolution with its iPods and iTunes online store. Apple has reinvented the mobile phone with its revolutionary iPhone and App Store, and is defining the future of mobile media and computing devices with iPad.
It says clearly what they do, but it’s pretty generic, which is awful for a large company that built its reputation on cutting-edge innovation and clever marketing. Ultimately, the statement sounds as though it was written by an intern on his first week, and as Business Insider mentions, it’s more of a list of product lines than a true look at corporate goals and values. Is this what we get from the brilliant marketing minds that managed to turn many basic consumers into religious followers? What might be another approach?
As Richard Branson put it in a recent article, you might try thinking of yourselves as medieval knights of business,
If you are in a situation where you must write a mission statement, I think you should try for something closer to a heraldic motto than a speech. They were often simple because they had to fit across the bottom of a coat of arms, and they were long-lasting because they reflected a group’s deeper values.
Branson’s advice is basically to shoot for something original and not waste anybody’s time. He even suggests using Twitter’s 140 character limit to really encapsulate the heart, soul, and mission of your company. Ultimately, he says, it should be fairly simple, but inspirational, “You need to explain your company’s purpose and outline expectations for internal and external clients alike. 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.”
Remember, though, that Branson’s advice is just one man’s opinion (albeit a very successful man) and it might not fit your business. A lot of business owners might have more to say about their business, so for a more succinct guide to your mission statement, refer to this excellent article from Entrepreneur.com.
Curious about other ways to build a strong business? Check out our peace on cultivating your corporate culture.