I don’t get this exact question a lot. It’s more subtle than that. I get it as an assumption. Whether I’m working with a new startup or a more established organization, I regularly hear the following reactions as we draft mission statements:
- “We’re not describing everything we do or telling our customers what to expect.”
- “It doesn’t say anything about how we’re different.”
- “It’s not catchy enough.”
All those things are important, but they are not your mission. Here’s the fundamental shift…
Reframe your mission statement from an external statement to an internal one, and make the audience yourself and the leaders in your organization.
When you do, here are your answers:
“We’re not describing everything we do or telling our customers what to expect.”
That’s ok. That’s why you have a website, social media, advertising, and other customer communication materials.
“It doesn’t say anything about how we’re different.”
Your mission doesn’t actually have to be different than others. Your business model and strategy is where you innovate and differentiate in the marketplace.
“It’s not catchy enough.”
Catchy is for customer taglines and slogans.
When you reframe your mission as an internal statement, your focus should be on why you started the organization, not what you do or how you do it.
What Makes a Good Mission Statement?
Here’s what a good mission statement does: It reminds and motivates you, guides your strategic plans, and filters out distractions. And it needs to be short enough to remember, otherwise it can’t do any of those things.
If you’re looking for a good place to start, here are 3 things to consider:
- At the beginning of the statement, write the following words: “We exist to…” and then remind yourself why you founded your organization (or joined it).
- Eliminate any phrases that begin with “by” or “through.” Those are strategies, not reasons for existence.
- Ask yourself a really hard question: “So what?” If your answer isn’t motivating or catalyzing enough, see if you can audaciously push your statement just past outcomes you can absolutely control.
If you’re still struggling, embrace this: Your mission statement isn’t about you. It’s for you.
P.S. If you’d like help developing or revising your mission statement, vision statement, or other guiding statement for your startup or organization, let’s talk.