Your (Business) Mission Is...
You have almost certainly heard...
that you need a mission for your business… and a mission statement to clearly spell out for others what that
mission is. And, if you are a follower of Scott Adams (Dilbert cartoon creator), you will have seen his
cartoon series mocking mission statements. You may have even heard the stories of him posing as a mission
statement expert (with the help of sympathetic CEOs) and leading executive teams to create pompous-sounding but
meaningless mission statements. Only at the end of the session when they all agreed it was a great thing for
their company did he and the CEO reveal his true identity. (One of his goals was to expose "group think" in
But I'm not talking about that. At least, I'm not talking about all those horrible examples and the ones
that are filled with "corporate speak".
I'm talking about knowing:
- what business you are in
- why you are in that business
- who your ideal customer/client is
- being able to state it clearly and succinctly.
As the owner of your business (or business-to-be), your own personal mission and your drivers fashion the shape
of the business and the direction it takes. That is why I urge you so strongly to get clear on your own
personal mission before you tackle the business mission.
"...a mission statement...is the purpose of the business."
But once you have that clear, your next order of business should be on the mission statement for
the business. Why? Because all the reasons and benefits of a personal mission statement apply to a
business mission statement, too. And it becomes more important as you add
- contractors or subcontractors,
If you can't tell what your core business you are in, how can you expect anyone who works with you to share it?
(I realize that vendors, distributors, or subcontractors *may* not need to share your mission… but you might
want them to… depending on how closely they are working with you. You will certainly want any employees,
joint venture partners, assistants, etc. to be aligned with your mission.)
What should a mission statement for my business look like?
While a lot of factors go into the making of it, a good business mission statement should tell three specific
- What business you are in
- The purpose of your business
- Who your ideal client or customer is
*And* it should say it in less than 3 sentences… try hard to make it only one sentence. Business guru
Peter Drucker says it should be able to fit on a T-shirt.
Oh, and remember, a mission statement is NOT the goal(s) of the business. It is the
purpose of the business.
One of the biggest mistakes I see in business mission statements is trying to either make it too specific or too
"high level." The too-specific tries to tell the world how they are going to accomplish
their mission and the too-high-level speaks in platitudes.
I'll give you two quick examples. (And, no, I am not going to tell you whose mission
statements these are. My goal is not to embarrass anyone, but to learn from them.)
Too-specific: "[Company X] continuously strives to meet the needs of its customers for total value by
offering a unique package of location, price, service and assortment.”
Sure enough, they tell us how… but does that really tell you anything? Especially does it tell you the
purpose of the company? As an employee, could you really get behind that? Be inspired by that?
Too-high-level (platitudes): "To enable people and businesses throughout the world to realize their full
Really? All of them? Which of the hundreds of potentials a person has will you be trying to
help fulfill? What business, exactly, are you in? Who is your ideal client?
There is a lot that should be left out of a mission statement, but we will have to save that for another
Based on your personal mission statement, draft a mission statement for your business. Make sure it covers
what business you are in, the purpose of your business, and gives an indication as to who your ideal
If you haven't done a business mission statement before, you may find that you need a little help with it.
Our Mission Discovery - Business version is designed to help you cleanly and quickly
get yours in working order.
We offer two flavors... one for established businesses trying to get their mission figured out or in
alignment with the leader's personal misson... and the second for those who are in the startup phase of
their business and are still working out just exactly what business they really are (or should be) in.
Naturally, we can also customize a program for you, when that makes sense.