What a mission statement is NOT: It is not a financial goal, it is not a description of services or product features and it is certainly not a breakdown of all the things you do better than others.
A mission statement is a journey from A to B. It is the desire you carry within you to bring change to someone by solving a problem in a unique way and because you believe in it. It is the pitch you use to fend off skeptics questioning the existence of your business.
Below is a framework designed to guide you in developing your mission statement.
1. Every founder has basic beliefs they bring to the business world. Some of these beliefs are generic, others are very specific and highly individual, but no matter what they are, they are unshakeable and they need to be acknowledged.
Take a piece of paper and do 15 minutes of automatic writing: Note down all the things that you are convinced are driving your actions and thoughts today, and don’t stop until you have exhausted every angle. When you are done, read through it and highlight the ones that feel personal in one color and the ones that are more generic in another color. Now cross out the ones that feel generic and distant and focus on 3-5 that feel the most personal. Don’t seek agreeable beliefs, all that matters is that they are really yours.
Example belief 1: In order to achieve fulfillment one needs dependable help. Example belief 2: True happiness exists only in nature.
2. Equipped with this knowledge, it’s now time to find a problem worth solving and for which that set of convictions is necessary. A mission centric business puts problems first, not products. You also need to know who has this problem. You don’t need to be too specific, but “people” is certainly not clear enough.
On a new piece of paper jot down the basic human problem you are focusing all your energy on. Think big, human problems. Don’t settle for obvious small problems. Draw a stick figure, give it a name and find characteristics you see in the people you want to serve.
Example A: A construction worker fails to deliver on time because he can’t rely on his tools.
Example B: People living in urban areas are disconnected from nature, which leads to stress and unhappy relationships.
3. Now it’s time to show how you are bringing value into the world and what solution you are offering. The solution itself is expressed through products and services, but it’s the value they bring that matters. Remember, value is the change you seek to see in the people using your solution. Without value, there is no impact.
Write down the solution you are offering and find unique and expressive adjectives to describe it, then narrow it down to three that work best. Now go on and write how this impacts the people you serve. Is it making them happier, wiser, healthier or wealthier in any way? Make sure that the solution is in line with the list of convictions you discovered. The more correlation between a solution and your convictions, the better.
Example value statement: We build heavy duty trucks built like tanks that are dependable beyond expectations. Our clients are happier and more successful because they can focus on doing good and timely work.
If it feels stale or unemotional, you need to revisit it to make sure everything is linked. Generic mission statements are indicative of a business without foundation, or of a transactional business that operates in saturated markets and puts products before problems that people need solved. The more you train your eye, the easier it will become for you to distinguish between generic and specific mission statements.
Here is an example of the framework in application:
Core beliefs: To be more aware of nature means to be happier, and happiness is a human right. Nature is happiness through experiences.
Problem stated: People in cities are hurting because they are out of touch with nature and exploration.
Solution is: We focus on offering high quality outdoor equipment and guided outdoor experiences.
But the value is: Find a new level of happiness in nature that will be carried into the cities.
Mission statement based on the above:
“We exist to help people in urban areas explore the outdoors and find more pleasure in nature through high quality equipment and professionally guided courses to grow their awareness and reach new levels of happiness”.
I hope this framework helps as an evaluation of your current mission statement. If your business does not have one, now is your chance to develop it. Please do the work, you owe it to yourself, your people and the communities you want to touch.