Most established companies have some variations of a mission statement. They are typically found in a dedicated section on their websites with titles such as “Who We Are,” “What We Do,” “About Us,” or “Our Story.”
However, these statements can be just as valuable for small businesses and sole proprietors, because those who neglect to craft one could miss an opportunity to gain credibility and build a customer base. If you’re a business owner or sole proprietor who is wondering if you should write a mission statement for your company, the answer is typically yes. Here’s why:
Why Your Mission Statement Matters
Mission statements announce your company’s identity, positive attributes, and goals in a concise and memorable way. Simply speaking, it’s your business’s “why.” It aims to answer questions about why your company does what it does and why it matters in the long run.
“A mission statement is the DNA of any business,” said Lazar Vukovic, a branding expert and founder of digital marketing agency ilovedigital, in an email interview with The Balance. “Yet startups overlook this important aspect of building a successful business because they’re too busy getting things done.”
Especially if you’re a sole proprietor, connecting the customer with your story through a strong mission statement can help create brand awareness and a call to action.
Mission Statement vs. Vision Statement
While a mission statement and vision statement sound similar, they are technically not the same. For one, a mission statement is rooted in the present. It answers questions like what you are doing today and what services you have to offer based on the current problems your target customers face.
On the other hand, a vision statement focuses on the future: the dreams, hopes, and aspirations of your business. It sheds light on your long-term business goal(s), answering questions in the process like what you will do in the next five-10 years.
Here is an example to help you differentiate:
Tesla’s mission statement is “to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.”1 Its vision statement, meanwhile, explains the end goal in the future: “to create the most compelling car company of the 21st century by driving the world’s transition to electric vehicles.”2
Key Elements of a Mission Statement
Now that you’ve understood what mission statements are and why they’re important, it’s time to write one for your own business. Here are some key elements to keep in mind before you get started:
Your message should be clear. Don’t try to be too clever by adding puns and wordplay in your mission statements as these drive attention away from what you’re trying to say. Describe your purpose in simple words written in short sentences.
Longer doesn’t necessarily mean better. Especially in business and marketing where you’re competing for attention, the more clear and concise your message is, the more readers you can attract. So keep your mission statements short yet effective.
The average length of a mission statement is 29 words, but you can pick something shorter to create a memorable phrase.3 For example, if you look at TED’s mission statement: “Spread ideas,” you’ll notice it’s short and sweet—yet powerful enough to stay top of mind.4
It’s good to dream big, but it helps to be more realistic when you’re writing a mission statement for your business.
Tips for Creating Your Mission Statement
Because mission statements convey the driving force behind your business, they can have a powerful impact on potential consumers. Your statement can encourage them to favor you over the competition. Here’s how to create your mission statement.
Effectively Explain Your “Why”
As a sole proprietor, the “why” behind your business can set you apart from competitors. “By defining what you stand for, you give a clear direction for your business and leadership ambitions while telling the customers why you’re different from the rest,” said Roz Sheldon, managing partner at reputation management firm Igniyte, in an email to The Balance.
Your “why” also adds a personal element to your business. People are more likely to engage with businesses if they connect to the story or feel a sense of kinship with the company’s purpose and ideology. Effectively defining your “why” in the mission statement can help you attract the right customers who share your values and would be happy to pay for your product or services.
Think About Long-Term Goals
While a mission statement is rooted in the present, it also needs to acknowledge the direction your company’s headed. “It’s an investment in your company’s future, so think about your long-term goals,” Sheldon said.
Think about where you will be a few years down the line. Ask yourself questions like:
What problems will you be solving?
How do you plan to give back?
What will the structure of your company look like?
These questions will help you clarify your current goals and balance them with your future aspirations to create a powerful mission statement for your business.
According to Amazon UK’s mission statement, the company aims to be “Earth’s most customer-centric company.” It also hopes to “continually raise the bar of the customer experience by using the internet and technology to help consumers find, discover and buy anything, and empower businesses and content creators to maximize their success.” Take notice of how the company combines aspirational goals with its current services to create an impactful statement.
Don’t Be Afraid of Change
While incorporating your future aspirations in your mission statement is important, in reality, it may not always be possible. If you’re a first-time business owner with no concrete plans for the future, it may be difficult to narrow down exactly what your company will focus on.
In such cases, don’t be afraid of change. According to Sheldon, you as a sole proprietor must know that your business can, will, and should change. You will find fresh ideas, make valuable connections, and care about different issues over time. When this happens, don’t hesitate to come back and change your mission statement. It’s not written in stone.
The Bottom Line
Writing a mission statement may feel complicated at first, but once you clarify your “why” and narrow down your business goals, it gets easier.
Start by focusing on what makes you and your business unique, Vukovic suggests. “People may have the same problems but there are many ways to tackle it—your mission statement explains your solution,” he said.
Finally, remember to keep it short, simple, and memorable, while selling your target customers on why your business and the product or service it offers are meaningful to them.
The original version of this article was originally published on The Balance by Sakshi Udavant.