It’s not uncommon for entrepreneurs to accidentally mix up mission statements and vision statements. The two may seem similar, but their differences allow each statement to play a pivotal role within a small business.
Mission Statements and Vision Statements
First, let’s briefly define the difference between mission statements and vision statements. These definitions will allow us to have a better understanding of each term before we advise how to create these statements for your startup.
- Mission statements: A mission statement has a narrative that is inclusive, intentional, and inspirational. It should be able to state the purpose and values of the organization. Mission statements understand what will happen today and are present in this moment.
- Vision statements: What will happen tomorrow? Vision statements look toward what the company will eventually become. Reading a vision statement should make you, and the business, anticipate its future.
Crafting Mission Statements
Now that you have an understanding of what a mission statement is, the question is how do you begin to write it? This is not nearly as daunting as it may seem. Simply follow these key rules to ensure your mission statement is written for all shareholders, from customers to employees.
Focus on Your Specific Purpose
Originally, mission statements were created to briefly summarize the short and long-term goals of an organization. Today, these statements have branched out beyond defining the reason why you’re in business. The modern mission statement inspires its shareholders, uses inclusive language, and makes good on its promises.
However, making an effort to try to be all things to everyone can also cause a mission statement to fall flat. When in doubt, go back to your roots. Who are you? What does your business do? What is your specific purpose? Consider your brand’s narrative and the characters in that story. They may include individuals like your company partners, employees, and customers. Then, begin laying the groundwork for what differentiates your brand from the competition. Why do customers keep coming back to your brand? What is it about your offerings and services that matters? Once you have an understanding of what makes you special, your specific purpose can help mold your mission statement.
Keep It Simple
Mission statements need to cover a lot of ground. However, they shouldn’t be too long-winded, vague, or filled with confusing buzzwords. Keep the declaration short and succinct.
For example, consider the mission statement for TED which is “Spread ideas.” That’s it! Their mission statement gets right to the point. It also neatly ties in the purpose of the conference organization, where influential speakers spread ideas to eager audiences. Your mission statement may be a bit longer than this one, but it should be just as easy to remember and understand. Remember: you may always expand on the mission statement on your company website if necessary.
Avoid Being Lofty
Some mission statements may err on the side of loftiness in their initial creation. Why is that? Well, they have a big story to tell and even bigger dreams for the future. They may feel compelled to use their mission statement to declare that their business will be the greatest in the world!
Let’s bring it back down to earth. Remember what we said about inclusive language and inspiring shareholders? Ideally, mission statements should be focused on inspiration, plausibility, specificity, and value. There’s not much plausibility in a mission statement that says you’re the world’s greatest business. Nor is there much sustainability in that sentiment in the long run.
Rather than focus solely on lofty goals, establish reasonable accomplishments that your business can, and will, reach instead. Ground your goals. Then, add them to your mission statement.
Make Every Word Count
Certain words should not be found in mission statements. These include words like corporate jargon buzzwords or any words that are too vague or dull. Common adjectives that should be included in mission statements are known as “radiant words.”
What are radiant words? These adjectives, quite literally, pop off the page. They are lively, colorful, and exciting. Some may include words like “sizzle,” “marvel,” and “outrageous.” Using a radiant word allows your audience to better visualize who your business is and what it does. It also inspires the shareholder to take action — and it sounds good, and makes you feel good, when you reread the mission statement, too!
Consider the mission statement for Airbnb for a moment. “We exist to create a world where anyone can belong anywhere, providing healthy travel that is local, authentic, diverse, inclusive, and sustainable.” One great example of a radiant word in that mission statement is “belong.” While most of the words in this statement are meaningful, belong speaks to a consumer’s emotional needs. Individuals are able to make an emotional connection with the brand and feel good about the business and its purpose, thanks to that one radiant word.