As Jerry Maguire was fond of repeating: “It’s not a memo. It’s a mission statement.”
A mission statement is a statement that sums up who you (or your company) is and what you are about. Unlike what happened in the popular movie, though, a mission statement isn’t pages and pages of ideas or plans. It’s a short and simple statement.
For example, Apple’s mission statement is: “Apple designs Macs, the best personal computers in the world, along with OS X, iLife, iWork and professional software. Apple leads the digital music revolution with its iPods and iTunes online store. Apple has reinvented the mobile phone with its revolutionary iPhone and App Store, and is defining the future of mobile media and computing devices with iPad.”
It seems simple enough to remember, right? So why do you need one for yourself/your company?
1. Outlines Your Goals
The mission statement outlines your goals in a very simple and straightforward way. While other business documents can provide more detail, the statement gives you your own “elevator pitch” that you can refer back to when you aren’t sure if pursuing a project or product is a worthwhile endeavor.
2. Tells Clients Who You Are (and Want to Be)
The mission statement is public. If you are thinking of incorporating or going after financing, it is going to be the first thing people read. It sums up what you want people to know (and to think) about your company.
It tells prospective buyers and investors exactly what type of business you are trying to build—and it is how those buyers and investors will decide whether or not your company is a good fit for their dollars.
3. Gives You and Others the Why as Well as the How
Your statement is a constant reminder of why you’re doing what you’re doing. As your company grows, the “why” often morphs into something resembling “to earn a profit,” but if you have a mission statement, you’ll remember that you started your business for more reasons than to simply make money. You want to provide people with a certain experience or to help them in some way. This becomes important to remember if your success starts to get in the way of your sense.
4. Keeps You Focused
It’s easy to decide that you should take on a product or project because it will be profitable or because you want to get in on something before your competitors catch wind of it. But are these things really in keeping with your goals for and ideas about your company? A mission statement gives you a constant against which to measure your temptations.
5. A Handy Reminder
Whenever you lose sight of anything in your business, you can refer back to your mission statement. It’s normal to wander away from it from time to time (or even to want to rewrite it—which is another topic for another time), but keeping it handy always gives you somewhere to go back to. It can also be held up for others who are trying to convince you to take your company in a direction of which you don’t necessarily approve.
When someone says “What do you do?”, how do you respond? You might say “I’m an entrepreneur.” You might say “I’m a parent and I run a contracting company.”
Think of your mission statement as a more robust form of that answer.