Your Mission is Your North Star
I am frequently retained to create and develop the mission and core values for my client’s new businesses. This is one of the first, most important parts of concept development as it helps you anchor your concept and define your purpose in opening something new. The mission is also imperative for when you hire a team of people. Why? So that you are all on the same page, all follow the same guidelines and all aim for the same goals.
I always say that the mission statement is the “north star” for your business. It will always lead you in the right direction and can help you orient yourself when making big decisions. It is a clear reminder of your purpose and passion; it is a representation of what you strive to do every single day. A well-crafted mission can keep you on course by defining what you do every single day. A concise mission will also represent you to others: to your team and to your customers.
Dave Smith, in his article for Inc. states that “a blend of realism and optimism, two terms generally at odds with one another, and striking a balance between the two is the ultimate key to writing a great mission statement.” He shares that “there are four key elements found in effective statements: Value, inspiration, plausibility, and specificity.” This may sound hard to accomplish but the best mission statements contain all 4 of these elements.
When building your mission keep these things in mind:
Your mission is your purpose.
- The best mission statements are clear and concise and clarify the purpose of this business.
- It will anchor you as you drive the business and it will also communicate your purpose to your clients and employees.
- Ask yourself these questions: What does my business really do every day? What is the essence? What makes my company inspiring and trustworthy?
- Google’s concise mission defines their purpose very clearly: "Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful."
Specify who you serve.
- We all think we’re going to help and serve everyone but you must be precise. Does your business cater to a specific community or is it a global company?
- Be specific and speak directly to that demographic.
- Amazon speaks to the entire planet: "To be Earth's most customer-centric company where people can find and discover anything they want to buy online.”
Use language that represents your brand and personality.
- This is the fun part! A great mission doesn’t need to be stuffy or corporate. It can be unique and communicative of your brand.
- Starbucks’ mission is warm and inviting, the essence of hospitality: “To inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time”
It can be short and sweet or more detailed
- Some mission statements are really succinct; some are longer and more descriptive. Keep in mind: the shorter it is the easier it is to remember and follow.
- Square’s mission is the essence of short and sweet: “Making commerce easy.”
- Or the venerable Nordstrom’s mission, which is a bit more descriptive, is also effective: "In store or online, wherever new opportunities arise—Nordstrom works relentlessly to give customers the most compelling shopping experience possible. The one constant? John W. Nordstrom's founding philosophy: offer the customer the best possible service, selection, quality and value."
While it is best to write one when you are crafting your concept it is also OK to write one after the fact. I have had a number of clients come to me after being in business for some time seeking to clarify or write their mission. True confession, I wrote the one for my company 5 years after opening! But it was helpful to have had some years of experience to inform my mission statement: Kate Edwards & Company is dedicated to helping entrepreneurs and companies open, stabilize, evolve, innovate and prosper while delivering lasting, unique results.
No matter what, your mission must be a living part of your company. Your mission will shine a light on your progress and share your purpose clearly to those you serve and those you hire. Just like the North Star, it will always always there, leading you onward and upward.