Creating a direct, powerful company mission statement can help your bottom line.
In today’s tough economy, having a smart, snappy mission statement can be a powerful tool in a company’s arsenal for success. Many experts say that a strong statement can make it easier for a business to focus on key goals and to inspire workers to achieve them. “You can’t develop strategy unless you have the foundation, which is the mission,” says Linda Henman, president of the Henman Performance Group, a business consultancy in Chesterfield, MO, and author of The Magnetic Boss: How to Become the Leader No One Wants to Leave. A great mission statement can also help attract potential employees and investors who like what the company stands for.
Based on more than 30 years of experience in advising leaders of Fortune 500 companies, Henman believes that all mission statements should answer four questions: Why do we exist? What is our business? Who are our customers? What do they value?
They should also be short and catchy enough for everyone on your team to memorize. “When I have informally surveyed workers at the companies I am going to advise, on average less than 1% can tell me what the mission statement is,” Henman says. And if no one can remember your mission statement, how will they act on it?
Here, Henman closely looks at two mission statements she believes have been highly effective. She also analyzes the failing mission statements of two young companies (both of which realized the original ones weren’t working and changed them).
MISSION STATEMENTS: ACCOMPLISHED
“To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”
“This is a great mission statement because it uses clear, concise, action-oriented language that covers all four key points memorably. When it comes to answering the question ‘Why do we exist?’ this brief sentence provides a complete answer.
In addressing ‘What is our business?’ the statement uses terms, such as ‘to organize the world’s information’ and ‘make it universally accessible and useful,’ that are precise enough to apply to Google’s flagship service—Google search—yet broad enough to cover ancillary ones, like Google alerts, that also advance its mission.
This choice of words also gives the statement staying power because these phrases could easily apply to any related services the company adds in the future.
“As to who is the customer, Google makes the answer clear. The word ‘universally’ conveys that the customer is anyone in the world. This mission statement also does a wonderful job of addressing what the customers value: information that is ‘universally accessible and useful.’ One other plus: It appears in the first paragraph of Google’s company overview page on its website. Your mission statement should be everywhere. Everyone should know what it is and be able to say it and find it through the navigation on your website. I’m surprised at how hard it is to find many companies’ statements, given how valuable they are.”
“Emerson is where technology and engineering come together to create solutions for the benefit of our customers, driven without compromise for a world in action.”
“Emerson is one of the few companies that is growing in this economy. It doesn’t surprise me that it has a great mission statement. If you look at the statement as a whole, it’s simple and concise enough for employees to remember. Beyond this, anyone can easily tell in the first 11 words why the company is in business and what it does: It brings technology and engineering together to create solutions. The use of the word ‘solutions’ to describe its products is important. Emerson is a diversified company that is involved in areas from ceiling fans to semiconductors. ‘Solutions’ is a broad enough term to cover all of its specialties, including any new ones it might introduce. The company also clearly describes the company’s customers and their values. These are people who expect to benefit from Emerson’s efforts to bring technology and engineering together ‘without compromise’ and who value solutions that help them do business in a fast-paced ‘world in action.’”
MISSION STATEMENTS: INEFFECTIVE
EVERYDAY OASIS LLC
“The mission of Everyday Oasis is to encourage people to go for their dreams.”
“It was very smart for the young company to revise this former mission statement. It is hard to tell exactly what the company does, which is provide a stress-relief program, individual coaching and a business program for entrepreneurs. The words ‘to encourage people to go for their dreams’ don’t convey this. The statement is also unclear about the company’s customer base. It’s not evident which ‘people’ it serves or what they value.”
Replaced with: ““Everyday Oasis LLC is a conscious business committed to providing real-world, practical, educational programs that raise the consciousness level and transform stress, overwhelm, depression, fear and anger into calm, peace, trust, joy, health, wealth, happiness and unconditional love.”
“For moms who are journeying back to work and for those already in the workforce seeking work/life harmony.”
“This original mission statement doesn’t clearly explain what the company’s business is: an online community for current and future working mothers. The statement does describe the company’s customer base (moms who are journeying back to work and those already in the workforce) and what they value (work/ life harmony). However, it doesn’t explain what services the company offers them to address their search for a balanced life.”
Replaced with: “To provide advice, support and solutions for mothers who are contemplating a comeback career, while guiding those working moms who are trying to juggle it all.”