I want you to think back for a moment to when your company was just getting off the ground. Try to remember that feeling of excitement you had about embarking on a new path. Maybe you were laboring away on an innovative new app for years and were finally ready to go public with it. Or perhaps you dreamt of running a gourmet cupcake bakery your whole life and you finally gained the courage to do it.
Whatever your unique path was, these formative moments are exactly what your mission statement should reflect - not just what you do, but why you do it. What is it that motivates you to get out of bed each morning?
Your mission statement is your chance to make a compelling case for your company. After all, you love what you do, right? Now you just have to get your customers equally jazzed as well.
Just start at the beginning by telling your story.
Tell Your Story
Everyone loves a good story. People want to go on a journey, root for the underdog, feel invested in something. In fact, filmmakers, television producers, and writers stake their entire careers on this very fact.
And believe it or not, you too have a story to tell. The story of your business. Sure, it may not seem particularly interesting to you. You wake up and you go to work most days like everyone else. But there’s actually so much more to it than that.
Think back to when it all started, before you were at your company. It helps if you start by asking yourself some foundational questions to get the juices flowing:
- Why did you start this business in the first place?
- What purpose does your business serve beyond the day-to-day?
Once you’ve answered these questions. try digging a little deeper:
- What can you bring to the table that other companies can’t?
- What do you want your company’s legacy to be?
These questions will force you to really think about why it is you do what you do. Maybe you’ve had an unbridled passion for your industry since you were a small child. Perhaps you lost someone important to you to an incurable disease and now you want to fight for others in a similar position. Or maybe it’s simply that you believed you could take an already established system and do it bigger and better than anyone else.
Whatever your reason, you'll likely find you had a very clear motive for embarking on your business journey, and it's those details that are going to help you form connections with your customers on a very real, human level. Pretend that you were reading your story for the first time, and think about what you’d want to read.
Define Your Unique Selling Proposition
Remember those cheesy inspirational posters from your third grade class featuring a rainbow fish among a sea of trout that read: “Dare to be Different?”
Well, as corny as it might sound, this is exactly what you need to do when you’re developing your company’s mission statement – define your unique selling proposition. Your USP is what differentiates your business from competitors in your industry and will make people choose your products or services over someone else’s.
Start by asking yourself some questions and thinking about what your USP might be. How is the service you provide different? Is it speedier? Cheaper? More personal? More flexible? Uncompromising? Or perhaps it’s a completely new and innovative concept that is unique unto itself. Whatever it is, nail it down and make sure it comes across clearly when you’re writing your mission statement.
Marketing guru and best-selling author Seth Godin’s Purple Cow was based on this very concept, stating that in order for your business to stand out among others, it needed to be the “purple cow” amidst a landscape of black, white, and brown cows. It needs to be something that people would remember, vividly, and go home and tell all their friends and family about. That’s what you should strive for.
Stop Making It All About You
Okay, so you got the story down and you figured out what it is that makes your business a unique and special snowflake. Great. Now that that’s out of the way, an important piece of advice: Stop making it all about you.
Now I know what you’re thinking – one minute I’m asking you to tell me your story, and the next I’m telling you to stop making it all about you.
So, what gives?
It’s like this. Your business doesn’t exist in a vacuum and it would cease to exist altogether if you didn’t provide anything of value to other people.
Think about it like this.
Let’s say you love playing video games. World of Warcraft is your jam. You want your business model to be constructed around you playing non-stop World of Warcraft all day and your mission statement will be all about how you grew up with a controller in your hand and this is your calling in life.
Umm, NOPE. You simply can’t start a business like that. I mean I suppose you could try, but I’d strongly advise against it because you’re not providing anything of value to anyone else; it’s truly all about you.
So your mission statement should not only be about your story and what you do, but why people should care. You do that by providing a product or service that will better people’s lives.
Ikea is a perfect example of this. Their mission statement is to create a better everyday life for people by offering a wide range of well-designed, functional home furnishing products at prices so low that as many people as possible will be able to afford them.
They offer a clear value, define their USP, and make it all about their customers.
Don’t Go It Alone
So you’ve constructed a mission statement that tells your story, defines your USP, and provides a clear value to your customers – great! But before you throw it up on your website's about us page and call it a day, get a second (and third) opinion on it by getting other company members involved. This will ensure that your mission statement reflects the overall vision for the company and that all goals are in alignment. It’ll also give you the opportunity to see things from a new perspective, and gain some insight into how others may see your USP and your company as a whole.
So get started writing that mission statement and remember: write the story you’d want to read and people will come along with you for the journey.