UPDATED BY
Hal Koss | Jul 12, 2022

Some skeptics are eager to criticize mission statements. They see them as generic and platitudinous, another startup box that founders need to check.

 Turns out, though, a mission statement’s success depends on how it’s written.

What Is a Mission Statement?

A mission statement is a concise explanation of a company’s general purpose, objectives and values. It should be aspirational, memorable and written with multiple audiences in mind — including customers, shareholders, the general public and (primarily) employees.

In his influential 1998 research article, consultant and business professor Chris Bart found “a significant and positive correlation” between organizational performance and mission statements when managers were satisfied with those statements. He also found a correlation between performance and the process used to develop statements. Simply having a mission statement was a non-factor, but one created with real buy-in delivered the goods.

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Mission Statement Examples

Later, we’ll tease out what exactly makes a mission statement effective and explore tips for writing one. But first, here are some examples to fuel your inspiration.

Mission Statement Examples

  • Apple: “To bring the best user experience to customers through innovative hardware, software and services.”
  • Procter & Gamble: “To provide branded products and services of superior quality and value that improve the lives of the world’s consumers, now and for generations to come.”
  • Reddit: “To bring community and belonging to everyone in the world.”
  • Nike: “To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world. If you have a body, you are an athlete.”

 

Mission Statement: “Our mission is to bring the best user experience to customers through innovative hardware, software and services.”

 

Mission Statement: “To help humanity thrive by enabling the world's teams to work together effortlessly.”

 

Mission Statement: “To be the most trusted and convenient destination for pet parents (and partners), everywhere.”

 

Mission Statement: “Our mission is to increase economic freedom in the world. Everyone deserves access to financial services that can help empower them to create a better life for themselves and their families. If the world economy ran on a common set of standards that could not be manipulated by any company or country, the world would be a more fair and free place, and human progress would accelerate.”

 

Mission Statement: “DoorDash is a technology company that connects people with the best of their neighborhoods across the US, Canada, Australia, Japan, and Germany. We enable local businesses to meet consumers’ needs of ease and convenience, and, in turn, generate new ways for people to earn, work, and live. By building the last-mile logistics infrastructure for local commerce, we’re fulfilling our mission to grow and empower local economies.”

 

Mission Statement: “Our mission is to design a more enlightened way of working. Dropbox helps people be organized, stay focused and get in sync with their teams.”

 

Mission Statement: “Our mission is to show the world that protecting privacy is simple. For over a decade, we’ve created new technology and worked with policymakers to make online privacy simple and accessible for all.”

 

Mission Statement: “The Fivetran mission is to make access to data as simple and reliable as electricity. The invention of the lightbulb spawned generations to change the world through electricity, creating millions of new products, devices and services. We’re empowering future ‘Thomas Edison’s’ to transform the way the world makes decisions through our always-on access to accurate data. This helps drive better data-driven decisions in pursuits like discovering new drugs, serving humanity in ways big and small (think: banking the underbanked, keeping hospital records up to date, and more!), and enabling social good organizations to do what they do best by improving lives everywhere.”

 

Mission Statement: “It is GitLab’s mission to make it so that everyone can contribute. When everyone can contribute, users become contributors and we greatly increase the rate of innovation.”

 

Mission Statement: “We create world-changing technology that improves the life of every person on the planet.”

 

Mission Statement: “Our mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.”

 

Mission Statement: “Our mission is to ensure the Internet is a global public resource, open and accessible to all. An Internet that truly puts people first, where individuals can shape their own experience and are empowered, safe and independent.”

 

Mission Statement: “To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete* in the world.

*If you have a body, you are an athlete.”

 

Mission Statement: “At Pokémon, our mission is to become an entertainment leader and bring the fun of Pokémon to people around the world!”

 

Mission Statement: “We will provide branded products and services of superior quality and value that improve the lives of the world’s consumers, now and for generations to come. As a result, consumers will reward us with leadership sales, profit and value creation, allowing our people, our shareholders and the communities in which we live and work to prosper.”

 

Mission Statement: “Our mission is to bring community and belonging to everyone in the world.”

 

Mission Statement: “We help people achieve independence by making it easier to start, run, and grow a business. We believe the future of commerce has more voices, not fewer, so we’re reducing the barriers to business ownership to make commerce better for everyone.”

 

Mission Statement: “At Smartsheet, our mission is to empower anyone to drive meaningful change — for themselves, their businesses and even for the world.”

 

Mission Statement: “To inspire and impact the world with vision, purpose, and style.”

 

Mission Statement: “We’re empowering everyone to create for the web — and leading impactful, fulfilling lives while we do it.”

 

The difference between mission, vision and value statements. | Video: 365 Careers

 

How to Write a Mission Statement

When it comes time to draft your company’s mission statement, consider the following:

Tips for Writing a Mission Statement

  1. Make it simple, aspirational and memorable.
  2. Direct it toward stakeholders, but don’t prioritize shareholders.
  3. Keep employees — current and future — top of mind.
  4. Avoid saying you’re “the best.”
  5. Leave room for the mission to evolve.

 

Make it Simple, Aspirational and Memorable

A successful mission statement has three important traits, according to Jeffrey Abrahams, author of 101 Mission Statements From Top Companies. They are simplicity, aspiration and memorability.

Simplicity

There’s no magic word count, but experts agree that concision is best. Abrahams recommends aiming for a single-sentence statement. “That has greater impact and can be communicated easily, both within the company and to the target audience,” he said.

Bart, meanwhile, recommends capping at around 70 words. And Inés Alegre, a professor at the business school of the University of Navarra who led a 2018 review of mission-statement research, told Built In that three sentences or so is appropriate.

Your precise mileage may vary, but the “KISS” recommendation put forward by Bart in his 1998 paper still seems appropriate: Keep it simple and straightforward.

Aspiration

It’s common to find an organization’s mission statement posted on an “About” page, but it doesn’t have to be merely descriptive; incorporate some ambition, Abrahams suggested. He invoked Microsoft’s statement: “Our mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.”

Memorability

Action verbs, wariness of jargon and bizspeak — these are a CEO’s allies when drafting a statement. It should be organization-specific, too. 

“If the mission statement could be used by a number of companies, especially competitors, it’s not going to be either memorable or serve the company very well,” said Abrahams. “You want it to be distinctive.”

 

Direct It Toward Stakeholders

“Missions describe why an organization exists, but in particular, they should describe the relationships that the organization wants to have with the stakeholders upon whom it depends for survival, growth and sustainability,” Bart said.

According to him, an effective mission statement should at least speak to two audiences: customers and employees. He cited Southwest Airlines as an illustrative example:

“The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of customer service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride and company spirit.

To our employees: We are committed to provide our employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth. Creativity and innovation are encouraged for improving the effectiveness of Southwest Airlines. Above all, employees will be provided the same concern, respect and caring attitude within the organization that they are expected to share externally with every Southwest customer.”

In addition to customers and employees, a strong statement will also often address shareholders and the community at large, Bart said. Here’s one he helped draft for a casino resort that directly targets all four groups:

“Our mission is to provide every guest with a ‘blow away experience’ that is inspired by a celebration of the sea and the myth of a lost civilization. We accomplish this by bringing the myth of Atlantis to life by offering warm, positive, engaging service.

At Atlantis, we are a team of individuals who are passionate and committed in everything that we do. We continuously strive for perfection. We are proud to work at Atlantis because we are a caring and learning organization, which rewards accomplishment and promotes teamwork, respect and innovation.

At Atlantis, we are the pride of our community while providing enduring value for our shareholders. When Atlantis succeeds, we succeed as individuals, and we contribute to the success of the Bahamas.”

 

… But Avoid Prioritizing Shareholders

It may be more obvious today — after the rise of sustainable investing, office-perk culture that caters to employee happiness and the fact that we’re in the midst of a job seekers’ market — but the thrust of the mission can’t simply be shareholder yield.

Statements that center the returns of the investor class will align approximately zero employees to an organization’s mission. “Shareholder value was the typical mission in the nineties — not anymore,” said Alegre.

One possible symptom of such misalignment? Jargon creep. “When buzzwords and platitudes happen, they usually happen when the focus of the company moves from customer to shareholder,” wrote entrepreneur and Built In expert contributor Joe Procopio.

Read Next3 Reasons to Prioritize Mission Over Profit in Tech

 

Resist the Superlatives

As mentioned, mission statements should have an air of the aspirational. But, especially in this era of superlative fatigue, beware of “the biggest,” “the boldest” and “the best.” They’ll inspire more shrugs than hearts, especially when unsupported.

“When a company says its mission statement is to be the best [category here] company in the world — the best steel company in the world or the best clothing company in the world, it’s too general,” said Abrahams. “It needs to be backed up by strongly worded core values, a vision, and guiding principles and beliefs.”

 

Think of It as a Management Tool

Even though mission statements address multiple audiences, they shouldn’t pretend to think each audience is listening with equal attention.

“There’s a question of prioritization of stakeholders — is it the clients, employees, suppliers, investors? You probably cannot satisfy all at the same level,” said Alegre.

That begs a question: Should companies think of mission statements more as an internal compass for culture and strategy, or an external branding — or even recruiting — element? That is, are they management or marketing? 

“My answer is yes,” said Abrahams. 

Ideally, it can serve as both, experts told Built In, but it should be considered first and foremost a management tool. (Indeed, most research on the topic is published in management, not marketing, journals.) “My impression is that it’s much more useful as an internal alignment tool than external branding,” said Alegre.

Think of the statement primarily as something for employees, Bart said, a true north against which the workforce can always orient itself.

 

Reinforce the Mission Statement in All Your Communications

Once the statement is finalized, think of it as a muscle: Exercise it often to prevent it from losing definition. Reference the mission during onboardings, training, team meetings, board reviews of key projects and wherever else reinforcement makes sense. Post it on your website, of course, but also your wall. “I work in a business school where the first thing you see after the entrance is the mission,” Alegre said.

Mission statements are especially important during times of uncertainty, such as early in an organization’s life or during growth pushes, Alegre said. Still, lean on them in times of greater stability, too. That provides room for the mission to organically evolve.

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