Mission Statements – Functional or Futile?

A company’s mission statement may be the most important component that drives marketing activities, yet oftentimes is unknown or misunderstood by company employees.  A common misconception about mission statements is that they are lofty, philosophically deep statements that really don’t apply to day-to-day operations.  Strategic planners and high priced consultants develop these astute, profound proclamations, but really, they are useless.  In reality, a good mission statement will be anything BUT useless.  It should be the driving ideal for everything a company does.Mission Statement

An effective mission statement should provide all employees, from the president to the entry-level worker, with a shared sense of opportunity, direction, significance, and achievement.  It represents a vision of what the organization currently is or what it is attempting to become…and should be easily understood by everyone in the organization.  The following are characteristics of a good mission statement:

  • Founded more on customer needs and satisfaction than on product characteristics.
  • Reflects core competencies of the organization and skills of the people.
  • Narrow enough to provide direction, yet broad enough to allow for unforeseen, yet complementary, business opportunities.
  • Flexible and updated as needed to reflect changes in the company and the business environment.
  • Easily understood by everyone in the organization (yes, it was worth repeating).

Mission statements should not be holier-than-thou postulates with phrases such as “a total quality supplier and partner”, “exceeding customer expectations”, or “provide high quality, low cost (widgets)”.  Would any company want to be only a partly quality supplier and partner?  With regards to customer service, well, if you want to exceed my expectations, how about throwing in a new car with my purchase.  That would exceed my expectations.  Finally, high quality and low cost rarely go hand-in-hand.  Pick one, not both.

Jeanne Porter - Founder WiBN
Jeanne Porter – Founder WiBN

Women in Business Networking (WiBN) is a local networking group with a mission to “…provide forums for building relationship so women will achieve career and personal success through education, resources and recognition.”  It has all the qualities of a good mission statement and the organization has experienced phenomenal success and growth.  What started out as a hand-full of networking opportunities, such as luncheons and morning coffee meetings, has grown into a monumental resource on multiple levels.  Their Leadership Mentoring program pairs experienced local mentors with selected mentees to help with career guidance.  Their Entrepreneur Group provides opportunity for business owners to share, confidentially, their challenges and successes with one another for support and guidance.  In fact in 2013 the Dayton Better Business Bureau nominated WiBN for their Eclipse Integrity Award.  Not bad for an organization that’s approximately 5 years young and still following its mission.

Writing a mission statement for the first time can seem like a weighty, or even scary, undertaking.  It is, but don’t over think it.  In closing, the following are some more excellent mission statements that may help with this idea.

“To be the world’s best quick service restaurant experience.  Being the best means providing outstanding quality, service, cleanliness, and value, so that we make every customer in every restaurant smile.”  McDonalds

“It is the mission of Advance Auto Parts to provide personal vehicle owners and enthusiasts with the vehicle related products and knowledge that fulfill their wants and needs at the right price. Our friendly, knowledgeable and professional staff will help inspire, educate and problem-solve for our customers.”  Advance Auto Parts

“To build shareholder value by delivering pharmaceutical and healthcare products, services and solutions in innovative and cost effective ways. We will realize this mission by setting the highest standards in service, reliability, safety and cost containment in our industry.”  AmerisourceBergen

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