Why You Need To Write Your Business Mission Statement

Updated: Jul 20, 2020

Why do we need to write your business mission statement and why do you need to have it actually nailed down and figured out?

Key take-aways of the video:

  • 00:40 - Why you need to re-write you mission statement

  • 1:15 - 5 things that are going to happen when you've got a great mission statement

  • 2:35 - Why do mission statements even matter? We've all seen bad mission statements...

  • 5:00 - What having a good mission statement helps you avoid...

  • 10:05 - Bad mission statement examples

  • 14:20 - Stephen Covey's mission statement example


Video content:

Well, as we've learned the hard way, when we started talking to clients it didn’t matter what we took whether it was marketing, whether it was systematization, you know whether it was talking about how to find and hire and keep the right people - we always had to go back to the beginning.

And a great mission statement is the beginning and what we've learned is connecting it to your guiding principles - your two or three guiding principles and we all have them when that is a great combination, you can conquer the world.

There is nothing you can't do, and in fact - I don't want to say it's the only thing you need to do but if you could only do one thing - you rewrite you get rid of your old mission statement and you rewrite the mission statement in as almost as a story and you connect it to your two or three guiding principles.

There's five things that are going to happen when you have got a great mission statement:

  • you're going to have employees unified and aligned

  • you're going to increase the engagement of all of your stakeholders both your internal and your external

  • it's going to help you to recruit and keep the superstar talent (the 20% that generate 80%) because a good mission statement story, when it's connected to your guiding principles is going to focus, it's going to show to the world what your mission is and they're going to want to come to work for you

  • it's going to increase your productivity and your production capability - you know the goose and the golden egg

  • it's going to improve your employee performance

When you've got a good mission statement and it's connected to your two or three guiding principles now everything else you need to do from writing your unique marketing message, to running your business everything is going to be focused on that.

I mean we both know we've done this enough right you go on into any business and you could ask the owner for God's sake what's your mission statement?

Nobody knows.

I'm going to jump on something right now because everybody's going to say, “Well what the heck are you talking about Larry this mission statement, I’ve seen mission statements?”

And the thing is I poo-poo’d this for a long time too because I come from the corporate world that a mission statement is this platitude filled, jargon, legalese nobody knows what it means it's all a bunch of cute little sayings - that we spent the day working on it, but then it just basically might have sit in the back of the cleaning closet is where it might us go right like where all the supplies are nobody’s ever look at it again.

What do you mean like when you say mission statement? You know tell me, let's I don't know if we want to go through a good example but - what do you mean when you say get your mission statement written in a way of what you're actually trying to do?

What does a good mission statement do?

Well, a good mission statement is empowering - it gives you direction, and it gives inspiration and Stephen Covey said it addresses at least three key dimensions:

  • profitability

  • quality of life

  • and all stakeholders

Now you know you may get into more than that but it has to address at least those three things and when you a good mission statement something that is memorable.

You know you ought to be able to go around, in fact, we tell our clients when we're done get a whole pocketful of five-dollar bills and right now before you even start go out into your plant go into your workplace and ask every employee - "What is our mission statement? You know what are our guiding principles?"

And if somebody can tell you - you give them five dollars.

I can guarantee you that first time you do it you come with every $5 bill starting off. But at the end when it's done it's going to be it's going to be memorized, well it's going to be repeatable it's going, to be inspirational and it is going to guide you, it is going to guide every decision you make and everybody's going to stop and say is what we're doing right now is it in alignment with our mission, with our purpose, with our guiding principles.

If it isn't then you have to stop and say why isn't it and is this something that really isn't worth or is this part of the 80 percent.

A good mission a guiding principle story is all about the 80/20 principle.

In fact, I'll say it's about the 1% = 50%.

A good mission and guiding principles is maybe 1% of your of your story. But it's going to generate over half of all of your results and that in many cases then you build from there. So without it you're kind of floundering you're kind of not quite sure what direction you're going you know you kind of feel like not everybody's in the same boat not everybody's rowing in the same direction.

You think you kind of have this politics in your business but with a good mission and guiding principles - politics goes way because it also helps to eliminate bad stakeholders, whether, those stakeholders are the wrong customers or they're the wrong employees.

And it's going to attract the right ones, you know the 1% to 5% or that going to the 80/20 the 20% that generate 80% of all of your results.

I think the best examples are some of the clients we've had I want to say their names or anything but you know you talked about we got in the marketing, got into other stuff and there would be like a shiny object would pop up and it would be like, “Hey I think I can make money this way.”

  • And we would be like, where is this coming from?

  • How come we're doing this?

  • How come we're even talking about this?

  • This is not the road we set down to go

And it was little shiny objects always pop up and if you don't have that mission statement that you know or you’re clearly defined what you're what you’re trying to accomplish.

There's lots of ways to make money. My statement is you can also sell drugs. You know you can make money selling drugs. it's great I'm sure what doesn't mean but just because you can make money doesn’t mean you should do it.

It helps you to put the first things first.

It helps you to focus, it helps you to know what to say 'yes' to and more importantly what to say 'no' to.

Because that's the thing we found out isn't it yeah it's easy to say yes right it's hard to say no because there are a lot of great ideas out there are - a lot of shiny objects a lot of shiny balls out there we call the shiny ball syndrome and it's hard if you don't have that focus if you don't have even a good mission statement you know connected to your guiding principles it's hard to know what to say no to because it all sounds good.

And it's not unlike people that buy you know exercise bikes and exercise equipment it looks good and then where does that it's sitting in the corner collecting dust we've all got that crap right.

It's the same thing in business owners are by their nature entrepreneurial. They’re always moving but they’re not always moving in the right direction or the same direction. They're just moving you know their ladder is against one wall one week and against a different wall another week and against a different wall another week

Well, my God, it's no wonder that we're struggling, we’ve just gone through a situation right with this COVID, with this lockdown and you know I just wrote something about this but there's over a hundred thousand businesses have already shut the doors.

Hell, that's probably just in Wisconsin, maybe, I don't know but there’s it you know there's the likelihood that seven and a half million small businesses are not going to open up, reopen or are not going to be able to function.

Well, part of that is because again there was no there was no clear-cut path for them you know it was easy back before this to make money. You know we would walk into businesses and it would walk away it kind of shaken heads and they're making money in spite of themselves

It was almost impossible not to make good money, this should have given people wake-up call and you know coming back out of it the strong are not only going to survive, they're going to thrive but if you want to have a business and this is kind of our catch phrases and if you want to have a business that you could sell it tomorrow on the timeline, terms and money that you want then you have to build it as if you're going to sell it tomorrow.

Probably you'll never sell and I mean everybody will eventually transition but they don't have to sell tomorrow. Well, when you build it that way you know now all of a sudden you've got a business that is worth owning and that doesn't happen until you start from the beginning.

The beginning is a good mission statement aligned with two or three guiding principles and we'll talk about guiding principles at another time/

Because people I'm sure don't quite get what guiding principles are but basically it's the way that you make decisions.

You've got guiding principles and I've got my own guiding principles.

Everybody's got them yes it's not that hard to do I mean and to do this is what you know a good a good day's project - a day and a half depending on the on the business right and I think the problem again going back to what people most people think of a mission statement

Examples of Bad Mission Statements

“To create a shopping experience that pleases our customers a workplace that creates opportunities in a great working environment for our associates and a business achieve financial success.”
“Our mission is to operate the best specialty retail business in America regardless of the product we sell.”

I have a couple examples I'm going to read of what a bad mission statement is and this is what probably most people have in mind when they think of what a mission statement is and if you were to look at this type of mission statement you would say this means nothing.

So I'll talk about one right here this is from a big grocery store change I won't say the name I don't want to embarrass them,

“To create a shopping experience that pleases our customers a workplace that creates opportunities in a great working environment for our associates and a business achieve financial success.”

So this is all platitudes, all puffery, no mention of what they actually do. This could be for virtually any retail business. I mean it's just so generic and plain that anybody could say this so there's no meaning there's no mission actual mission behind that, there's nothing memorable - no employee would ever know what that actually meant.

Larry, do you have any insight into that any thoughts on that?

I mean you know it addresses you know it addresses some of the things that we talk about a universal you know a universal mission statement but you’re right when I listen to it if you hadn’t said it was a grocery store chain I it could have been a dentist, it could have been a law firm, it could have been a manufacturing firm, I had no idea what it was I had no idea where their market was I had no idea who their market was.

A good mission and guiding principle statement you know is really written in kind of a story form that lays it all out that is easy it's easy first of all for you and your employees to know who you are, what you do, where you’re going.

So you have another example and this is a big I won't say their name again book retailer.

“Our mission is to operate the best specialty retail business in America regardless of the product we sell.”

So this was the beginning of their mission statement, no mention of what they actually sell. They wanted to be generic enough that in case they wanted to switch to a different business of completely I guess they wanted to leave it open case they wanted to sell other widgets or something else.

This is probably the one thing that we have to make sure is right now you know there may be that those small percentage of small businesses who already have a very good mission statement and guiding principles and every employee knows it.

And it totally guides every decision they make, you know it clearly defines what challenges you know the mission overcomes you know what will the world look like when your mission is accomplished and what will be won or lost when your mission is or is not accomplished.

And it'll address characteristics that your employees need in order to accomplish a mission you know and what actions need to be taken and that's how clear your mission statement really has to be it can't be like those these two you just read.

It can't be just platitudinal, it really does have to be clear and if it is when you think about it when you’ve got those you know four or five components in your mission statement.

That's what I mean I'm 80 percent of your job is done because it's very clear right there and it doesn't have to be a story it should only be you know a few sentences that most it takes time but it can be done and there are a lot of there a lot of good ones out there which maybe someday you know I mean you know we can research the you know the really good ones and show people what they're like.

You know what a good one a really good or great one looks like again I'll go back to Stephen Covey you know he had he gave an example of what a universal mission statement to emulate it's not the catch-all:

But his was to improve the economic well-being and quality of life of all stakeholders now that sounds kind of platitudinal it is because it's not meant to be a mission statement it’s meant to be addressing profit, quality of life and all your stakeholders but who are your stakeholders what does quality of life look like define it.

What does the economic well-being look like? What does what does it look like for everybody involved? Because we all try to be fancy and cute, that’s what platitudes are about but fancy and cute doesn't get the job done.

Because the to mission statement you just read no idea what kind of a business where, they are who, they are what they do, and that's why the 8020 rule is so important of why we try to incorporate that into everything we do.

It's to get people to realize focus on the 20% focus on the 20% that generates 80% and they should can the 80% that generates 20% you don't need it it's a waste of your time, it's a waste your resources, get rid of it and that's probably the more important thing of what a good mission and guiding principles statement does is - it tells you what to say 'no' to saying when saying 'yes' is easy say 'no' is so hard.

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