MissionTHIS WEEK I WAS HONORED to give a presentation for Fort Collins Startup Week titled Build Your Business on a Powerful Mission.  We had a great discussion and explored some really neat territory about mission-driven startups.

Feel free to contact me if you’d like to hear more.

One of the participants asked a really great question:  What does a mission statement actually look like?  You need to capture something with power and clarity when you’re looking for great partners, employees, and investors.

I promised that I’d expand on the answer to that question here.

The best statements of mission are those with simple power, clarity, and emotional attachment.  Ideally, you would condense it down to a verb, an object, and some powerful descriptors.

We help underprivileged kids to learn how to read.

We’re making sustainable systems for drinking water in Zimbabwe.

We’re creating an undeniably democratic company culture.

Very often non-profits can be distilled down to mission statements like this, but for-profits get all wound up in trying to combine mission, vision, value statements, and so on.

So realize that you can separate these apart if it helps tell your story!

OUR VISION: To create powerful, constructive partnerships in everything we do
WHY? Our business will have a much greater positive impact on the world and our community when magnified by partners working together cooperatively
WHAT: We deliver amazing engineering consulting services which:

  • Make our clients leaders in their industries
  • Push the limits of creativity
  • While being safe, sustainable, and cost effective
HOW: We develop highly collaborative teams with our clients, never settling for less than deep partnerships on every project

This kind of approach can create simple, straightforward statements which together paint a powerful picture of what you’re deeply committed to.

Your deep mission will tend to show up in the “Why” section in this format, but you can play around with different ways of capturing it.  Sometimes powerful missions are reinforced through stories and images, but that depends on what you’re trying to convey.

Also consider the form of a “value statement” which includes these kinds of elements:

For <stakeholder>
we provide <these benefits>
while <delivering it in this unique way>.
Unlike <competitors or the industry norm>
we <do this differently>.
The result is that <this stakeholder’s life is improved in this larger way>.

In this case, a stakeholder can be your customer, your employees, your partners, even investors.  As you see, this can get quite specific if you want it to. So often these will be created as supporting statements to the overall vision and mission, focusing (for example) on the specific compelling value that a customer receives.

I’d love to hear about how you approach these messages in your own business!