How to write a strong mission statement (backed by vision & values)

Every business goes into business for a reason. Far beyond simply “making money,” a company that is setting itself up for long-term success will think long and hard about its mission, vision, and values.

While most people start with their mission statement, we are going to make the case for working backwards and using the vision and values to fuel a powerful mission statement that supports both short-term growth and long-term goals.

Let’s get started!

What’s so important about my MVV?

A business’ mission, vision, and value statements set the course for everything the business will do in the future. From product and service development to community outreach and even exploring new territories (or if we are going to get jargon-y for a moment—verticals).

A strong mission, vision, and values statement are like a lighthouse. It should be sturdy, long-lasting. Your statements should be able to guide your business through choppy waters and help it to avoid the rocky outcroppings of failure lurking just beneath the surface.

mission statement, simply put, is what the business does. This can range from the ultra-specific, i.e. “We aim to give the best haircuts in town” to the lofty and possibly unattainable.

My favorite example of this type of mission statement is from Microsoft, whose new mission states:

“Inspire every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.”

vision statement is essentially where the business defines where it would like to be in the future. Envisioning a business at its “highest peak” or ultimate manifestation is incredibly useful when it comes to planning future strategies.

values statement is largely considered to the be “throw away statement.” Lots of companies don’t even have one, but we see the values statement as an integral part of any business plan. See, a values statement is a breakdown of why a business exists—its larger purpose.

Without a deep understanding of what a business holds to be most important, it is difficult to project where it’s going or how it should plan to get there.

That’s why Industrie started with our values. By taking a closer look at what was truly important to our brand, we were able to formulate a solid, shared visions for its future and work backwards on a plan to get us there.

These statements can be as long or short as a business like, but they should always be clear and easily understood by anyone in the organization.

Determining a Value Statement

The first step in detailing out a value statement is to ask a very simple question:

What is most important to my business?

This can actually be quite difficult to answer since a lot of the more obvious responses don’t really lend themselves to being translated into strong values.

Making money, for example isn’t so much a value as it is a goal. A company’s values are what drives it, motivates it, and propels it forward towards its ultimate vision (by way of utilizing its mission—see how this is all working together?) Let’s look at a great example of a company’ values segwaying perfectly into its mission:

Zappos

Mission: To provide the best customer service possible

Values:

  1. Deliver WOW Through Service
  2. Embrace and Drive Change
  3. Create Fun and A Little Weirdness
  4. Be Adventurous, Creative, and Open-Minded
  5. Pursue Growth and Learning
  6. Build Open and Honest Relationships With Communication
  7. Build a Positive Team and Family Spirit
  8. Do More With Less
  9. Be Passionate and Determined
  10. Be Humble

Zappos is consistently voted as having the best online customer service, year after year, by shoppers all over the internet. They have stiff competition, but they have remained the top dog by incorporating a strong set of values, in support of their mission.

By delivering “WOW, driving change, pursuing growth and learning and encouraging a sense of humility in their staff, Zappos is setting the stage for exceptional customer interaction.

Industrie has four core values that we operate by: AuthenticityInclusivityArtistry, and Ecology. What this means for our business is that every client we partner with, every project or product that we produce has to satisfy each core value.

Each time we embark upon some new creative adventure, we ask ourselves, “Is this sending a real message? Is it useful? Is it applicable to everyone? Are all sides being represented? Is it creative and beautiful? Does it help to promote further relationships beyond our own?”

If the answer to any of these question is “no”, we revisit the situation altogether. By having a strong sense of our own values as an organization, we are able to make decisions that best serve our mission and overall vision.

Question to ask when starting a value statement:
  1. What is important to my business?
  2. Why is it important?
  3. How do I plan on incorporating these beliefs into my work?
  4. How can I apply these priorities into actionable statements?

Developing a Vision Statement

The vision statement is probably my personal favorite. It allows us to kick off our business shoes for a little while and wiggle our toes in the sandy shores of daydreams. Where would the business like to ultimately be in …5 years? 10 years? 25 years?

For those of us who are not great at developing or enacting any sort of long-term plan, this may sound a little scary. But instead of worrying about cost projections, landscape analysis or vertical assessments, let’s take a slightly different approach to determining long-term aspirations.

  • What does the business space look like?
  • What about the atmosphere?
  • Who is doing what?
  • What is the purpose of the business?
  • What is it producing?
  • What kind of impact does it have on its community?

By asking very specific questions, it can help to paint a realistic picture of what the business could be.

Let’s look at a great example of a vision-driven company: Warby Parker.

(pause for pun-induced laughter and/or groans)

Warby Parker

Mission: Warby Parker was founded with a rebellious spirit and a lofty objective: to offer designer eyewear at a revolutionary price, while leading the way for socially conscious businesses.

Values: We believe that buying glasses should be easy and fun. It should leave you happy and good-looking, with money in your pocket.

We also believe that everyone has the right to see.

While there is no defined vision statement here, it has instead been worked into both the mission and values statements—as it should be!vision statement question“Revolutionary prices”, “Leading the way for socially-conscious businesses”, and “everyone has the right to see”. These are lofty goals, to be sure—but it sets the stage for where Warby Parker as a company wants to be when they reach what they determine to be their “finish line”.

This company has taken its values and vision as far as they can go, by actually structuring their entire business model around these ideals. With statements like:

“We have developed a stakeholder-centric business model that accounts for our customers, our employees, the environment, and our larger community. We try to consider these stakeholders in every decision that we make.”

“…We are each responsible for one another’s professional and personal growth.”

Warby Parker demonstrates a very clear dedication to a solid set of values, and a clearly defined vision.

This model is actually striking similar to our own. Industrie has used the basis of our values to not only set a strong foundation for a future goals, but to restructure our entire organization accordingly, in order to best support those values.

Having a crystal-clear idea of where a business would like to be makes it possible to work backwards and determine the best course for getting there.

Question to ask when starting a vision statement:

  1. What would I like to be doing in 5 year? 10 years? 25 years?
  2. Who is included in this vision?
  3. What will my business look like? (both organizationally and branding-wise)
  4. How can I explain this to someone who does not know what I do?

Brevity is certainly key, so try using Twitter’s 140-character template when you’re drafting your inspirational message. You need to explain your company’s purpose and outline expectations for internal and external clients alike. Make it unique to your company, make it memorable, keep it real and, just for fun, imagine it on the bottom of a coat of arms.” –Richard Branson

Constructing a Mission Statement

While this is where most companies begin, we are strong advocates of writing a mission statement last. After all, it takes knowing what’s important and essential to develop a long-term goal, and if you don’t know where you’re going or why, how can you make a plan to get there?

In essence, a mission statement simply states what a business does. While some larger, household name brands (like our Microsoft example earlier) may have the luxury of a long-standing history behind them and can be a bit more “loose” with their missions, it works to a growing company’s advantage to be as clear and concise as possible.

A mission statement should include what the business doesfor whom, and what its unique value proposition is.

When developing our mission statement for Industrie, we focused on our collaborative business structure and how that enables us to provide a wide-range of services for a diverse group of clients.

mission statement quote

One of our personal favorite companies to look to for inspiration is outdoor outfitters Patagonia.

Patagonia

Mission: Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.

This mission statement not only clearly defines their main objective (build the best product) but also highlights their values—giving them a unique value proposition to their potential customers.

“For us at Patagonia, a love of wild and beautiful places demands participation in the fight to save them, and to help reverse the steep decline in the overall environmental health of our planet.”

Patagonia’s target customer is one who loves spending time in the outdoors (hence, needing the right equipment to do so!) it is a natural progression, then, to include a shared value of preservation, conservation and innovation in terms of environmental issues.

The emphasis on this commitment will immediately resonate with the company’s target consumer market and allow them to build long-lasting relationships with their customers, through a shared value system.

A strong mission statement is one that provides a clear benchmark for a business’s actions. Presumably, Patagonia is able to check each decision it makes against their mission, before deciding on the right course of action. By asking a series of simple questions—is this the best product? Does it cause unnecessary harm? Does it inspire or solve a problem?— they can determine the right strategy.

Questions to ask when starting a mission statement:
  1. What does my business do?
  2. Who does it do it for?
  3. What is my unique value?
  4. What larger impact can my business have?

Any successful business needs a strong sense of self. By having a deep understanding of what is important to the business, where it would like to go and how it plans to get there; businesses of all sizes can be sure that they are setting themselves up to build the right relationships, develop the right set of products and services and reach the right set of customers and clients to get them there.

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