Distilling the essence of your company, including its people and its purpose, into a mission statement—a short blurb of no more than four sentences—brings a unique set of challenges. Your mission statement can’t be too long, too short, too vague, or too specific. It must be inspirational yet realistic; value-driven yet reflective of your company and its position in the world.
At its best, a mission statement serves as the foundation of your business, and should become the reason you hire, grow, pivot, and make decisions in the years to come. Yet capturing this “mission” in a way that both inspires and prescribes calls for a wealth of considerations. Learning how to write a mission statement requires a deep understanding of purpose, language, and the crucial elements that make your mission whole.
What is a mission statement?
A mission statement describes in fewer than 100 words the reason your company exists and why it’s important. Ideally, a mission statement should be timeless, describing the motivation behind your company’s inception, as well as the work you’re doing now and the work you will do in the future. It should be inspirational for employees and customers alike, and clearly convey the factors that make your company unique.
Keep in mind that a mission statement is different from a vision statement; while a mission statement conveys why the company exists, a vision statement provides forward-thinking context around the future of the business and the direction in which the company is growing.
How to develop a mission statement
In writing a mission statement, it’s best to consider not only what your company does but also the who, why, and how behind its operation. The mission statement from sports and clothing store Patagonia, for example, digs deeper than “building the best product” by providing the “how” in “cause no unnecessary harm,” and the “why” in “to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.”
Below are the questions to ask yourself when considering what messages to include in your mission statement.
What does your company do?
At its most simplistic, a mission statement should describe your company’s operation, making clear the product you sell or the service you provide. This is especially important during the early stages of launching a business, as your mission will be integral in attracting investment and wooing new customers.
Who are you talking to?
In making such a powerful statement in just a handful of sentences, it’s important to know your audience. Typically, a mission statement addresses one or more of the following: your employees, your customers, or your shareholders.
To do this effectively, it’s important to consider the “human” element of your product or service. For example, how does your company make customers feel and behave? Or how does your mission translate to an energizing workday for employees?
Why do you do it?
Spotify exists to help artists make money off their music; Amazon hopes to help people find anything they want online. If your company exists to solve a problem or fulfill a need, this represents the “why” and is a great starting point for building your mission statement.
For startups, consider the elements—people, technology, customer service—that are at the heart of your work, differentiating you from your competition. For established companies, pare back every sales asset you have, including physical brochures, online copy, recorded phone conversations, and polished sales decks, to find the thread connecting your pitches.
Finally, thinking of your startup story—the moment the idea struck and what triggered that thought—is often helpful in rediscovering the “why” of your business and therefore the crux of your mission statement.
How do you do it?
The “how” can be a great point of differentiation if your company does things just a little differently. Often, tech startups do their best to convey the “how” in their mission statements, as it’s a good way to showcase innovation and leadership.
Fitness technology and product retailer Fitbit, for example, “designs products and experiences that fit seamlessly into your life.” The “how” in this instance is intriguing to potential customers, and the partnership of design and experience is likely a draw for top talent, too.
The language to use in drafting a mission statement
Once you have the elements of your mission statement, it comes down to the words themselves. Ideally, they should be simple, inspiring, value-driven, and realistic.
The purpose of your business should be clearly described in language that is uncomplicated and not too flowery. It’s essential that readers understand not only what your company stands for, but also the products or services it provides.
A strong mission statement calls for a dose of optimism, especially since the aim is to encourage buy-in from employees, customers, or investors. Consider describing your “ideal world,” or how your product or service helps improve the lives of your customers.
The same way successful companies typically stand for more than just profitability, your mission statement should reflect the value your company offers beyond making money.
As large as your goals and dreams may be, it’s important that your mission is rooted in reality. The claim you’re making must be plausible, and the value you’re touting should be easily linked to your product or service.
Mission statement examples for businesses of all sizes
While you might know what the best practices are for creating a mission statement, it’s often easier to learn from example. From tech companies revolutionizing corporate communication to nonprofits in the female-empowerment sector, here are some examples of effective, enduring mission statements.
Best mission statement examples from startups
The uncertainty associated with launching a startup calls for a strong, informative mission statement. What better way to instill confidence in new clients and employees than by having a clear, graspable mission to hold on to?
The mission statement: Make work life simpler, more pleasant, and more productive.
Why it works: The simplicity of this statement reflects the simplicity of Slack as a collaboration tool, and this alignment is seen across all segments of the company. “When I look at the most meaningful and impactful workplaces, I think there’s a deep alignment between tools, culture, and spaces,” says Deano Roberts, vice president of global workplace Slack, a WeWork member company in New York.
Certainly simplicity, enjoyment, and productivity are common needs when it comes to the workday. But not only are these values widely understood, the statement itself is specific enough to be directive—all Slack employees should be working to make work life simpler, more pleasant, and more productive in their day-to-day operations.
The mission statement: We want every customer in the world to purchase from businesses that offer the best value and best customer service at renewal time.
Why it works: As a website that compares services like gas, electricity, and insurance, Renewal Diary’s mission is rooted in specificity yet doesn’t shy away from big-picture thinking. Language like “every customer in the world” is exciting to readers, and this helps drive forward the company’s strategy of inviting people to a global platform.
“A startup needs to be instantly graspable. Don’t try to use language that you think would be interesting for investors,” says Fiachra Ó Comhraí, founder of Renewal Diary. “If you have something simple, don’t try to make it sound complicated.”
The mission statement: The modern slavery due diligence platform.
Why it works: The mission from RightsDD is heavily reliant on value—this is a platform that assesses suppliers, geographies, and products for risk of slave labor. Though it’s not actionable or specific, the statement is a proud declaration of what the company is, inspiring employees to continue their work and validating the company’s existence. “We have a clear mission, and everything stems from that,” says Oliver Cushing, CEO of RightsDD, a member at WeWork 70 Wilson St in London. “A lot of times, startups are trying to stitch in a social purpose to something that’s not really very social. I think the strength of our conviction helps us communicate. So if you have a great mission, don’t shy away from it.”
The mission statement: To empower and inspire you to live a healthier, more active life. We design products and experiences that fit seamlessly into your life so you can achieve your health and fitness goals, whatever they may be.
Why it works: Fitbit’s mission statement speaks directly to the reader, describing in simple terms what the tech company does (helps users achieve their health and fitness goals) and how it does this (through products and experiences that fit seamlessly into everyday life). The kicker, however, is in its explanation of why—empowering people to live healthier, more active lives.
The language is clear and inspiring for employees, who are investing their time and energy in driving the company forward, and also for consumers, who will feel confident they’re buying from a holistic brand with a well-thought-out mission.
The mission statement: Our mission is to help everyone find their place in the world.
Why it works: The mission of Compass, a company that went public at a valuation of $450 million, seems far-reaching until you realize it’s working to revolutionize the business of selling homes and renting apartments.
In that light, the mission statement is value-driven and feel-good, giving employees a reason to come to work each day and helping consumers realize this isn’t your regular real estate company.
Great mission statements from legacy companies
These are the companies that live up to their mission statements in everything they do, whether it’s entertainment, internet, retail, or theme parks. As they’ve grown into industry leaders with global impact, these brands have done their best to stay true to their guiding missions.
The mission statement: Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire, and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.
Why it works: This is no fluffy wordplay in Patagonia’s mission statement; like the brand itself, which sells sporting equipment and clothing, it’s down-to-earth and rooted in real life. Patagonia’s business is portrayed as a tool in this mission statement, as a way to improve the world and counter the environmental crisis.
The statement is specific, directional, and value-driven. It has a bit of everything that makes a mission statement effective, and clearly presents the what, how, and why. Perhaps most important, it shows the role Patagonia plays within the world’s wider ecosystem—not just in business.
The Walt Disney Company
The mission statement: The mission of The Walt Disney Company is to entertain, inform, and inspire people around the globe through the power of unparalleled storytelling, reflecting the iconic brands, creative minds, and innovative technologies that make ours the world’s premier entertainment company.
Why it works: While it’s quite a mouthful, the mission statement at Disney is as expansive as the company itself. The entire statement hinges on people: the people Disney hopes to entertain, as well as the people who make this entertainment possible.
The final statement, declaring Disney the “world’s premier entertainment company,” instills pride in employees and solidifies the company’s place as one of the largest entertainment companies in the world. With an annual revenue near $70 billion, this claim is both plausible and inspiring.
The mission statement: To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.
Why it works: With a company as mammoth in size and influence as tech giant Google, homing in on a mission statement that encompasses everything it does, while still being optimistic and specific, is no easy feat.
Yet the behemoth that employs more than 90,000 people across the globe aligns its people and its regional teams with one clearly defined purpose: “To organize information, make it accessible, and make it useful.” As simple as that.
The mission statement: To be Earth’s most customer-centric company; to build a place where people can come to find and discover anything they might want to buy online.
Why it works: It’s difficult to believe that such a multidisciplinary organization like Amazon, which spans everything from selling home goods to streaming entertainment, has had the same mission since its founding in 1995. However, when Amazon started selling books, and then music and videos, its mission even then was to be “Earth’s most customer-centric company.”
This longevity shows the power of an effective mission statement: that it can feel much bigger than a business at its inception, and act as a guiding force in the years ahead, corralling the company in the direction it was founded upon.
The mission statement: To provide an environment where our team members are proud to work, deliver unforgettable experiences to our guests, and generate superior financial returns.
Why it works: This mission statement encompasses everyone affected by Universal—employees first, guests second, and shareholders third. This statement is rooted in reality; i.e., there wouldn’t be a theme park without shareholders, yet it is also inspirational in the use of words like “proud” and “unforgettable.”
Powerful mission statement examples from nonprofits
A mission statement gives nonprofits an opportunity to put forth a powerful message about their cause—motivating both internal staff and external investors and supporters.
The mission statement: Bright Pink helps to save lives from breast and ovarian cancer by empowering women to know their risk and manage their health proactively.
Why it works: Informative, actionable, and inspiring, the mission statement at Bright Pink captures, and retains, your attention. While “save lives” packs an opening punch with high-level, big-picture thinking, the “how” that follows—i.e., “empowering women to know their risk and manage their health”—brings plausibility and direction to such a purposeful cause.
World Wildlife Fund
The mission statement: The mission of World Wildlife Fund is to conserve nature and reduce the most pressing threats to the diversity of life on Earth.
Why it works: With such a monumental task ahead, the World Wildlife Fund uses its mission statement to focus the work of its employees and shareholders. By narrowing nature conservation to “reducing the most pressing threats,” the World Wildlife Fund bares its priorities, showing employees, volunteers, and donors the path forward, while still keeping its mission wholly inspiring.
The mission statement: Fight to end period poverty and period stigma through service, education, and advocacy.
Why it works: For the cofounder of “Period, the Menstrual Movement,” Nadya Okamoto, who started the nonprofit with her friend Vincent Forand when they were both 16, the mission statement represents a solution to a problem she herself has experienced.
This articulation of “problem and solution” in Period’s mission statement is at once healing and inspiring.
Quick tips for writing a mission statement
Below are some simple best practices to keep in mind when writing a mission statement for your business.
- Keep it short: A mission statement should be no more than 100 words.
- Ensure language is simple: Describe clearly what your company does and why it’s important.
- Consider who you’re targeting: A mission statement should speak to employees, customers, or shareholders.
- Make it value-driven: What value does your company bring, beyond making money?
- Consider the “why” and the “how”: What makes your company stand out? Are you using technology or methodology differently than your competitors?
- Make it realistic: Certainly, your mission statement should be inspiring, but it should also be plausible.
Next step: Creating your own mission statement
You might be an entrepreneur establishing your mission statement for the first time, or an existing company updating your mission statement to something more reflective. Whatever the case, WeWork can help you fulfill your mission, providing intentionally designed coworking spaces to drive innovation, and offering flexible agreements to help you scale and evolve.
While the purpose of your company should be the foundation of your mission statement, the additional elements in these examples—the “how,” the “who,” and the “why”—will strengthen and solidify those short, meaningful sentences into something directional and inspiring. With these examples in mind, creating a mission statement for your company should not only feel achievable but also like an exciting, essential step forward.
This article was originally published on December 6, 2019, and has been updated throughout by the editors.
Caitlin Bishop is a former writer for WeWork’s Ideas by We, based in New York City. Previously, she was a journalist and editor at Mamamia in Sydney, Australia, and a contributing reporter at Gotham Gazette.