If you’re an entrepreneur building a small business, you already know that it takes more than just spreadsheets, financial projections and a marketing push; it also takes passion, dedication and attention to details.
But long-term success requires even more.
In order to give your company a solid foundation, you must develop a clear mission, a well-articulated vision and values that resonate with the customers you’re trying to reach.
The purpose of a mission statement is to provide a short summary of the business’ purpose and focus. It can be complex or succinct, but it should never be more than one paragraph (and in many cases, more than one sentence).
It’s OK to expound upon the overall mission once you’ve articulated its message, but the idea is for the mission statement to be simple enough to stand on its own. Although not essential, many mission statements identify the type of business they are, the products or services they sell, and/or the target market and customer base they’re seeking.
Here are some examples of mission statements from some of the most popular and noteworthy brands:
- Amazon: When Amazon launched in 1995, it was with the mission “to be Earth’s most customer-centric company, where customers can find and discover anything they might want to buy online, and endeavors to offer its customers the lowest possible prices.”
- American Express: Our mission is helping others accomplish theirs.
- Google: Our company mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.
- Iams: We deliver Tailored Nutrition to keep your pet healthy and happy for life.
- Patagonia: We’re in business to save our home planet.
- Starbucks: To inspire and nurture the human spirit—one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.
- Uber: We ignite opportunity by setting the world in motion.
Think of your vision statement as a glimpse into your business’s future. While the mission describes your company’s focus and what it does, the vision for your company is its direction and identifies what you want it to become. The purpose of your vision statement is to pinpoint the goals and outcomes your business was created to achieve and outline how it will get there.
Your vision statement is important both internally and externally. It’s both aspirational and inspirational. For your team, it lays out the picture of what the future looks like for your business and inspires them to help get it there. For your customers, it provides a picture of what your company is working toward and invites them along for the ride.
When crafting your vision statement, you and your team will want to ask some important questions about the future. Here some to get you started:
- What problems does our company want to solve?
- What does future success look like for our company?
- How many employees will our company have?
- How large will our customer base be?
- Does our vision align with our mission?
- What is the legacy you want your business to leave?
The vision statement will become a key component of your business’s future identity, so you want to make sure it’s vague enough to serve as an ideal, but specific enough that it motivates people to want to do business with you.
Here are some examples of vision statements from well-known brands:
- ASPCA: The vision of the ASPCA is that the United States is a humane community in which all animals are treated with respect and kindness.
- Caterpillar: Our vision is a world in which all people’s basic needs – such as shelter, clean water, sanitation, food and reliable power – are fulfilled in an environmentally sustainable way and a company that improves the quality of the environment and the communities where we live and work.
- Charles Schwab: At Charles Schwab, our vision is to be the most trusted leader in investment services.
- Ford: To become the world’s most trusted company.
- Ikea: To create a better everyday life for the many people’, this is the IKEA vision.
Your business’s values describe the morals, ethics and ideals that are important to your company. There are usually more than one or two, and they usually help to flesh out your mission and vision statements.
Many brands will use acronyms to make sure their values are memorable and shareable. For example, Avon Worldwide’s values are embodied in the word, BIRTH, which stands for Belief, Integrity, Respect, Trust and Humility. Other companies will choose to keep their corporate values internal, opting to only share them with the team or its leaders.
Check out these core value statements, which perfectly sum up the culture of the organization they represent:
- Google: Ten things we know to be true
Google’s “Ten things” is a great example of how values can be both internal and external.
- Intuit: Our Values: Integrity, Passion, Respect
As one of the world’s leading business and financial software companies, Intuit has abided by the same operating values since it was founded in 1983. It even showcases them on the wall of its corporate offices in Mountain View, CA.
- JP Morgan Chase: Our Business Principles
JP Morgan Chase isn’t known for its “warm and cuddly” culture, nor should it be. As one of the oldest banks in the nation, it’s all business. But that doesn’t mean it can’t operate honestly and ethically, as its very simple and straightforward values convey.
- Whole Foods: Our Core Values
Whole Foods breaks its core values into six overarching credos that guide how the company does business no matter the situation.
Whatever approach you take, the values you choose to associate your business with will drive how you make decisions and determine the kind of culture you want to create. Your mission and vision answer the question, “Why?” but your values answer the question, “How?”
Whether your business is well established or just starting up, if you don’t have mission and vision statements or a set of values to help guide decision-making, it’ll be difficult for your company to thrive over the long-term. Fortunately, a SCORE mentor can walk you through the process, identify what’s important to you and help your business grow. Reach out to a mentor today to get started!
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Funded, in part, through a Cooperative Agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration. All opinions, and/or recommendations expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SBA.