At The Social Brand, when we begin working with a new client one of the first things we ask for is their mission statement. Most of the time I get one of the following responses:
- Deer in the headlights look, then they hang their head and say "Oh I knew you were going to ask me that."
- Kind of a sheepish eye roll, then "I mean, we do... I'll have to look it up for you. We wrote that a few years ago."
- or an explanation of how that's corporate and it's a waste of their time.
Very rarely do business owners have a mission statement that they know like the back of their hand and are proud of. To us, this is a missed opportunity for something that could define culture, quality and what you do in your business. It's an easy way to communicate what it is you, why you do it and who you do it for. Most importantly, it can be a reminder for you, your team and your customers of what's important. It should be something you believe in so deeply that you want to display it, you want to quote it... because it's the focus of everything you do.
A lot of people use "mission statement" and "vision statement" almost interchangeably. So, let's start by defining what these statements are. Because a lot of time, they get confused. One great definition I read by Hubspot was,
"A mission statement is intended to clarify the what, who, and why of a company. On the other hand, a vision statement describes where the company wants a community, or the world, to be as a result of the company's services. A mission statement is the roadmap for the company's vision statement."
With that in mind, a vision statement is typically going to address the big picture of your business. Ideally, this statement is going to be timeless and won't require a lot of updating even as time progresses. On the other hand, your mission statement is more practical and as time progresses it will need to be updated. Your mission statement will talk about goals that you look to accomplish as a company in the next 3 to 5 years. Now, typically your tagline or motto will simplify your vision even more to a phrase or one-sentence statement.
My one frustration in the resources that are out there on these topics has always been that they reference big companies, huge companies that are out of the reach of a business our size or perhaps your size if you're reading this. So I wanted to come up with a list of examples that were reachable and relatable. Then I started doing some research and quickly realized that these resources don't exist but most small businesses just don't have this stuff. It got me thinking - do small businesses really need a mission and vision statement? Do they need them both?
So, here's what we've decided. Yes and no. Yes, I genuinely think that every business should take the time to complete this exercise. Knowing what your business' vision for the future is should be a priority (vision statement) and knowing how you're going to get there is also equally important (mission statement). But, if you don't have these two things - having one defining statement of who you are, what your value is... what your focus is, regardless of what you call it is an inarguable need for every business. Big, small or in between.
So, I pulled together some really great examples I think y'all should check out:
Allevia Technology is a Maryville-based IT company providing managed services and technology support to small businesses in East Tennessee.
Vision Statement: Our vision is to be a crucial component of our clients’ success, to build more relationships, and to engage within our community.
Mission Statement: Our mission is to provide peace of mind through technology so that our clients are confident and inspired in fulfilling their purpose.
SSM Industries is a protective fabric manufacturer based in Spring City, TN. They went the other route, by just having one simple and succinct statement that sums up what they do and their value for their customers... and we love it!
"Every product SSM makes protects someone or something."
This tells us what they do in a clear and understandable way. This statement can also serve as a focusing agent for their team, for their customers and anybody else wondering what it is that they do.
Lirio is another amazing Knoxville-based company. They are a AI platform that helps change behaviors to improve their health. They provided a "purpose statement" that clearly summarizes their purpose.
"Our purpose is to combine the power of behavioral science with artificial intelligence to drive positive behavior change for the betterment of all people."
We love it because it clearly tells us what their niche is, but it's a crazy big dream. All people. They haven't limited themselves - but they've defined themselves.
KSV Group is an industrial safety company focused on keeping businesses compliant. Their mission statement brings clarity to what they do. We like it because it isn't a list of their services- but rather focuses on the function of their services. Customers understand when they have a need for a certain product or service that functions a certain way - sometimes they won't even know the name of the service they need though, especially when you're in a very technical field. KSV Group understands that and designed their mission statement to address that.
Mission statement: Safeguarding industry assets, its workers, community, plant, property, and equipment is core to our mission.
Two Men and a Truck is a moving company. They actually have locations all around the country but they've had a location here in Knoxville for twenty years. They have several statements on their website - but we loved how their mission statement and core purpose statement feed into one another.
Mission Statement: The mission of TWO MEN AND A TRUCK® is to continuously strive to exceed our customers' expectations in value and high standard of satisfaction.
Core purpose: To move people forward.
Yes! The mission statement once again talks about the function that they serve, not their services and then the core purpose simplifies it in such an inspiring and succinct way. Perfection.
So, we challenge you to write something down. Different approaches will connect with different businesses. Here are some questions that you may want to answer:
- What is your function in the world?
- What is the need that you meet?
- What is your company's "why"?
- What value do you add?
- Why does your company exist?
- What do you believe?
From there, we challenge you to write a defining statement for your business. This may be your purpose, your mission, your vision... but regardless of what it is - it should bring clarity. It should be a statement you can look to when you're considering adding a new product or service. Does this fit product or service fit in? It should be a statement you can look at to define your workplace culture. Does this policy foster the culture we want here? It should be a statement that helps you as you define the next steps for your company today, in a year or in ten years.
Do you have another local company that you think should be on this list? Email us and let us know! We'd love to grow our list of inspiration.