MaRS Library The mission statement: The basis for startups’ strategic planning
A mission statement outlines a startup’s underlying motivation for being in business. It spells out the contribution to society that the organization aspires to make. The mission statement is not a strategic objective, but rather the basis on which the strategic objectives and strategic plan are developed. This ensures that the startup’s goals derive from the basis on which the company was founded.
Not everyone agrees with the value of a mission statement. And many companies do well enough without one. We believe that creating a mission statement is important for startups. A well-formulated mission statement can form the nucleus of the startup by identifying what unites the stakeholders (customers, shareholders and employees).
Where does the mission statement fit with other company statements?
The mission statement appears at the first level in the hierarchy of company statements:
- Mission: Why we exist
- Values: What we believe in and how we will behave
- Vision: What we want to be
- Strategy: What our competitive game plan will be
- Balanced scorecard: How we will monitor and implement that plan
A mission statement serves as a guiding light for the company when creating the various company statements, although it is the least specific directive.
The mission statement describes a company’s objective, which is the first element in the company’s strategy statement. The objective is a definition of the ends that the mission (or strategy) is designed to achieve.
Building your startup’s mission statement
The elements of a mission statement may include:
- Corporate values (for example, environmental policies, employee policies) to create a positive sense of identity
- Strategic elements (for example, product definition, market definition)
- A business definition to establish a sense of purpose, identity and commitment for employees, customers and corporate stakeholders.
What to avoid in creating your mission statement
- Do not craft a mission statement that says nothing unique about your company or products. A generic mission statement serves no purpose.
- Do not overuse expressions that contain words such as “best,” “communities,” “customers,” “excellence,” “leader” and “quality.” According to Guy Kawasaki, avoiding these terms makes it easier to create a unique mission statement.
Questions to help startups frame their mission statement
A mission statement may be as brief as one sentence or several pages long. The following questions will help you frame a mission statement:
- What business are we in? What (generic) needs are we serving?
- What type of organization is this?
- Why do we exist?
- How do we serve customers?
- What is the scope of our business? What markets do we (and don’t we) occupy?
- What assets and skills do we bring to the market?
- How do we believe that market will grow and develop in the future?
Kawasaki, G. (2004). The Art of the Start. London: Penguin Group. pp. 31-33.
Collis, D.J., and Rukstad, M.G. (2008, April). Can You Say What Your Strategy Is? Harvard Business Review, 1-10.
Aaker, D.A. (2001). Developing Business Strategies. New York: John Wiley & Sons. pp. 31-33.