Every business, no matter how big or small, should have both a mission statement and a purpose statement in place to guide the organization. These two types of statements are related and often get confused with one another, but each type of statement serves a different purpose and is an important tool for strategic planning.
A corporate mission statement should explain in one or two sentences what your company does and who it does it for. Mission statements should be re-evaluated annually, because the aim of your products or services might change significantly as your company develops. For example, Amazon.com started out primarily as an online book retailer, but now you can buy virtually anything from Amazon including a variety of corporate data hosting services. Undoubtedly their mission statement has changed significantly over the years to reflect their expansion.
A purpose statement should explain just as concisely why your company does what it does. Unlike a mission statement, a purpose statement should be long-lasting and underscore the principles that your company is based on. The how and the for whom may change periodically, but why you do what you do should be relatively stable.
Your Mission and Purpose Statement Work in Conjunction
A mission statement and a purpose statement are two halves of the same whole. Together, they should give your executive team and all of your employees a strong understanding of what your company stands for and what it’s trying to accomplish. Whether your goal is to sell the best apple pie in Virginia or to become the most reputable financial service provider on the West Coast, these goals should be clearly laid out for everyone in your company as well as all of your customers to see.
Take a look at the example of Google. Google has publicly laid out a list of 10 things that they believe to be true. Number one on the list, and perhaps the most important driver of their business, is “Focus on the user and all else will follow.” Google’s purpose revolves around creating technology and systems that benefit people. Many of their most successful tools, such as Google Maps and Gmail, began with no profit model in mind. By simply focusing on doing good for their customers, Google has turned themselves into one of the biggest companies in the world.
What’s your company’s purpose? Chances are that if you don’t have a purpose statement and a mission statement in place, you don’t have an easy answer to that question. Take the time to find your answer, and you’ll likely improve morale and cohesiveness throughout your company at the same time.