Does your company have a mission and/or vision statement?  Did you pay someone to define it for you or did you have a long company meeting to thrash out what it should be?  Is the statement relevant today?  Is it at all relevant today, to even have a statement?

There was a time not so long ago when every company, large and small, worked hard to come up with a mission and vision statement, or, at least, one of them.  It seemed to be in vogue and if a company didn’t have one, were they really serious about their business?

The problem was, though, that many of them sounded exactly the same, they didn’t say anything specific about the company, they didn’t set the company apart.  So why bother.

cashflow-vision-missionIf a mission and vision statement is well thought out, by the company, for the company and its employees it can set a standard.  But it must be meaningful and it must be kept up to date, what worked in the beginning may no longer apply as a company grows or diversifies.

The statements can be like affirmations to an individual, a mantra to live by, a reminder of why you do, what you do.

Mission statements are meant to define the “what” and “who” of a company and the vision statement, the “why” and “how”, though there is nothing wrong with having a single statement which tells the whole story.

An article in the Harvard Business Review, with the title “If I Read One More Platitude-Filled Mission Statement, I’ll Scream” – and we can all relate to that – gives a great example of how not and how to write a statement.  The example—

When Martha Lane Fox was asked by the British Prime Minister to be the U.K.’s Digital Champion, there was every opportunity for her to create an unintelligible description of her role and purpose.  You can just imagine Martha trying to explain the role: “Well… it means to develop digital readiness for the transformation of the 21st Century to modernize Britain and create a more digitally-literate country.”  Instead, Martha and her team came up with this strategic intent: ‘To get everyone in the U.K. online by the end of 2012’.”

Simple, understandable and straight to the point, no-one has any doubt about the objective.  That is what a mission or vision statement should be.

And who would expect this from Brad Pitt?  When he started “Make it Right” after New Orleans was devastated by Hurricane Katrina, he stated their mission was to “to build 150 affordable, green, storm-resistant homes for families living in the Lower 9th Ward.”  Again there is no doubt about the intent and objective.

These two examples probably didn’t take any time to think of either, as they were always the driver, the instant reaction to a situation, a gut feel.

Simply think about why you started your business or why you acquired a business.  What did it mean to you?  Where do you want to take it?  This will give you your value statement.

These days, customers want to know what makes one company different from another and the more they can empathise with a company’s values, the more they will be inclined to go to them.

It isn’t just for your customers however; it is for your team.  They also need to know the how and why and more importantly, believe it.  When they believe it, they will have your customers believe it and you will fulfil your mission.