Our Mission Statement - WhateverOne of the classical components of any business plan is the mission statement – the why your company or organization exists. Usually the founders throw together a good sounding statement and move on to the more important parts of their business plan without much thought. But the mission statement is critical in the middle of those dark nights when everything is going wrong and failure appears a real likelihood – it gives you the why of your struggle and the motivation to continue when everyone is telling you to quit. Jim Collins and Jerry Porras, in their great book Built to Last, discuss the importance of defining the mission of the organization and identify it as one of the factors distinguishing a great company from a good company.

So what makes a great mission statement? I believe the most important aspect of the mission statement is to inspire commitment – something that will cause people to give their time, efforts, and even their lives. So I thought I would look for examples among the most successful companies – the Fortune 500 – the largest companies in the United States and the world. Unfortunately, most of them leave me cold.

What would you give for the organizations with these mission statements?

  1. To build shareholder value by delivering products, services and solutions in innovative and cost effective ways.
  2. To earn money for its shareholders and increase the value of their investment. We will do that through growing the company, controlling assets and properly structuring the balance sheet, thereby increasing EPS, cash flow, and return on invested capital.
  3. Grow profitably in the world’s vehicular markets and provide industry leading shareholder value.
  4. To maximize long-term stockholder value, while adhering to the laws of the jurisdictions in which it operates and at all times observing the highest ethical standards.
  5. Profitable growth through superior customer service, innovation, quality and commitment.
  6. Be the best in the eyes of our customers, employees and shareholders.
  7. Undisputed Marketplace Leadership.
  8. To be America’s best run, most profitable automotive retailer.

Imagine you are a recent college graduate in your first corporate job, how would you feel if you were asked to give up your weekend, time with your family or friends, even sleep, in order to:

  • Increase shareholder value
  • Grow profits
  • Increase EPS

Now, I submit to you that 99% of the population wouldn’t give a #$%# about these mission statements – and I didn’t pick any of the REALLY bad mission statements. They have nothing for the average worker or employee. As Bill Marriott stated:

“If you don’t generate excitement, you don’t generate much.”

But let’s now examine a few mission statements that might inspire you:

  1. To improve the quality of life.
  2. To help all people live healthy lives.
  3. To help patients prevail over serious diseases.
  4. To responsibly deliver energy to the world.
  5. We will be the easiest pharmacy retailer for customers to use.
  6. To nourish and delight everyone we serve.
  7. To constantly improve what is essential to human progress by mastering science and technology.
  8. Providing personal mobility for people around the world.
  9. Fulfill dreams.
  10.  Clothe the world.

Notice the difference? The former mission statements focused on shareholders and profits, the latter mission statements focus on customers and positive achievements for everyone, not just a select few. These mission statements inspire – they give a reason to get up in the morning and go to work.

So how do you come up with a mission statement that will inspire and guide rather than demotivate? We’ll cover that in part 2.

Can you guess which companies are represented in this post?  Make your guesses and then check below.  Let us know how many you got right in the comments below and post your company’s mission statement.

Here’s the bad examples:
1) AmerisourceBergen, 2) Cooper Tire & Rubber Company, 3) Dana Corporation, 4) Dean Foods Corporation, 5) AGCO, 6) American Standard, 7) The Hershey Company, 8) AutoNation

And the good examples:
1) ADM, 2) Becton, Dickinson and Company, 3) Bristol-Myers Squibb Company, 4) ConocoPhillips, 5) CVS Corporation, 6) Darden Restaurants, 7) The Dow Chemical Company, 8) Ford Motor Company, 9) Harley-Davidson, Inc, 10) Laidlaw International Levi Strauss & Co

A physicist by trade, author by choice, a born teacher, a retired veteran, and an adamant problem solver, Frank has helped the White House, federal agencies, military offices, historical museums, manufacturers, and over 250 technology startups get stuff done, communicate effectively, and find practical solutions that work for them. In his spare time, he makes sawdust and watches Godzilla movies.