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How to write a unique mission statement

Cedric Christie

Ditch generic buzzwords and jargon. Your firm is unique, so write a unique mission statement.

“To deliver WOW through service” is shoe-firm Zappos’ unequivocal mission statement. Writing for Harvard Business review, Denise Lee Yhon says capturing the essence of your firm’s values means reaching beyond dull catch phrases to embrace language that gets to the heart of what makes your firm tick.


“Ninety per cent of [mission statements] reference ethical behavior or use the word ‘integrity’, 88% mention commitment to customers, and 76% cite teamwork and trust.”

Your mission statement is a projection of your firm’s goals and values, and serves as a list of operating instructions for employees. To create a meaningful statement, ban the following banalities:

  • ethical
  • teamwork
  • authentic
  • customer oriented

It’s not that there’s anything wrong with being ethical or authentic – if you’re not both of those things, there’s something wrong. But why would you need to make a point of signaling values that your customers should be able to take for granted?


Likewise, steer clear of words that try too hard – like being “fun”, which makes your firm sound like it has the values of an overgrown teenager.

Words that express category rather than core values don’t work either: “A fast-food restaurant that says it values speed… well, it’s not saying anything different from any other fast-food restaurant.”


Avoiding using the same words as everyone else steers your search for a statement towards language that’s distinctive. But to truly nail your mission statement, it needs to take a position: Google says it believes “great just isn’t good enough”; other firms believe in getting products to market fast. Their “just ship it” mentality is equally valid.

Write your statement, then test it: if another firm could embrace the exact opposite of your core values and still end up with a meaningful mission statement, you’ve created a raison d’etre that genuinely says something.