How I Fixed My Broken Mission Statement

I’ve been struggling with my mission statement.  I’m embarrassed to admit it, since I’m a business coach who helps businesses and organizations define their own missions.  My struggle feels akin to a cobbler’s children going barefoot.

By way of definition, a mission statement briefly describes the reason for your organization’s existence.  It is generally pretty stable, but may change as your emphasis changes.  For example, The Nature Conservancy changed from “Saving the Last Great Places on Earth” to “Protecting Nature.  Preserving Life.”  TNC decided that in order to protect nature, it also needed to address how people interacted with nature and how their lives might be improved by preserving nature.  I guess if The Nature Conservancy can change their mission statement, then I’m allowed to modify mine as well.

I most enjoy working with organizations that seek to have a positive social or environmental impact, and at the same time make money.  As a business coach and strategy consultant, I help them to take the next steps in their development and thereby expand their impact and increase their profits.  Hence, my mission statement of “Aligning Social Impact and Financial Results.”

But here’s my quandary.  I have good clients whom I enjoy working with, and who definitely want to do the right thing by their customers, their employees, and the world that they live in.  They are a pleasure to work with, and I’m honored to help them to grow their businesses.  Yet most of them do not face problems with balancing social good and profits.  Their primary goal is making money, and they work at doing so in an honest, ethical, and positive way.  When I brought up my mission statement, they were “miffed” and maybe even a bit offended, since they felt excluded.

As a business coach, I repeatedly tell my clients that they need to focus on a specific target market and not try to be all things to all people and thereby nothing to nobody.  I tell them that having a target market does not preclude them from taking other business if it knocks on their door – it just defines where they look for business.  Yet I was facing the same struggle clearly defining my target market and not excluding people and companies that I enjoy working with.

My solution?

  • Trim the mission statement down to “Aligning Impact and Profit.”
  • Eliminate the word “social” in order to expand the universe of people and companies that I work with, and because “social” frequently gets confused with social media.
  • Retain “impact” since it’s a common word in the “impact” community, but also has a broader definition that I’m comfortable with.  Impact can define a variety of positive ways of changing the world, through business, the arts, education, health, clean energy, clean tech, sustainability, etc.
  • Change the somewhat understated “financial results” to a clearer “profit.”

I feel pretty good about this change to my mission statement.  I believe that solving the world’s ills requires a well-working free market that is responsive to people’s real needs, rather than a simple for-profit motive.  I believe that my mission statement accurately reflects my desire to help them to find creative ways of simultaneously increasing their impact and making money.

Do you have a mission statement that resonates with you?  Does it clearly state what you do and  for whom?  What does it say about you and your organization?  How does it help to define your organizational culture?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this subject, if you’d like to add a comment to this blog.

3 thoughts on “How I Fixed My Broken Mission Statement

  1. Your mission statement is almost a tagline. We have embedded our tagline into our mission statement by incorporating it in the second sentence of our three sentence elevator speech. Here it is:

    “The mission of VAST is to serve God by profitably building more efficient combustion systems with exhaust so clean you can breathe it. The twin implementing goals of VAST are Clean Power + Good Stewardship. By achieving those goals, we’ll honor the Lord, serve our stakeholders and fulfill our mission.”

    About 50 words. What people remember is the “God” part (that’s why it’s there) and the catchy image of “exhaust so clean you can breath it”.

    So, do you think mission statements should be very short – über short?

    • Yes. My goal is a maximum of 9 words that a 10 year old can understand. For you, maybe “Exhaust as clean as the air that God created.” People get sensitive about the use of the word “God”, so I would use it only if you are personally a religiously oriented person and felt comfortable with it.

  2. So well thought out and so helpful to others going through the same thing. I also think this does describe your business so well. Congratulations!

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