Finding Your Why and Writing Your Mission Statement

Before you dive in, here’s an audio recording of this post if you prefer to listen than read. 

You’re at a party, and if you’re an introvert like me, hovering around the perimeter observing social interactions unfold.

Then, the worst happens.

Your observing eye makes direct contact with the guy across the room.

Oh…no.

He acknowledges your existence and begins walking your way. Small talk ensues.

“What do you do?” he asks.

You reel off your well-rehearsed elevator pitch. Easy peasy.

And then…the follow-up. Ugh.

“Very cool. And why did you get into that?” he probes.

Crap, you think to yourself, I didn’t rehearse this one. Don’t fret, my friend. I’ve been there, too. Which is why I’m sharing these tips to help you find your “why” and write your mission statement.

The “why” question

At some point in your entrepreneurial journey, the question will hit you in the face: Why do I do what I do?

Knowing your “why” makes it easier to find fulfillment in your work and stay on track towards your goals. So get it down on paper. Pin it to your wall. Make it your wallpaper. Write it down in your daily affirmations. Just don’t let it go unanswered. 

But don’t just take my word for it. Take a cue from author, motivational speaker, and marketing consultant Simon Sinek. In his book, Start With Why, he explains:

There are only two ways to influence human behavior: you can manipulate it or you can inspire it. Very few people or companies can clearly articulate WHY they do WHAT they do. By WHY I mean your purpose, cause, or belief—WHY does your company exist? WHY do you get out of bed every morning? And WHY should anyone care? People don’t buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it.

Knowing your “why” adds authenticity and humanity to your business. It cultivates a common ground on which you can connect with your ideal customers. A computer can run a business without knowing why. It’s simply programmed to do what it does. But when building a service-based creative business, the why matters. 

Your “why” is your mission

Your elevator pitch clarifies the basics: who you are, what you do, and who you do it for.

Your mission statement goes deeper. It’s the reason why your business exists. Consider what problem your business exists to solve and form your mission statement around that. 

For example, I was tired of seeing creative talent and meaningful stories squandered by corporate agendas during my 9-5 days. I started my business to surface the stories that matter and enable you to live a creative life on your own terms.

That right there is my mission statement. I refer back to it often to stay focused and make decisions that align with my purpose.

Think of your mission statement as your compass for making big business decisions. When in doubt, return to your mission statement to stay on course with your purpose. 

Why write a mission statement

A well-crafted mission statement clearly states why your business exists in a way that resonates with your target audience. Depending on the nature of your business, it can be focused on your personal brand or company brand. Your mission statement functions to:

1. Inspire your customers with a shared sense of purpose.

For your business to survive and thrive, it needs to earn money. There’s no way around that. To earn money, your business needs people to buy. And people buy from people. So let your mission statement be human. Sprinkle in some of your brand’s personality and inspire others with a sense of shared purpose. By doing so, your customers will reward you with their loyalty. 

2. State what problem you solve for your customers.

While earning money is definitely important for your business, it doesn’t have to be your mission. In fact, I advise against focusing your mission statement on money. Money solves a problem for you. But what problem do you solve for your customers? Maybe you help them save time or make an impact in their community.

3. Create influence by showing how you benefit others.  

As Darren Rowse of ProBlogger discussed on his recent podcast, “great influencers use their influence for the benefit of other people.” This has a stark resemblance to one of the #1 rules of copywriting: put the customer first. That said, keep the problem you solve for your customers top of mind as you create your mission statement.

Going back to my own missions statement: I help you live a creative life on their own terms.

To summarize, an impactful mission statement inspires, solves a problem, and presents a clear benefit.

How to write your mission statement

Before you Sharpie in your mission statement, imagine your ideal business. Consider the whatwhy, and how, of your ideal scenario.

What do you do for your customers?

Your business exists to solve a problem for your customers. Whether you solve a complex global problem, such as bringing clean water to those without, or you provide for an everyday need, such as serving hot coffee to groggy locals in the Pacific Northwest, it’s important to put your benefit front and center.

Why do you do what you do?

Think back to Simon Sinek’s statement: “People don’t buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it.” Now consider your core values and find people who share them. Those people will become your biggest fans and willingly spread your message.

How do you do what you do?

Once you’ve articulated your what and your why, spend some time examining your process. How do you do what you do differently from others? Pinpoint the areas that set you apart from your competition.

Writing down answers to these questions will naturally lead you to your mission statement lickety-split.

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    • Thanks, Lauren! My “why” has changed many times (and I’m sure it will again as my business develops). I’ve also found it helpful to keep a running Google Doc of my “whats” and the “whys” behind them. And don’t worry about getting it perfect the first time. Progress, not perfection 🙂