Mission statements can be surprisingly hard to write. The overall gist seems pretty straightforward — stating why a company exists and its general goals — and yet, businesses frequently miss the mark or struggle to create one.

The key? A just-right balance of 4 traits that can be found in various mission statements from the biggest brands in the world.

1. It clearly spells out what the company does.

Mission statements with emotional words sound nice, but they run the risk of being vague without informing outsiders what a company actually offers. If your mission statement can do double duty serving as an awareness-building message to people who don’t know what you do, you’re in a good spot.

Apple makes it undeniably clear in their mission statement that they’re a next-gen tech company that aims to delight end users:

“Apple is committed to bringing the best personal computing experience to students, educators, creative professionals and consumers around the world through its innovative hardware, software and​ internet offerings.”

2. It stands the test of time.

Good mission statements avoid the mistake of making firm promises on things that could change: specific technologies or other competitors, to name a few. An example of this mistake would be a mission statement that says, “To be the only fashion company that gives back to the community at large.” A competitor could partner with a nonprofit for a breakthrough marketing campaign the next day — and now the statement is outright false.

In this sense, it’s ok to be relatively broad by not committing to an overly specific or lofty goal. The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) does a nice job of being clear about what they do while also spelling out big-picture goals for the consumer that will never change:

“To enrich people’s lives with programmes and services that inform, educate and entertain.”

3. It reflects actual process and decision making within the company.

A mission statement won’t live up to its claims if it’s out of touch with how the work actually gets done. The best mission statements truly guide decision-making and even day-to-day employee actions. The worst mission statements aren’t aligned with actually happens when you pull back the curtains.

Take for example Lumber Liquidators. Its mission statement claimed, “to focus on meeting the highest standards of safety, like no other flooring company in this country.” But in 2015, the company was exposed for shipping products containing dangerously high levels of a known carcinogen. Bottom line: You have to practice what you preach.

4. It always answers the big question: What are we trying to achieve?

One way or another, a mission statement should make it clear why the company exists outside of making a profit. You’ll see many company mission statements that cover the industry they’re in, or who they serve. Of course, pulling in these elements is completely fine — but at the end of the day, spelling out the goal is what makes the mission statement, well, a mission statement.

Automotive powerhouse, Tesla, is abundantly clear and strong in its goal:

“To accelerate the advent of sustainable transport by bringing compelling mass market electric cars to market as soon as possible.”

 

Other mission statements we love

“To deliver information on the people, ideas and technologies changing the world to our community of affluent business decision makers.”

“To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”

“To help people around the world plan and have the perfect trip.”

“To prevent and alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies by mobilizing the power of volunteers and the generosity of donors.”

“To nourish people and the planet. We’re a purpose-driven company that aims to set the standards of excellence for food retailers.”

Ready? Your turn.

If you haven’t written a mission statement yet, now’s the time to take action. This proven, easy-to-use guide reveals tips, tricks and best practices for getting into right mindset — and writing a mission statement that rocks.