What everyone should know about Mission Statements.

Mission Statement
The Adventures of Bell Boy

Every creative person that is trying to sell his or her work is running a business.  It may not be formalized into a separate company, it may not have any employees other than the artist, or it may not even be a full time effort, but regardless, every business venture should have a mission statement crystallizing why you do what you do.

A mission statement is a simple statement that provides direction for you efforts. It defines your business and provides a beacon for you and your employees to follow.  When things get tough or you are being pulled in too many directions, the mission statement can help you focus in on potential opportunities.

Walt Disney had a great mission statement: “To Make People Happy.”

The mission statement will help your customers understand what you are all about and reinforce why they keep coming back. It can guide your marketing efforts too. But most importantly, the process to create this simple, short statement requires that you engage in a thoughtful analysis of why you started your business in the first place.  Whether you are an solo artist trying to sell your works or starting the newest art & design website, a good mission statement will always keep you focused on your goals.

So how do you write one? First, try to answer these 5 questions:

  1. What am I good at? Make a list, ask your friends, then try to find a few words that describe it all.
  2. What are the opportunities?  Find the unfulfilled niche that you can target.
  3. What are you assuming about your business and industry?  Make sure you aren’t fooling yourself.  Know what is real.
  4. What would you like to be remembered for? It doesn’t have to be grandiose, like you want to win an Oscar, but something that you would be proud of accomplishing.
  5. How are my personal goals different from my business goals?  Don’t get them confused.  Sometimes they can be the same but not always.

As far as constructing the mission statement, here are a few tips.  It should be timeless so that, as your company grows, the mission is still relevant. Also, your mission shouldn’t be grandiose and hard to achieve, or even take too long to achieve.  Rather, your mission should be both attainable and sustainable.  A mission should not be too complicated and hard to follow or understand. Customers and partners should be able to review it and quickly know what you and your company are all about. Finally, your mission should be succinct and focused (read this article on the 8-word mission statement) . Don’t make it so broad that anything fits into it.

Ok, so lets look at a few examples so you can get a sense of what I mean.  Below are three companies with very simple and attainable mission statements.

  • PIXAR’s objective is to combine proprietary technological and world-class creative talent to develop computer-animated feature films with memorable character and heartwarming stories that appeal to audiences of all ages.
  • GOOGLE’ mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible ands useful.
  • ROUNDABOUT THEATRE COMPANY, INC. is dedicated to presenting theatre artists of international stature in great classical and contemporary works.

Now, below is an example of a mission statement that is too broad, filled with jargon and says nothing unique.  It could be a mission statement from any one of a hundred companies:

  • THE WALT DISNEY COMPANY’S objective is to be one of the world’s leading producers and providers of entertainment and information, using its portfolio of brands to differentiate its content, services and consumer products. The company’s primary financial goals are to maximize earnings and cash flow, and to allocate capital profitability toward growth initiatives that will drive long-term shareholder value.

 I expected more from Disney and I think Walt Disney would have hoped for something different, too.  After all, he had a great personal mission statement; “To Make People Happy.” 

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About the author

Steve Schlackman

As a photographer and Patent Attorney with a background in marketing, Steve has a unique perspective on art and law. Should you have any questions on Intellectual Property contact him at [email protected] His photography can be seen online at or on display at the Emmanuel Fremin Gallery in New York City.

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