Does your company have a purpose? Can you write your company purpose down in under two sentences?

If you can’t, no worries! Unearthing that purpose is within your grasp. We’re here to help.

On the surface, you can say something like “we sell software,” but that’s what you do. Not why you do it. Purpose is what makes you stand out amidst the competition.

It is, more or less, your identity.

Determining your company’s purpose can be tricky and isn’t something that should be taken lightly.

Leon Jacobs puts it this way, “Purpose speaks to the core of the business place. It is the more nuanced answer to the questions: Why does this business exist? What role does it play in society? What does it offer to the world in exchange for money?”

Your purpose statement should be something short, sweet, and to the point.

So how can you narrow down that statement? Well, hopefully by the end of this post, I’ll give you some ideas on where to start.

1. Learn from the Experts

When trying to find your purpose, don’t be afraid to take a look at other well-established companies. What are they saying about themselves and what kind of statement are they making about their own purposes?

Leon Jacobs, in the article listed above, explored the purpose statement of the website,Evernote.com. The company built their entire image, all the way down to the elephant in their logo, around the simple yet emotional purpose: “to be the world’s memory.”

Apple, the current leading brand company in the world, holds to the following mission statement:

Apple designs Macs, the best personal computers in the world, along with OS X, iLife, iWork and professional software. Apple leads the digital music revolution with its iPods and iTunes online store. Apple has reinvented the mobile phone with its revolutionary iPhone and App Store, and is defining the future of mobile media and computing devices with iPad.

Their statement is bold. They aren’t afraid to reveal what they stand for and will make it clear for the whole world to know.

Research what other companies like yours have to say about themselves. If you develop marketing software, look up other software companies’ statements. Learn from them, and see how their statements stir your creativity in coming up with your own purpose statement.

Below are a few more examples of the statements of some other leading companies. Look carefully at how they’re unique to each brand. Do these give you any ideas on how to describe your own business?

  • The mission statement for Microsoft is “to enable people and businesses throughout the world to realize their full potential.”
  • The mission statement for Google is “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”
  • The mission statement for Coca-Cola is “to refresh the world . . . to inspire moments of optimism and happiness . . . and to create value and make a difference.”
  • IBM puts value in their “dedication to every client’s success, innovation that matters–for the company and the world, and trust and personal responsibility in all relationships.”
  • McDonald’s says, “Our purpose goes beyond what we sell. We’re using our reach to be a positive force. For our customers. Our people. Our communities. Our world.”
  • The mission statement for Disney is “developing a culture and creating an environment where people feel like they are part of something that is bigger than they are.”
  • Facebook’s mission statement says that the company desires “to give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected.”
  • Toyota’s mission statement is to “lead the way to the future of mobility, enriching lives around the world with the safest and most responsible ways of moving people.”

2. Think Big Picture

Before we can narrow what your company is about in a single sentence, let’s start gathering details about your company itself.

Ask the following questions about your company:

  1. What are our company’s values? What does your company put stock into? Do you put value in the family dynamic? Do you put value in making public speaking easier by providing beneficial tools for presentations? Do you value making knowledge more accessible for users (like Google) or do you want to empower people to share their lives in new ways (Like Facebook).
  2. What problem are you trying to solve? Whitney Hess, quoted in an article for Inc. Magazine, said it best, “If you don’t know what the problem is you’re trying to solve, why are you in business in the first place?” All businesses exist to solve a problem, so what problem is your company trying to solve?
  3. What are you selling? What does your company have to offer? What do you have that no one else has? If your product is similar to the competition’s, how does yours stand out? What makes it different? What makes it better?
  4. Who is your market? Who stands to benefit from the product you are offering? An article in The Marketing Donut, titled “Six Steps to Defining Your Target Market,” puts it this way, “Start to list all the different types of customers that suffer from the problems you solve. Once done, you can start to build up a picture of these customers. . . . Ask yourself other types of relevant questions about these people. Are they married? Are they male or female? Do they play golf? Define them in as many relevant ways as possible.” Knowing your target demographic can help you to establish your purpose statement.
  5. How do you respond to the mission question? Asking what your company stands for will help you draw out your focus. Writing at FastCompany.com about “the mission question,” Warren Berger presented five questions to help companies keep their focus on what matters:
  • Why are we here in the first place?
  • What does the world need most that we are uniquely able to provide?
  • What are we willing to sacrifice
  • What matters more than money?
  • Are we all on this mission together?6. Why do you do what you do? Many organizations know what they do, but very few can answer why. Simon Sinek, writing for Inc.com about your company’s purpose, recommended finding your “why.” He explains:

“Here’s a way you can understand what makes you at your best. If you simply take a look at your career, your past, and you sort of plot the times where you were naturally at your best, where everything went perfectly. Even if it wasn’t a commercial success, you loved, and that’s the important part, you loved being a part of it, and you’ll find that there is a pattern. You’ll find that the thing that was driving you in each of those times was exactly the same. That’s because that was your “why”. In those particular cases it was an accident, but when you know that cause, when you know that “why”, you can now do it prescriptively in the future.”

3. Narrow Your Focus

How can you summarize all those ideas in one sentence? Use the material you gathered from the above questions and start experimenting.

  1. Choose which information you need to highlight. You don’t need to lay down every point you came up with above. Focus on the important information when writing your purpose statement.
  2. Make your purpose statement simple and clear. The average amount of words people will get out of a sentence before it becomes cumbersome is 9 to 14. It can be tempting to be wordy, but keep it simple and to the point.
  3. Write several drafts. Don’t spend hours trying to come up with one statement. Write several and lay them out.
  4. Make it easy to memorize. If people came on tour to your company, could you say this statement while walking backward? When writing the phrase, make sure it rolls well off the tongue.
  5. Be passionate about it! When you’ve finished writing it, does saying the phrase aloud fill you with passion? Did you feel excited when you recited those words? If not, you should probably rewrite it. If you aren’t passionate about the statement, then it’s likely that your employees and customers won’t either.

Conclusion

Be deliberate. Don’t rush. Make sure this statement is as perfect as it’s going to get. After all, it’s going to reflect the core of what your company stands for.

What are some other ways you can define your purpose statement? I’d love to hear your thoughts on it!