Earlier this year, I facilitated a working session at our annual Team All-Hands week for the Reaction core team, and it was all about our mission and vision statements.
Coming up with a lasting vision and mission is hard work, especially in an ever-evolving and rapidly-iterating early-stage startup. Our sessions involved lively debate around nearly every word of our draft statements.
As a starting point, I began the session with some work-in-progress drafts. I had developed these initial drafts through a combination of my own gut thinking, research and exploration, and conversations with both my cofounder Aaron and a trusted advisor. While they were nowhere near ready for primetime, it was helpful to start with something concrete as a way to kick things off.
There’s no shortage of definitions on the interwebz for what a vision and mission statement should be. In my experience, a vision statement is aspirational. It focuses on the future, and it’s a statement of motivation and inspiration. The mission statement is more practical and often more tactical. A good mission statement helps guide decisions and day-to-day planning and thinking. If you’re debating doing one thing or another, the mission statement can often serve as a helpful guide in making that decision.
In preparing for the session, I took a trip down memory lane and reviewed some of our very first taglines and mission statements.
One of our first mission statements was:
This still speaks to us, but it feels like it’s more of a design principle than a company-wide mission statement.
Here's where we landed with the next iteration:
We’re building a new commerce experience.
I still love this one. It’s simple, but, in retrospect, it’s a bit too vague. It feels a little like we’re incomplete and still in Beta, building the basics. What’s a “commerce experience,” anyway? Brick-and-mortar retail? Ecommerce? Mobile commerce? All of the above? (Hint: yes, all of the above!)
For a long time, this was the tagline on our website:
Fast, Open, and Built for Commerce.
We still like this one, but it’s not really a vision or mission statement. It might end up in some marketing collateral down the line.
Here’s the mission statement I started the session with:
Our mission is to continuously rethink the modern commerce experience. That’s why we’re building a global platform, along with a passionate, open community, that redefines the interactions between businesses and consumers.
We liked how “continuously rethink” conveyed that we were never going to stop iterating. We debated the “modern” in “modern commerce experience” as being something that was relevant today, but maybe not progressive enough for the future. We had lively discussions around the words “building,” “global platform,” “passionate, open community,” “redefines,” and “interactions between businesses and consumers.” As you can see, we debated just about everything! We also agreed that this statement was just too long and not memorable enough. So, like the hackers that we are, we hacked it up ‘til we got this:
Our mission is to continuously rethink the commerce experience. We’re building a global platform, with a passionate, open community, that redefines the marketplace.
We still didn’t love “we’re building” or “the marketplace,” but we felt like we were getting closer. Our brains were getting tired at that point, so we moved on to the vision statement.
Our vision statement needed the most work. Here’s what we started with:
To be the envy of developers and purveyors of commerce by creating the ubiquitous commerce solution.
Immediately, the word “envy” was unanimously ruled as negative-—a deadly sin, even! “Purveyors” felt too old-school, and “ubiquitous” just felt plain wrong. Even reading this draft statement now makes me cringe with embarrassment. What’s the saying? If you’re not embarrassed by your first vision statement, you’ve waited too long to launch?
We were running out of time—not to mention creative juices—so we paused for the day. I shared the working deck, and we discussed in smaller groups over the next several weeks. There’s no formula for this. We didn’t do things perfectly. We even talked about doing another full-team session, but then everyone returned back to their respective homes after our annual All-Hands week, and then our daily tasks got in the way. I wanted to finish it up, so I had some conversations within smaller groups. We were also working on a big redesign of our site, which more or less forced us to wrap things up.
So without further ado, here's where what we came up with. We think both statements stand alone quite nicely.
Our current mission statement is:
Continuously rethinking the commerce experience.
And our current vision statement is:
The last commerce platform you’ll ever need.
I’m already looking forward to debating these statements at our 2018 All Hands! As the months have passed, it now feels as if our vision statement lacks a bit of humility. We still like its boldness, but this particular vision statement has been living on our homepage for most of the year now, which might not be the best place for it. Our mission statement is on our About page, and it still feels right, but I suspect we’ll hack both up next year.
I encourage every startup to do this very same exercise on a regular basis. It spurs healthy team conversation, and it forces you to think about your business on a higher level. It’s also helpful to bring in outsiders to the conversation: customers, clients, community members, advisors, investors, etc. That said, it’s important not to get too paralyzed by all the voices. Allow some room for debate and discussion, and then make the call, and move forward. There’s always time to rethink things next year. Iterative vision and mission statements, FTW.
What do you think about our mission and vision statements? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Feel free to leave a comment below.