Bob Cavezza's Blog

I am searching for a business idea and it is difficult.  Over the past few months, I toiled over the search for an idea and made no progress in starting a new company.  Paul Graham’s post about startup ideas showed me that I was going about the process entirely wrong.  I was searching for a business idea without a mission.  This is the equivalent of searching for the “perfect tree” in the forest.  If you don’t have a definition for the “perfect tree”, you’ll never know when you find it and the term “perfect tree” may mean different things to different people.  Creating a mission helped me define what the “perfect business idea” would be for me.  I highly suggest you create a mission if you are searching for a business idea.  

Your mission is the end goal.  It’s what you want to devote your time to in order to accomplish.  A typical surgeon’s mission is to “save lives and advance scientific research”.  Your mission can be something that you would want to devote the next few years of your life to accomplish.  Amazon’s mission is to cheaply sell things online.  Code Academy’s mission is to “teach people how to code.”  

Picture of a guy looking toward the sky with mission text in the background

Your mission should be one sentence in length.  They will usually be about making something easy or make something less expensive.  It’s a goal that your startup will help you achieve.   Do yourself a favor, and don’t google company mission statements when looking for inspiration.  There is a fundamental difference between having a mission and having a mission statement.  Most mission statements are long-winded and filled with BS.  Most companies have a mission statement for the sole purpose of having a mission statement.  For example, here is the J.C. Penney mission statement.

JCPenney is executing a strategic Long Range Plan that consists of four integrated strategies aimed at building a deeper, more enduring relationship with our customers, increasing the engagement and retention of our Associates, and delivering industry leading financial performance to our shareholders.

This mission statement does not describe what J.C. Penney does.  I think a better mission for J.C. Penney would be “sell quality items at reasonable prices”.  Their mission statement doesn’t say what they do.  It’s business speak with very little actual meaning.  Do yourself a favor, and think of a one sentence mission that describes what you want to accomplish.  I created mine earlier today.  My mission is to “make it easy for anyone to start their own business”.

Source for JC Penney mission statement:

§121 · January 7, 2012 · Startup Ideas · · [Print]

1 Comment to “Create a Mission Before You Search for a Business Idea”

  1. James says:

    Agree with your post (and with Paul) completely, but I would take it one step further. Focus on the problems you want to solve and/or the customers you want to help.

    Once you’ve narrowed those down to your top 3, then start working with those customers on understanding the problem as best you can.

    Only when you truly understand the problem (i.e., your mission), start working on your solution (i.e. business).

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