FAMILY MISSION STATEMENTS

TAKING A PAGE OUT OF THE LEADING BRANDS' PLAYBOOK

by Dirk Jungé

With just a few words, the world’s most effective and successful brands can sum up not just what they do, but how and why they do it with a succinct mission statement.

 

Here’s one example: “Give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together.” That’s Facebook’s mission. In one sentence, Mark Zuckerberg and company convey a lot about Facebook – it’s driven by users, values personal connections, and is expanding its global reach.

 

Or take Southwest Airline’s purpose: “Connect People to what’s important in their lives through friendly, reliable, and low-cost air travel.” It tells employees and stakeholders why the company exists (connect people via air travel) and how it works (through friendly, reliable low-cost service). 

 

Whether it’s called purpose, vision, or mission statement, most families and advisors recognise the value of formalising a family’s guiding principles

 

But not all family mission statements are created equal. A generic mission statement does little to define a family’s goals and can actually do more harm than good. When crafting a family mission statement, keep these considerations and best practices pulled from leading brands in mind.

The process is as valuable as the end product.

 

Company leaders rarely have the luxury of stepping back and thinking about long-term strategy. Mission statements offer executives a chance to collaborate and think big picture. Families are often in a similar situation. Simply getting everyone together to talk through values, expectations, and future plans can be as beneficial as the finalised mission statement.

 

As families begin to hash out a mission statement, many advisors recommend that each family member first create a personal mission statement. This allows family members to identify personal values and creates a starting off point for drafting a mission statement focused on shared values across the family.

 

Many families enlist the help of an outsider to spearhead these early meetings and facilitate difficult conversations. More than half of affluent families used an external advisor or a special consultant in designing their family mission statement, according to a recent industry survey. 

Pick a shelf life

 

Some companies change their mission statement on a regular basis (Facebook just updated in June 2017). Other brands keep their mission statements for generations. 

For families, each of these approaches has merit, but the format should be decided early on. Coordinate with family members and advisors to figure out if the mission statement is designed to be reviewed annually, every decade, during significant transitions, or if it’s meant to exist in perpetuity.

Make it memorable

 

A hollow mission statement is meaningless. Many companies learn this the hard way. What could have been a tool to facilitate discussion can quickly create cynicism if people don’t believe in it or can’t remember it. A family mission statement must be memorable with a concise, impactful summary that can guide the decision-making process.

 

A mission statement is no replacement for good governance. It’s a path toward smoother generational transitions and greater financial success in the long run. It should complement other family planning and governance tools like decision-making frameworks, succession planning, and educating younger generations. 

 

For many families, a mission statement is a crucial step in recognizing that family dynamics are equal to financial factors in maintaining wealth momentum. But it takes complete family buy-in and some real reflection to make the process worthwhile. Just like with brands, a family mission statement should be a culmination of experiences and beliefs, not a starting point.

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