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A Mission Statement is Easy. Execution is Difficult

A mission statement is nice to have, but it too often becomes a marketing pitch. Progress, including within a company's mission, is more important for investors.

February 22, 2021

One of great things about being a lead advisor at 7investing is the amount of time we have to read, research, and talk directly with companies. While each of us recommends one business each month as an investing opportunity, subscribers never get to see all of the companies that cross our paths each month. In my little corner of the market, I say “no” much more than I say “yes.”

There are thousands of companies attempting to use biology as technology, a field I call living technology, but only a fraction represent investing opportunities. Although there are numerous metrics to consider — technology platforms, durable advantages, the pain points being addressed, and many more — a company’s mission statement is never one of them. Why not?

In my experience, mission statements are often indistinguishable from marketing hype. Take Chipotle Mexican Grill‘s (NYSE: CMG) mission statement, for example, which is “to provide food with integrity.” That sounds great, but this is the same company that had a series of norovirus outbreaks within its restaurants and has helped to spread misinformation about genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The company’s actions haven’t quite lived up to the definition of “integrity.”

Did the mission statement matter for investors? Not really. What mattered more was that the company encountered several headwinds in recent years and, ultimately, how it responded. After setbacks initially pounded the stock, shares of Chipotle have been on a tear in recent years. Why? Because Chipotle is a great business.

Unfortunately, mission statements often double as marketing hype for living technology companies. Perhaps that’s due to the relative immaturity of the field or each company’s struggle in communicating complex science to the masses. Either way, it’s simply too easy for companies to slap a handful of trendy keywords together into a sentence or two (that make no sense to scientists) and then trick unsuspecting investors into buying a stake.

Worse yet, it’s not uncommon for early-stage companies to change their mission statement each year. If a business can’t even figure out what its mission ought to be, then why the heck should I care?

That’s why investors should care much more about execution and accountability, which is probably true for any business in any industry — including 7investing, where our mission is “To empower you to invest in your future.”

Is a company making progress against its stated goals? Is the company living up to its mission statement?

Making a mission statement is easy. Executing a mission is much more difficult. If you pay attention to companies that are executing, then you’ll likely find companies that are living up to their mission statement, too.

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