When I was growing up, I went to a public elementary school where I was often harassed by kids in my class--my hair was pulled, I was cornered in stairwells on the way up from gym class, I had glass bottle bits from the playground thrown at me, and more. Yet written in bold letters on the front entrance to this school was the phrase "Our Kids Care". Under it was a list of all the things that the students were supposedly doing to lend support to this credo--none of which actually occurred very often, or I clearly would not have had the troubles I did. Today some very well-known companies purport to live by mission statements that ring as hollow as that of my elementary school. So what makes the difference between a mission statement that matters, and empty verbiage? These 5 factors.

1. A mission statement should tell a story. Employees, customers, and vendors all want to know why the company they are working for or with came to be. It's not just about where and when, it's about the birth of a legacy--and helping them to understand how and why your company exists, so they can find their place in it.

2. A mission statement should set a standard. Once people have discovered your company's journey into being, they want to learn about what your company cares about. If your values are clear, so is the value you can bring to the people you are working with. Be loud and proud about what you believe.

3. A mission statement should highlight the one thing that makes your company special. Trying to be all things to all people is where a lot of businesses go awry. Your mission statement is your safeguard against distractions and excess. It's here that you lay down the law. Your staff and your prospective clients and partners want to understand just what your company promises to do.

4. A mission statement should contain a roadmap for the company's growth. It's not some set-it-and-forget-it blurb. It's meant to say exactly how you are going to do what you promised. Be specific, be honest, and be bold--but make sure you can deliver.

5. A mission statement must be developed with the intention of weaving it into every part of a company's fabric. Its power comes from every person who wears your company's colors conscientiously applying it to everything he does. Every interaction, every action, and every reaction should reflect the core of your mission statement. Writing it on the front door means nothing if it doesn't permeate what happens inside the building.

We publish our mission statement in the front of every catalogue we print. We consecrate an entire page to it--which costs a lot in terms of marketing dollars and space. But 13 years into this entrepreneurial adventure, never once has anyone in any department considered cutting it. From the newest recruit to the longest standing employee, they all know that this statement is not some bullshit we jotted down to make ourselves feel important. It is what our company and everyone in it, lives and dies by. To this day, I get goose bumps when I read it. It sets the tone for every choice we make. For both my partner and I and our employees, it is a constant reminder of the way in which we engage with one another--with the intent of doing right by one another, and not just by the company's bottom line. For our customers, it is the promise that we can be trusted to do what we say, when we say we will do it, and to be held accountable for everything we put out-- from the quality of our products to the sincerity of our service. It reads:

Ethics matters. In life and in business. Bombshell Accessories/Metal Mafia trades on that principle. In the era of cutthroat and carelessness, we choose commitment and accountability. No excuses. No slack. No margin for error. Bombshell Accessories/Metal Mafia is the result of three people's dedication to doing it right every time, in a world where things being done wrong has become the norm. We make jewelry, but our company also makes a home for both the people who work here and the people we serve. Our style is as persuasive as our honesty. Our quality is as irreproachable as our integrity. Our designs are as righteous as we are.

A mission statement isn't dead language--it's a call to action.