Among all kinds of statements in the world, the most interesting one is a vision statement. What is a vision statement and why you need one – read on to find out.
Wait, Did You Just Say “Statement” – What’s That Supposed to Mean?
Yep, you got it right – it was a statement, which is a piece of some important information you declare for everyone (yourself included) to notice.
In this article we’ll concentrate on two types of statement – vision statement and mission statement because they pay a huge role while setting up a business. Let’s start with a vision statement first.
What Is a Vision Statement Anyway?
Here is, possibly, the best definition of vision statement that I’ve seen on the web, courtesy of Businessdictionary.com.
A vision statement is “an aspirational description of what an organization would like to achieve or accomplish in the mid-term or long-term future. It is intended to serve as a clear guide for choosing the current and future courses of action.”
As you can see from the description, a vision statement is like a roadmap for any company. It gives you a clear idea of where you want to go (as a company) and, based on that, you can plan what you should do to get there.
So, Why Do I Need This Vision Statement?
Well, not only you – any company needs it. If you don’t know where to go, how in the world can you go there? Many people dismiss vision statement as some “obsolete, oldies thing” and “basically useless cause I pretty much know what to do myself.” You won’t believe how wrong they are.
Whenever starting a new business, it is very important to come up with a vision statement as soon as possible. Here’s what a vision statement gives you:
It’s obvious. Once you know where you want to be, you should be able to figure out how to get there and what the milestones are.
Every day we do a lot of things, big and small, relevant and not. In this routine, it’s very important to have something that fills every your action with sense – and that’s purpose.
Often we tend to switch from one thing to another, try this and that, or even completely change the way things are going, thus straying from the main path a bit. With a vision statement, it’s much less likely to be caught up in a mess like this.
- clear vision
This is the most important part so far. Knowing exactly what you want to become as a company makes you a highly focused, unstoppable machine – like a tank, so to say. 😉
Right, Right. Now Can You Give Me an Example of Sorts?
Sure, there are plenty of vision statement samples and examples all around the web but I decided to treat you with something special.
Here’s a real-life vision statement of one popular electronics and software company called Apple as formulated by the company’s current CEO Tim Cook.
“We believe that we are on the face of the Earth to make great products and that’s not changing.
We are constantly focusing on innovating.
We believe in the simple, not the complex.
We believe that we need to own and control the primary technologies behind the products that we make, and participate only in markets where we can make a significant contribution.
We believe in saying “no” to thousands of projects so that we can really focus on the few that are truly important and meaningful to us.
We believe in deep collaboration and cross-pollination of our groups, which allow us to innovate in a way that others cannot.
And frankly, we don’t settle for anything less than excellence in every group in the company, and we have the self- honesty to admit when we’re wrong and the courage to change.
And I think, regardless of who is in what job, those values are so embedded in this company that Apple will do extremely well.”
Well put, isn’t it?
- Here, Tim Cook covers all the basic topics – he mentions:
- the company’s general focus (innovation, simplicity, and strive for the excellence)
- the main production principle (create and control your own technologies rather than borrow)
- the main organizational principle (focus on few projects rather than doing a lot of them simultaneously)
- the main HR principle (deep collaboration and cross-pollination)
If you ask me, there isn’t a “How to write vision statements” manual because it’s all very personal. There are, however, guidelines as per how to create a vision statement that makes sense.
So, How Do I Create a Vision Statement That Makes Sense?
Following the recommendations provided below will help you come up with your own nice vision statement quickly.
1. Think Large
Vision statements are made to inspire and aspire, not to dictate routine tasks. Let your fantasy go and come up with something that is worth believing in.
Remember – this isn’t just for you. A vision statement is directed towards your employees, your clients (current and potential), and the world in general. The greater plans you have, the greater impact you may make.
Apple didn’t just want to make consumer electronics – they wanted to “make great products.” Love it or hate it, their products deserve to be called great.
2. Keep It Short
With your fantasy unleashed, don’t forget you’re in business after all. That vision statement of yours shouldn’t be a science fiction book – more of a short essay.
The rule of thumb is to be able to condense all your vision statement thoughts in a single page, 10 to 15 short sentences should be enough.
Once you’ve written it, read it and revise it multiple times throwing away and adding stuff until you’re satisfied with the result.
3. Cover Everything That Matters
Don’t forget to mention everything that is important for your business. If it’s means of distribution, do it. If it’s coding principles, write it down.
Apple didn’t hesitate to mention their production and HR approaches.
4. Don’t State the Obvious
Please, keep away from things like “We should earn a lot of money every month” or “Work until I am able to buy myself a mansion on the hill” or “Attract more clients.”
Of course, every business is about growing client base and making money. Think beyond that and convey greater thoughts in your vision statement. Thoughts that deserve to be called vision.
5. Sleep on It
Don’t accept the first version of the vision statement you will come up with. Allow yourself to sleep on it, show it to your companions, have a discussion. You want to be perfect and in achieving so you will have to go through a few rounds.
Well, That Seems Quite Clear Now But What About That Mission Statement You’ve Mentioned?
Mission statement is a whole different thing. Although they often go in a pair, a mission statement should never be confused with a vision statement. To make the distinction, let’s define a mission statement, per Wikipedia.
A mission statement is a statement, which is used to communicate the purpose of an organization. It is often referred to as “company mission,” “corporate mission,” or “corporate purpose.”
A great commercial mission statement should consist of these three essential components:
1. Who is our target client/customer? (shameless promo plug – here’s a great article on the subject “How to Create Buyer Persona for Your Business and Get More Clients”)
2. What product service do we provide to that customer?
3. What’s so special about our product and why the customers would want to buy it?
As you can see, a vision statement mainly talks about WHERE you want to go while a mission statement describes HOW you are going to do it.
Let’s run a comparison list, so that you could see how different these two types of statement are.
What it does
Vision statement – Outlines what and where you want to be as a company
Mission statement – Talks about how you will get where you want to be
What question it answers
Vision statement – Where do we want to be
Mission statement – Who are our clients? What do we do? What makes us stand out?
What time period it focuses on
Vision statement – Your future
Mission statement – Your present leading to the future
Can it be changed?
Vision statement – Rarely. Very few changes should be done
Mission statement – Yes. From time to time, although you should still stick to the core values indicated in the original mission statement.
Mission statements don’t usually come before or after vision statements. These documents should be developed at the same time and should be strictly tied to each other as they form an integral part of your overall business strategy.
For further reading about business strategy, I suggest you check out my other articles “Understanding Website Marketing Strategy: Why You Should Have One” and “What Is a Sales Strategy? Tips for Developing Your Own Strategy.”
Here’s an example of a mission statement from the same very company – Apple.
“Apple designs Macs, the best personal computers in the world, along with OS X, iLife, iWork and professional software.
Apple leads the digital music revolution with its iPods and iTunes online store.
Apple has reinvented the mobile phone with its revolutionary iPhone and App store, and is defining the future of mobile media and computing devices with iPad.”
Thanks for getting to the end of our article. A vision statement answers the question “Where do I want to go as a company?” – it’s a very important document for any company. It shouldn’t be confused with another important document called a mission statement.
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If you have further questions on the subject, please write them in comments – I’ll be glad to answer.