(Second in a series about fundamental documents every business needs. The first was: The basics: How to write a compelling mission statement. )
While it is often displayed externally, a mission statement is primarily internally focused. It unifies an organization around a common set of goals and objectives.
It is a rallying cry, meant for those times when the drudgery of day-to-day tasks make the work of the business seem meaningless rather than aspirational. Even if your business is a business of only one, a mission statement is necessary because everyone needs to be able to step back and view her work from the long view and answer, “What am I contributing?” “How do I matter?” A mission statement is a reminder that your business does more for society than provide an income for you, as important as that is.
The external vision statement
The vision statement, on the other hand, is externally focused. It expresses where your organization is headed. If the mission statement is Point A, the vision statement is Point B. A mission statement tells what the company does or aims to accomplish. In comparison, a vision statement indicates the eventual milestone the organization would like to reach. It is the first step of a marketing plan.
On the time continuum, mission refers to the present. In contrast, vision points to the future. Whereas the mission statement talks of the company’s purpose, the vision statement refers to the destination.
Great vision statements examples
- Microsoft: A computer on every desk and in every home; all running Microsoft software.
- Apple: An Apple on every desk.
- NEA: Our vision is a great public school for every student.
- Cisco: To change the way the world works, lives, plays and learns.
- Disney: To make people happy.
- Oxfam: A just world without poverty.
- Ikea: To create a better everyday life for the many people.
- Nike: To be the number one athletic company in the world.
Vision statement questions to consider
- What do I want my business to look like in 10 years?
- Who is the competitor that I want most to exceed?
- What profit level would I like to reach (or other benchmark, such as number of customers served or market position)?
- How would I like my employees to feel about working at my business?
- What kind of service do I want to be known for?
- How do I want people to speak about the quality of my products or services?
- What mark do I want to make on the environment/planet/society?
After you have worked with your employees to answer these questions, write your vision statement in the present tense. Infuse it with passion and emotion, painting a graphic picture of the business you want. Like the mission statement, it should be aspirational.
Make your vision statement a reality
If you empower your employees, communicate with authenticity, plan your strategy and dedicate the time and resources to your goals, you will fulfill your vision. You should revisit your vision every few years and update it as you reach your goals, and set a new vision.
In the example I gave yesterday of the organization I worked with, the Peninsula Women’s Network, it had not previously used a vision statement. With the rebranding effort, however, we wrote the vision statement: “We empower women to achieve success.” While it doesn’t quantify results like a business vision statement might, this statement is short, forward-looking and aspirational.
Where do you see your business going? Get it on paper. Review it regularly.