Imagine finding a map that told you where your business should go. A lot of the times, lack of direction can leave business owners stuck like a deer in the headlights. But a map for your business would help you make better decisions, set goals, inspire your team, and get the right stuff done. Well, you can make your own map, and it starts with writing a vision statement.
A vision statement defines where you want your business to go. And if you don’t create a vision for your business, no one else will. But like Dave always says, “Winning is an intentional act.” So, call it whatever you want—a statement of purpose, a mantra or a main objective. You just need to figure out where your business is headed so you can lead it there.
Without a destination, you can’t have direction. So, let’s get to it.
What Is a Vision Statement?
Simply put, a vision is a more tangible dream. It describes the desired future that your business is working toward—a future that’s better than the present. It’s way more important than some catchy slogan or brochure filler. Your vision statement answers the question, “Where is your business going?” So, casting a vision for your business is nothing more than sharing a story—the story of your business’s future, why you work, and where you want to take your company. And vision statements aren’t just for the big global brands. Small businesses and mom and pops need vision statements too.
Why Small Businesses Need a Vision Statement
Small businesses need a vision statement because it gives them clear direction and purpose. Sadly, a lot of small-business failure could probably be traced back to a lack of vision. The owner may blame other things—the market, the competition, their employees—but the real root of the problem is often because they don’t have a strong vision or a plan to get the right stuff done.
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A vision statement will empower your organization with:
- Focus. What you focus on is what moves. A vision statement clearly defines what winning looks like for your business and helps you be intentional about moving toward that goal.
- Energy. A vision statement reminds you and your team of the difference you’re making in the community and the world. It’s the spark that will keep you going on those hard days.
- Boundaries. A vision statement can keep you from spending time, energy and money on things that won’t actually move your business in the right direction.
What Is the Difference Between a Vision and a Mission Statement?
Mission, vision, values, executive summary—it can all get so confusing. So, let’s clear up some of the fog surrounding mission and vision statements.
A mission statement answers the question, “Why do we exist?” It clearly defines who you are as a business and who you aren’t—what you stand for and what you don’t. It’s a statement about what you do and why you do it.
Like we talked about before, a vision statement describes the future and the potential impact your business will make in the world—or in your world. It's where your business is headed. It’s a dream that is tangible.
The bottom line is this: Mission statements and vision statements both provide your business with purpose and direction. One is about why you do what you do, and the other is about where your business is headed. They are tools that will help you move your business forward.
How to Write a Vision Statement
Now, there are a lot of good ways to write a vision statement. Some businesses, especially nonprofits, tend to make theirs not specific enough and maybe even a little unrealistic—and there’s nothing wrong with that! But leaders should make sure their vision statements are measurable and specific. Because the less vague your statement is, the easier it will be to create a strategy and set goals that will help you get there.
At EntreLeadership, we create what business management expert Jim Collins calls a BHAG: a Big Hairy Audacious Goal. It should fall somewhere between a projection (where you think you’ll most likely end up) and a dream. Here’s how you do it:
- Start with a dream. Think about what you want your business to become over time. What do you want to achieve? Try not to worry too much about what and how just yet—you’ll flesh that out in a minute. Just focus on where you want to take your business and why.
- Set a measurable goal. Drawing from your dream, set a three- to five-year goal that’s 50% to 70% achievable. It should be a pretty big bet on your team’s creativity, critical thinking, cleverness and ability to see new opportunities for growth.
- Choose the right metric. Consider the metrics (measurable results) you want to achieve, because what gets measured is what gets done. From lives changed to sandwiches served, there are endless possibilities to choose from. Just make sure whatever you’re measuring clearly connects to your mission.
Again, there really are many right ways to craft a vision statement. But whichever way you do it, your statement should:
- Give you language for what you believe.
- Rally your team around a common purpose.
- Serve as an out-of-bounds marker (so your team can make sure their work lines up with the company mission).
- Be a North Star (something that guides your team).
- Encourage your team to be emotionally invested.
Examples of Great Vision Statements
An easy way to get started on your draft is to take a few notes from brands with solid vision statements. Here are a few local and global businesses who are getting it right.
LinkedIn: Create economic opportunity for every member of the global workforce.1
Why it works: It’s others focused. While there’s nothing really wrong with the brands whose vision statements are, more or less, “to be the best in the biz” or “to make the most money,” it does say something about their values.
4KIDS of South Florida: A home for every child.2
Why it works: It’s measurable. With a little research, 4KIDS will be able to track their progress, set goals to support the vision statement, and rally people around it.
IKEA: To create a better everyday life for the many people.3
Why it works: It clearly defines who they’re serving. IKEA’s vision helps keep their products and plans in line with the company’s mission.
Why it works: It’s simple and to the point. As legal experts, Timeshare Exit Team could dabble in a lot of things. Instead, they’ve decided to become experts in one specific area.
RettSyndrome.org: Creating a world without Rett Syndrome.5
Why it works: The problem RettSyndrome.org is working to solve is super clear. Every decision, purchase and investment they make can be filtered through this vision to see if it all lines up.
Hatch Creatives: To provide space for community over competition for all women.6
Why it works: It provides guardrails for the brand. This vision statement clearly says what Hatch Creatives stands for—community, connectedness, support—and will help provide boundaries for their brand and services.
Charity: Water: To solve the water crisis and reinvent charity for a new generation.7
Why it works: It leaves room to adapt the how. How charity: water solves the water crisis may look different based on environmental changes and the communities they are serving, but the goal remains steady.
Set the Tempo for Your Business
A vision statement can help you set the tone, pace and strategy for the next month, year and decade. It also gives you and your team something to rally around, which is just as important.
Think about what you want your business to accomplish and what you want to move toward. Put it in writing—it will be your map leading you to where you want your business to go. Then, share that vision with your team. And then share it again—and again and again and again, until they start to get sick of hearing it and can rattle it off in their sleep. Use your vision to inspire your team and remind them how their work makes a difference in the world. After a lot of hard work, you’ll start to notice that you and your team have more focus and energy, and you’ll see progress being made.
To make your map (your vision statement) there’s one other thing that you need: margin. Yep, you need room to breathe. You need room to think about more than just making it through this week or this month. You need to think strategically, not just tactically. But finding the time to cast vision and plan for the future is tough if you’re stuck in the day to day. Listen, you can get out of the weeds and move your business forward.
Learn how at our upcoming webinar, Escape Survival Mode. You’ll learn three keys to taking control of your business so you can work on your business, not just in your business.