Back when I was a co-founder for a startup, we spent a lot of time amongst ourselves debating on the future of the company and determining what our vision statement should be. You know, those statements that sound so abstract yet grandiose;
- “To organize the world‘s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” — Google
- “To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world” — Nike
- “To be earth’s most customer-centric company; to build a place where people can come to find and discover anything they might want to buy online.” — Amazon
The reason for our constant debate is the difficulty of selecting a suitable vision for the company. There’s really no right or wrong when it comes to determining your company’s vision; it could be vague and abstract, or logical and straightforward.
The only factor required for a vision is that it must be robust for years to come. It must withstand the passing of time and endure the changes in social trends, technologies, and human culture. That’s the reason why most large companies don’t mention their key function in their vision. Google doesn’t mention anything about search, Nike about shoes or sportswear, and Amazon about books.
This is because no one can foresee the future. Who knows if what you are doing now will be valid or applicable in 5 years’ time? You can’t base your company around current technologies or trends, or what your competitor is doing. It’s about the value you bring to your users or customers.
Vision vs Mission
It’s important to not confuse the vision statement with the mission statement. The mission statement is present-based and is designed to convey the current status and actions of the company while vision statements are more future-based and inspirational.
“While a mission statement focuses on the purpose of the company, the vision statement looks to the fulfillment of that purpose.” — Jessica Honard, co-owner of North Star Messaging + Strategy.
Why are Vision Statements Required?
A vision acts as the north star within the company. If you ever get lost, just look at the north star to guide you and ensure that you’re on the correct path. It sets the goals that define your path and progress, which then sets the strategy and tactics, defining the required activities to make it happen.
The vision statement is meant to let everyone know the direction that the company is heading. It defines the goal of the company and instills a sense of purpose within the employees as they all know that they are working towards a common goal. This would motivate them to give their best in order to help the company achieve success.
For the management team, the vision serves as a guideline to properly align the resources of the organization on relevant activities to achieve that goal. Always ask these questions before embarking on new activities or projects;
- Does it contribute to our vision?
- Does it support existing products or services are contribute to our vision?
If the answer is no, then your answer should also be no.
How to Craft Good Visions
There are a few simple rules that every good vision statement should have;
It’s called a vision statement for a reason. There’s no need to write a 1,000 words essay, instead, keep it short and memorable.
It should be specific to your company and describe a unique outcome that only you could provide. Generic statements like “Maximize our customers’ ability to get their work done” is too broad and doesn’t provide a clear objective for the company.
Keep it simple enough for people both inside and outside your company to understand. Avoid using technical jargon, metaphors, or buzz-words which might be hard to understand.
It should be ambitious enough to garner excitement, but not to the point that makes it seem unrealistic and unachievable.
As mentioned above, a good vision statement should be able to withstand the passing of time and endure the changes in social trends, technologies, and human culture.
Following the above rules should give you a pretty good head-start for creating a good vision statement. Above all, your vision statement should be a constant reminder to you and your team that the end goal is bigger than the everyday. This message is an important one to hold on to, especially on the most difficult days.
Examples for inspirations
“Our vision is to create a better everyday life for many people.”
It’s aspirational, concise, and simple. It shows that their goal is to create quality products at low prices (many people indicate mass-market hence an affordable price is required) in order to improve people’s lifestyles.
I also liked how they used “better” instead of “best” to balance the statement.
“To be the best quick service restaurant experience. Being the best means providing outstanding quality, service, cleanliness, and value so that we make every customer in every restaurant smile.”
Okay, I know that McDonald’s vision isn’t short at all but they did it in a way where it’s constructed like a checklist. If they just left it at “To be the best quick service restaurant experience”, it wouldn’t be specific as what qualifies as the best? So the next sentence is meant to clarify the definition of best by providing a clear objective.
“To offer designer eyewear at a revolutionary price, while leading the way for socially conscious businesses.”
This is another example of a vision that’s simple, concise, and specific. It shows that Warby Parker has 2 main goals;
- To offer designer eyewear at affordable prices.
- To be conscious of the problems within a society or community and influencing others to do the same.
This must be one of my favourite vision statements. It’s short, specific, simple, balanced, and stable — yet at the same time inspirational.
A compelling vision statement always provides you a clear and powerful image of your company’s future. Be sure to work out over it and produce a statement that is worth the attention of your target audience.
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