To ensure everyone in your business is on the same page about the direction of your venture, it is important to have a well-thought-out vision statement. A good vision statement serves as a guide for decision-making and helps to inspire and motivate teams. Business owners should understand what a vision statement is, how it differs from a mission statement, what makes a good vision statement, and how to develop one.
What is the difference between a vision statement and a mission statement?
A vision statement is a phrase that helps employees and stakeholders understand a business's purpose and desired result. Thus, it makes sense for your vision statement to change over time. Mission statements are also written as short phrases, but instead of focusing on future goals, they focus on why the business exists such as what its purpose is. Both a vision statement and a mission statement can be motivational phrases.
What are some good vision statements?
A good vision statement, according to Cascade Strategy, is "short, simple, specific to your business, [and] leaves nothing open to interpretation. It should also have some ambition."
To help you better understand what constitutes a good vision statement as you write yours, here are some examples of what others wrote:
"Building the most trusted brands in home services, one exceptional experience at a time."
"My parent company, O2E Brands, stands for 'Ordinary to Exceptional,' and 'exceptional' is the bar for everything we do," said O2E Brands founder and CEO Brian Scudamore. "It all started with the vision of my first company, 1-800-GOT-JUNK?. Vision: to make the ordinary business of junk removal exceptional."
"To increase the accessibility of complex sports like freediving and spearfishing."
Jacob Pinkham, CEO of In Smooth Waters, said there's a lack of information on the web for water enthusiasts, which is the problem his company wants to remedy.
"At the moment, the landscape really boils down into two camps. One: thin websites with low-level information, set up solely to monetize interested parties. Two: websites and forums for enthusiasts that only cover the in-depth nuances that only apply to those with high-level experience." This gap in the knowledge market inspired In Smooth Waters' vision statement.
"To have no family financially burdened by the death of a loved one."
"What this means for my life insurance agency is that every family will have the opportunity to make a small, affordable monthly payment for a policy," said founder Jake Irving. "This is intended to leave their loved ones in a financial position to celebrate the life they lived rather than being crippled by the costs of laying them to rest."
"Do the right thing. Be the best tenants. Wow the guests. Then clean the toilets."
This vision statement adds some levity and directly speaks to Frontdesk's company values.
"We're building trust with our partners (landlords), [and] we're exceeding the expectations of every guest," said Jesse DePinto, the company's co-founder and chief product officer. "Every member of Team Frontdesk is ready and willing to do what it takes, and even when nobody will notice, we're always doing the right thing."
"Creating an era where no student has to suffer because of student loans."
"That is our vision statement, and we're working really hard to make it happen," said owner and founder Stanley Tate. "Student loans are supposed to launch a person's life and career. Unfortunately, that's not the case for many."
How to develop a good vision statement
Here are some best practices to help you create a powerful vision statement that stays top of mind for your team and customers and moves your company in the right direction.
1. Identify what's important.
In her teachings, life coach and Gem Revealed owner Janine Monize instructs her students to pinpoint their "why." While her teachings focus more on relationships with ourselves and the people around us, knowing your "why" is also important in running a business.
- Why do you wake up every morning?
- What inspires you to get out of bed?
- If you were to die tomorrow, what would you want to be remembered for?
Consider how your "why" transfers over to your business. Why did you create this business? If you are not the founder and are tasked with writing the company vision statement, meet with the founder and ask them these questions.
Once you determine your company's why, you'll have a better understanding of your personal values as well as the company's. As Monize also teaches, your why needs to be bigger than "because you want to make money or be happy."
Starting with this step can help you create a vision statement that goes beyond the surface level.
2. Know and consider your target audience.
Every business should have at least three buyer personas. A buyer persona, as noted by HubSpot, is "a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers." When you know your target audience, you know what's important to them and can create a vision that appeals to them. [Read related article: 5 Simple Ways to Pinpoint Your Brand's Target Audience]
3. Determine what you offer that's better than your competition.
In just about any market, there are dozens to hundreds of businesses that all sell the same products and services. What makes your business stand out? What do you do better than your competition? These are some possible examples:
- 24/7 U.S.-based customer service
- No long waits (i.e., customers taken within five minutes of their scheduled appointment time)
- All emails returned within 24 hours
- 48-hour shipping guaranteed
4. Don't develop your vision statement alone.
Flynn Zaiger, CEO of Online Optimism, suggests assembling a team to brainstorm and refine your vision statement. When you're choosing who should work on this task with you, Zaiger recommends considering the key players in your organization are and pinpointing anyone else whose insight is necessary to represent your organization's vision for the future. He suggests also adding a writer to the team to help translate the group's ideas into words and refine your messaging.
5. Be specific.
Jerry Lee, COO of Wonsulting, said a vision statement should be specific as to how it should be acted upon. "A quick way to test an organization's vision statement specificity is to see if the current projects line up with specific verbiage within the vision statement. If it doesn't directly relate, then it might be time to revisit the vision statement."
6. Keep it short.
A vision statement should be a phrase or sentence (two sentences max), not a long paragraph of information. If you've reached two sentences, stop writing. If you want a longer statement, add it to a different part of your business plan, separate from your vision statement.
7. Take your time.
Instead of trying to write the perfect vision statement in one sitting, try pondering and working on it for a while. Zaiger said deciding the future of your company – and putting it into words – can even take weeks.
"Consider meeting once per week [with the team you assigned to the task] and setting goals for each meeting," he said. "You might spend the first couple [of meetings] brainstorming ideas, the next couple turning those ideas into a list of potential vision statements, and the last couple voting for the top choice and refining its language."
8. Speak your prospects' language.
In your vision statement, don't use words that your general audience would have a hard time understanding. A good vision statement is easy to interpret – save the jargon for your internal team.
9. Make it measurable.
Lee said the best vision statements are translatable to a set of metrics so the organization can determine whether goals are being met.
"For example, Wonsulting's vision statement is 'A world where every person has equal opportunity to work in top companies coming from nontraditional backgrounds.' One metric you can track is how many people who came from nontraditional backgrounds landed jobs."
10. Make it achievable.
Don't get overly ambitious with copywriting your vision statement. Write something that you believe is possible to accomplish. It does not need to be achieved right away, but it should be attainable over time.
11. Think altruistic.
Phillip Ash, founder of Pro Paint Corner, suggests not thinking about your profits and instead focusing on how your company is going to do the following:
- Change the consumer's life.
- Change the community.
- Change the world.
He also encourages stepping outside of your company's shoes and putting your own interests to the side.
"This rule omits personal possession," Ash said. "It's creating an entity of your company that is ruled by no one person or board. A company's vision should lead them through to the next 10 generations, not the next 10 years."
12. Revisit and readjust as needed.
As your business evolves, so might your vision statement. Revisiting and readjusting the vision statement is especially important for startups that are still learning about themselves. There's no need to stick with one vision statement forever.
"Depending on the pace of change at your company, you might want to revisit your vision statement sooner or later than one year," Zaiger said. "But the point is to regularly check in and make sure your vision statement continues to align with your company's progress, goals, and values."
Writing a vision statement may seem overwhelming, but it doesn't need to be, and you don't have to write it alone. You may come up with a few different versions before one sticks, and that's OK.