The Keys to Writing a Company Vision Statement
How to Define and Convey Your Company's Vision
A vision statement is an important part of a company's business plan. One part of a good vision statement is the entrepreneur's dream for the company and the second part is the path for the company's future. The vision statement is written using a long-term perspective. It should be an all-encompassing view of the company's goals written in a general sense.
The Purpose of a Vision Statement
Even though a vision statement has to be general, it should indicate more excitement about the entrepreneur's dream of where the company's goals will take it several years in the future. The vision statement should define, in general, a company's planned future based on its core ideals.
A vision statement should be inspiring to its employees and exciting to the world.
Employees who are inspired by their company's vision statement have shown to be 18% more productive than the national average.
A vision statement should be a long-term roadmap for the planning and accomplishment of a company's overall strategies. Company strategies are the actions taken to maximize the value of the business through controlling variables like the risk a company will assume to earn more return and how the resources available to the company are spread across it. Company strategies take a business-wide approach rather than looking at individual parts of the business. A company's strategies are the actions it takes to accomplish its vision.
Who Is the Vision Statement For?
A company's vision statement shows the passion the entrepreneur has for a new venture. If a business owner is trying to attract investors for the business, like venture capitalists or angel investors, those types of investors look for passion and excitement. They want the entrepreneur to be engaged in and passionate about the business in which they are investing, otherwise, they may not invest.
The vision statement should be a forward-looking statement about what the company hopes to ultimately achieve. Bankers and other investors often see vision statements that say, "Our company wants to be number one in the industry," or something similar to that. Such a statement leaves investors and financiers unimpressed. They are looking for more passion, excitement, and determination in a vision statement.
The vision statement isn't just for investors and financiers. It is the guiding principle the company shows to the world and all the company stakeholders.
Stakeholders also include the company's customers and its employees. Portions of the company vision statement are sometimes used in the company's advertising. When customers hear a vision statement, they should be able to identify the firm in a positive manner.
Employees feel better when they can identify with their employer's vision statement. Instead of just working for a paycheck, employees who believe in the company's vision statement will bring more dedication to the job. The difference in their engagement is measurable.
Vision Statement vs. Mission Statement
There is a difference between a company vision statement and its mission statement. The vision statement is where you articulate the overall goals of the company in the long run. A company's mission statement is concerned with how the company achieves its vision. The mission statement is a guide for the company's day-to-day operations as it strives to fulfill its vision statement.
The vision and mission statements of Apple are good examples. The company's current mission statement is similar to the one developed by co-founders Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak in 1977. It is long and detailed, but the first part follows:
"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."
In contrast, here is Apple's vision statement:
"Apple is dedicated to the empowerment of man - to making personal computing accessible to each and every individual so as to help change the way we think, work, learn, and communicate."
You can see how Apple's vision statement is much more general than its vision statement. The vision statement is a broad guiding principle for the company while the mission statement is more specific. It addresses how Apple will accomplish its vision statement.
Writing Your Own Company Vision Statement
An entrepreneur can write the company vision statement, but it is better to get input from a partner, board of directors, and other stakeholders. If you have a few people in your company, the best way to write a company vision statement is to brainstorm ideas.
You will be surprised at the plethora of useful and creative input you will get. Get everyone in your company together, tell them what you are doing, and start brainstorming. In order to write a vision statement, keep in mind the company's values statement. The company values statement defines the beliefs and principles by which you will operate your business.
The vision statement has to be in line with your company values statement.
Avoid the temptation to engage in fantasy, while incorporating your dream for the company, and keep your vision statement optimistic but based on reality. Here is an example of a template you can use to brainstorm your vision statement. You can also download the template for Google Docs and Word Online.
WRITE A VISION STATEMENT
Instructions: Circulate this template to the businesses stakeholders to get input on writing the business’s vision statement.
Question 1: What is the founder’s dream for the company?
Question 2: What should the company’s role in the world be?
Question 3: Write down 3-5 short phrases that you think should define the company’s future vision. Be as abstract as possible.
Question 4: In two sentences, write what you think the vision should be for the company in the long-run, 3 to 5 years down the road using one or more phrases that you developed in Question 3. Keep in mind your answers for Questions 1 and 2. Write out 2-3 examples of the vision you have in mind.
What to Avoid
There are several common mistakes sometimes made when vision statements are developed. Avoid the following mistakes:
- Don't engage in fantasy: A vision statement can incorporate an entrepreneur's dream while dealing with reality.
- Don't get too specific: A vision statement should be general in nature and illustrate the dream behind the business.
- Don't leave out input from other stakeholders: Other stakeholders like financiers, the board of directors, and even employees could give you valuable input for your vision statement.
Examples of Company Vision Statements
It is helpful for startup companies or even existing companies to look at vision statements that have worked in the past for some of the most successful companies. In the 1980s, Microsoft had as its vision, "A personal computer on every desk, in every home, running Microsoft software." Microsoft has since developed a vision statement that is more expansive.
Here are further examples of company vision statements:
- Microsoft: "Our vision is to create innovative technology that is accessible to everyone and that adapts to each person’s needs. Accessible technology eliminates barriers for people with disabilities and it enables individuals to take full advantage of their capabilities."
- Walmart: "Be THE destination for customers to save money, no matter how they want to shop."
- Amazon: "Be the Earth's most customer-centric company, where customers can find and discover anything they might want to buy online."
- Facebook: “People use Facebook to stay connected with friends and family, to discover what’s going on in the world, and to share and express what matters to them.”
- Nike: "Be the number one athletic company in the world."
Regardless of the size or business goals for a company, these industry giants managed to sum everything up in a one- or two-sentence vision statement.
Placing the focus on your company's core vision, and boiling it down into one or two sentences, can provide guidance and keep your business on course to achieve all of its desired outcomes over time.