You might have an elevator pitch prepared for your business. You might even have a financial forecast in place. But do you know what your startup’s vision is? What about its mission?
These terms are often confused, and tend to serve as afterthought additions to your company’s business plan. However, they can be critical for establishing the groundwork for your company’s values, and may serve to help you attract more investors, clients, and general public interest—if you develop them properly.
Your vision is a “why” statement, and a guiding statement for the direction of your organization. It often functions as a way to explain the emotional connection to your organization’s cause, and a way to describe the future that your business would like to create.
Internally, vision statements can be used to guide your strategic decisions, define the standards of performance within your team, and sometimes even establish a framework for your values. Externally, your vision will help you create a closer bond with your customers and investors, better define the future of your organization to interested parties, and can even help you with public relations.
An easy way to think about your vision is that it describes the future your business strives to create, whether that’s “a world that relies exclusively on renewable energy” or “a city that’s happy to work out every day.”
Your mission is more of a “what” or “how” statement, and an outline for how you’re going to accomplish your goals. It explains the logistics of your business, in a concise format, and how it’s going to use its resources to accomplish its vision.
Internally, mission statements are used to help structure the procedures, hierarchies, and workflows that make your business successful. Externally, your mission will help you persuade investors that you can achieve your vision, improve employee understanding of your high-level objectives, and make a better impression on investors and customers (giving it some overlap with your vision).
You can think about your mission as a description of the present, rather than the future, such as “installing a solar panel on every home” or “making gyms more accessible and welcoming to newcomers.”
Why Spend Time on Vision and Mission Statements?
If you’re writing out a business plan, or if you have one already, you may see your vision and mission statements as unnecessary. Internally, you know how your business is going to operate, and you can explain that operation to your investors, no sweat. So why would you spend extra time crafting the perfect, concise vision and mission statements?
There are a few important reasons:
The elevator pitch angle. Most people, including investors, employees, partners, and customers, will want to get a high-level picture of your company as quickly as possible. Like your elevator pitch, your vision and mission are short, quick statements that can help flesh out this idea without taking much time.
Guidance for your business’s evolution. Businesses rarely stay the same for long; they evolve with new circumstances. For the most part, this is a good thing, but hearkening back to your original vision and mission can make sure you don’t stray too far from your goals.
PR and advertising. Vision and mission statements are also powerful tools for your PR and advertising strategies, and can be manipulated for use in many different contexts.
How to Get Started (If You’re Struggling).
That said, creating a vision and mission statement isn’t always easy, even if you feel like you know your business inside and out. After all, how can you sum up your entire company in the span of two short sentences?
The best thing you can do in this scenario is look at examples of company vision statements and mission statements. Not only will it help you distinguish between these two concepts, it will also give you a springboard you can use to brainstorm statements of your own. Obviously, you shouldn’t directly copy what someone else already wrote for a competing business, but you can derive elements from them, and add a unique spin to make them your own. That should get the ball rolling; from there, try writing many variations of your mission and vision, creating dozens of possibilities, then narrow down and refine the list from there. Most entrepreneurs find it easier to definitively define what they don’t like, rather than what they do like, in this regard.
Crafting a strong vision and mission statement might take some time, but it’s time well spent. These statements have the power to carry your business, from attracting your first investors to sustaining your nationwide advertising campaign. Make sure they accurately reflect your goals — and in a way that appeals to the general public.