No matter what the product or service, every business needs loyal customers and dedicated employees to succeed. Inspiring others to follow you can be difficult without a clear idea of where you’re going. A well-written vision statement can provide the direction, purpose and values employees, investors and customers need to fully embrace their role in your brand’s success.
So, what IS a vision statement?
Let’s start with what it’s not: it is NOT your mission statement. While a company’s vision statement and mission statement should inform and reinforce one another, they are not the same thing.
A mission statement is focused on the now: it explains why your company exists today and what it is doing to meet its stated commitments. It’s also aimed squarely at the public.
Your vision statement is focused on the future: it should illuminate the goals and ambitions you’re striving to achieve—as well as the values that will guide you along the way. While vision statements can be shared with consumers, they are intended mostly to inspire officers, employees and investors of your own company.
For an example, let’s take a look at Amazon’s mission statement:
“We strive to offer our customers the lowest possible prices, the best available selection,
and the utmost convenience.”
That statement clarifies what Amazon’s business is doing—and how it is serving its customers in the present. Now let’s look at Amazon’s vision statement:
“To be Earth’s most customer-centric company, where customers can find and discover
anything they might want to buy online.”
See how this statement, while still adhering to the customer-focused values of Amazon’s day-to-day mission, looks ambitiously forward at what the company hopes to become? It may seem like a subtle distinction in language upon first read, but the scope of ambition and emotional tone are very different.
Why is having an inspiring vision statement so important?
Companies that stand the tests of time inspire long-term engagement—not just from consumers, but from employees and investors too.
According to Forbes, companies whose employees said they were inspired by their organization’s vision statement saw levels of staff engagement up to 68%—nearly 20% over the national average. Since higher engagement can lead directly to higher productivity, your vision statement can deliver real-world results.
In addition to motivating employees, a strong vision statement gives investors an understanding of your company’s greater purpose in the marketplace. By clearly defining the values and goals for your business, you can improve your strategic planning and ensure all stakeholders are pulling in the same direction to help you succeed.
So, now that you know how important having a strong vision statement can be, how do you write one? Here are 5 tips to help you get started.
1) Answer the right questions:
While there is no set formula for the perfect vision statement, you should start by asking yourself to simply define:
1) What your business does
2) How it helps people
3) What core principle guides it
4) What your long-term goal is
5) Wow you plan to achieve your long-term goal
If this sounds simple, start asking your team to answer these questions and you’ll see just how varied the responses can be. Which leads us to tip number 2.
2. Involve all stakeholders
Defining a singular vision for your company takes time and effort—and it requires buy-in from everyone you expect to support it. That means bringing in key stakeholders who represent all aspects of your business—from your CEO to your salespeople. Create a process that works for your organization, but make sure it allows for honest feedback and aligned outcomes.
After all, you’re not just coming up with a motivational message—you’re setting the course for your entire future business strategy. You need everyone on board.
3. Be concise
Your vision statement is not a slogan or a tagline—it need not be clever or stylized. But it must be compelling and memorable if it is to motivate your company. Achieving that takes focus, which means writing your vision statement in clear, concise language—preferably no more than a sentence or two.
Consider carefully the words you use to convey your vision. Favor clear, emotional phrases over technical jargon. You are trying to inspire, not impress.
4. Aim high
Vision statements are about defining ideal result of your efforts—so don’t be afraid to dream big. Great ambitions inspire great commitment. Remember Amazon’s vision? It wasn’t shooting for being America’s biggest online bookseller. It wants to become “Earth’s” most customer-centric company, where people can find “anything” they want online.
Bold ambitions can make some nervous. They stir the fears of failure. But vision statements are about aspirations, not guarantees. Setting expectations low may make it easier to exceed them, but it also kills the motivating goal driving your team to work harder and reach further. Which leads us to No. 5:
5. Walk the talk
Your ambitions must align with what your company actually does and the principles it actually follows. For instance, don’t say your company will “help create a better environment for our children” if you don’t actually practice and encourage sustainability in your day-to-day operations. Your employees, investors and customers will lose faith in your brand—and the purpose behind it—if it becomes apparent your business’s stated vision and its actual practices are continually in conflict.
At the end of the process, whether you’re in child care or waste management, your vision statement should clearly define your ambitions and create an emotional impact—the kind that makes people not only want to work for and support your business, but also tell others why they should as well.