You might think that vision statements* are only for large corporates, or alternatively, if you’re someone with strong planning tendencies, you might think that you need a fully drafted vision statement before you can open the doors. But as usual, the answer lies somewhere in the middle.
If you’ve been in business for a while, there’s no doubt that you’ll benefit from a strong and clear description of your vision. But don’t worry, there’s no need to hire a team of consultants!
A vision statement can be incredibly powerful because;
- A strong vision statement gives YOU clarity
By framing your business, you give yourself some boundaries and this helps immensely with decision making. When facing any given decision or comparing competing priorities, a good vision statement will give you guidance as to what is most important. In my experience, this is by far the most significant benefit so even if you write your vision statement for your eyes only, it’s still bound to have a big impact.
- A strong vision statement inspires YOUR TEAM
A good vision statement gives a business a higher purpose and inspires the team to fight the greater fight and go the extra mile. A vision that everyone can relate to brings the team together and gives everyone a clear focus, which improves morale and increases performance.
- A strong vision statement clearly positions your business for YOUR CLIENTS
Your vision statement gives you an easy way to explain your business to your market and should gives them an easy way to understand how you operate and where your business fits in the market.
A vision statement should describe the value your business delivers, to who, and where. This gives you very clear parameters that define both the product or service that you’re offering, and your target market.
It should also be inspiring and something that gives your business a higher purpose. If you remember back to when you first started your business, chances are you can tap into your core motivations.
But we’re getting a bit ahead of ourselves… the crux of a basic vision statement is usually to describe what your business does – in VERY clear terms.
Descriptive Vision Statements
For instance, if you’re a graphic designer, your vision could be:
“[YourBusinessName] provides online and printed design services for established, professional services businesses in Australia.”
Or, it could be:
“[YourBusinessName] provides highly creative graphic design services to set the tone for new, online brands across the United States.”
Obviously these two businesses would take different directions with their different vision statements.
Future State Vision Statements
Another approach is to write your vision statement as you imagine your business to be in the future, or in its ‘finished state’. You could try thinking about being interviewed for your favourite journal a few years into the future… what would you like the headline to say about your business?
For instance, at WOMO (my last business), our vision statement for a long time was:
“Word Of Mouth Online is regarded as a key business tool for any Australian service business wanting to grow. Consumers trust in WOMO reviews and increasingly refer to WOMO before engaging with businesses.”
Comparative Vision Statements
And yet, another approach is to benchmark your business against a competitor or the industry. For instance, if your business provides financial services, it could be;
“Unlike other financial advisors, [YourBusinessName] provides unbiased financial advice with only our client’s best interests at heart. We do not take commissions on products and instead simply charge a fair price for good advice.”
Here’s another couple of great examples. The first one is from Nike (although several years ago):
And here’s one from Stanford University:
“To become the Harvard of the West”
The Process for Writing a Vision Statement
Don’t overthink it, just sit down and reflect on your hopes for the future of your business. What words or phrases get you inspired and motivated. Perhaps even think back to your childhood passions. What problems are you trying to solve or what do you want your business to be remembered for? Start with the template below and then insert some flavour that makes it truly your own.
Vision Statement Template
“[YourBusinessName] provides [insert a description of your product(s), service(s), or benefit(s)] for [clearly describe your target market].”
Draft it, rework it until you’re happy with it, and then consider getting feedback on it from your team, a partner or someone else you trust. Leave it for a few days and then revisit it and see if you can make any improvements. Particularly look to see if you can shorten it and/or strengthen by changing a word or two. But, above all, make sure you keep it real. Remove any fluffy language and simplify, simplify, simplify. It’s more important that your vision statement is meaningful and memorable to you and your team, than it is to sound professional to outsiders. (Although in reality, customers will usually appreciate a more human approach too.)
If you have a team, you may consider involving the team from the beginning – indeed, this can be very good for morale as it makes people feel involved. Depending on your team though, it’s usually wise to come to this workshop prepared to lead the discussions (so do your own thinking first).
Once you’re happy that your vision statement is sufficiently descriptive, real, and it’s something that gets you excited…
You’ve got a Vision Statement – Now What??
The next, and frankly the most important, step is to make your vision statement come to life! It needs to be front and centre for you and your team so that you can use it as a daily reference for decisions, behaviours, and discussions.
You can use your vision statement;
- As a display on your shop or office wall. (The one below is done very professionally, but you could also have fun cutting out some large letters and pasting them onto the wall.)
- Get a graphic artist to use some nice typography and then print and frame these for each person’s desk. (Most of you can probably do this yourselves using something like Canva.)
- Alternatively, you could create these in poster size for your office walls.
- Include your vision statement on business cards (if you’re using these).
- Include your vision statement on your website – although, if we’re honest, it will probably be buried there and hardly ever be seen (especially by you or your team).
- But most importantly, find a way to talk about it in your regular meetings. Try starting each meeting by reviewing your Vision Statement (eg. “Before we get stuck into the details, let’s take a moment to remember what we’re all about…”)
Start your first draft today. It’s amazing the clarity that just a sentence or two can bring.
*Note, we are only addressing vision statements – not mission statements, company values or anything else. The rationale is that for most small-medium businesses, the value of creating all of these often outweighs the benefits (and lots of people get stuck debating what should be in the mission statement versus the vision statement). The highest impact thing is to have a strong vision statement that everybody knows by heart. If you’ve already got that, then go ahead and define your values and mission, etc.