While most small business owners have an idea of what they want to accomplish on a daily or monthly basis, if you ask them what their larger vision is for their business, they’ll likely struggle to define it. Just like how business owners so often spend most of their time working in their business rather than on it, they’ll worry so much about their daily operations that they don’t consider the big picture. This lack of vision can limit a business owner’s success before it even begins. So if you have trouble looking at the big picture, you might need to come up with a vision statement.
What is a vision statement?
A vision statement is a phrase that defines an organization’s objectives and guides their internal decision-making. While the term “vision statement” is often used interchangeably with “mission statement,” they are quite different in regard to which aspects of your business they focus on. While a mission statement focuses on an organization’s immediate, day-to-day goals, a vision statement is more future-oriented, defining what the organization wants to become.
As an example, here are Amazon’s mission and vision statements,
- Mission Statement: “We strive to offer our customers the lowest possible prices, the best available selection, and the utmost convenience.”
- Vision Statement: “To be Earth’s most customer-centric company, where customers can find and discover anything they might want to buy online.”
While the mission statement is focused on their daily operations and objectives, their vision statement consists of long-term objectives, arguably the “end goal” of their business. Both of these are valuable for a business owner, but a vision statement offers a degree of foresight that helps guide their daily mission. Arguably, the vision statement informs the mission statement.
While there are no set criteria for what makes a good or bad vision statement, most agree that an effective vision statement is clear, concise, and easy for your audience to remember. It should tell people not just what you do, but what you want to be. Some vision statements are a few sentences in length, while others are as short as two or three words.
Consider these vision statements for various well-known nonprofit organizations:
- Human Rights Campaign: “Equality for Everyone.”
- Feeding America: “A Hunger-Free America.”
- National Multiple Sclerosis Society: “A World Free of MS.”
In just a few words you understand the guiding principles of these companies, and while none of these organizations think they’ll achieve their goals in a day or even a year, it is obvious how they relate to their daily business, while also providing a sense of direction in the long term.
That sense of direction is a big part of why a vision statement is so important for business owners. Some business owners have trouble articulating why their business exists beyond making money, and while that’s a reasonable goal, defining a long-term goal based on your values sharpens your focus and helps you make decisions for the future of your business. A strong vision statement can also serve as an excellent motivator for employees, helping them see beyond the daily grind towards something bigger.
So, do you have a vision for your business? If not, think about what you want to accomplish beyond making a profit. What are your values, and what do you want your business to be known for? Only when you’ve found your vision do you wind up on the path to success. Because as Zappos CEO says,
“Chase the vision, not the money. The money will end up following you.”