Whether you’re redefining your company culture, refreshing your brand, or starting your company from scratch, you need to have both a vision statement and a mission statement for your company. They are the foundation upon which you will build up your organization’s policies, procedures, and culture. Unfortunately, there is a lot of confusion around these crucial concepts and they are often used interchangeably. While there are definitely similarities between mission and vision statements, there are subtle connotations and differences in the way they have formed that lead to major differences in their application and purpose for your company.
As the strategy experts, we created this article to explore the mission statement vs vision statement predicament and help you start your strategic planning on the right foot.
What Is a Vision Statement?
A vision statement is a way to communicate the meaning and purpose of your brand to employees and stakeholders alike. While a mission statement focuses on the why and what of your business (more on that later!), a vision statement conveys the desired outcomes of your company’s work. For example, one of Microsoft’s first vision statements was “a computer on every desk and in every home.”
Writing a vision statement can feel like an intimidating task. A lot of business owners become overwhelmed in the face of defining their company, not just as it is today, but how it will look in the future. A good vision statement should be memorable, powerful, and encapsulate your organization’s core objectives while also providing a roadmap to where you want to end up.
A study completed by James Folkman of Novations and Zenger Folkman found that employees who understand and connect with their company’s vision statement show engagement levels of 68%. Considering that the average employee is reported to be less than 50% engaged, we’re talking about a huge increase in productivity and culture buy-in.
How to Write a Vision Statement
Did you get all fired up after reading the last section and then hit a wall? No worries, it’s hard to get started without a little guidance! After all, there are so many words in the English language, and so many ways to combine them—talk about decision fatigue! The good news is, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel here.
Chances are, you started your company for a reason and you provide either specific services or products. Use the information you have to start the vision statement writing process. Your mission, purpose, goals, and values should all strongly inform your vision statement.
The writing and—more importantly—the editing process will likely take time, effort, and collaboration with your leadership team. Here are a few questions that we like to ask our clients as we lead them through the brainstorming process:
- What impact do we want our business to make on our community, our industry, and/or the world?
- How do we interact with our clients and customers?
- What does our company culture look like? How does it impact the lives of our employees?
- What’s in it for me (the employees and the stakeholders)?
“It can’t be done!” you may say to yourself as you look over your three-paragraph vision statement draft that just cannot be shortened any further. Try to remember that you can leave a lot unspoken. There’s no need to include tactics and legalese in your vision statement. The most effective vision statements are snappy and stick with you (and your employees).
Still feeling stumped? We suggest looking at your competitors’ vision statements to get an idea of how you could differentiate yourself in your field. And for inspiration, here are a few of our favorite examples of powerful vision statements from real companies:
IKEA: “Our vision is to create a better everyday life for many people.”
Nike: “Bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete* in the world. (*If you have a body, you are an athlete.)”
Patagonia: “Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.”
Disney: “To be one of the world’s leading producers and providers of entertainment and information.”
Notice that all of these vision statements are aspirational while still focusing on the company’s core offering or mission. Which leads us to the next section…
What Is a Mission Statement?
While a vision statement focuses on the future of your company, your mission statement focuses on the now and is designed to convey to your employees, your stakeholders, and your customers the “Why” of your business. A mission statement is a statement of purpose.
But why do you need a mission statement? Surely everyone knows why you exist. You’re a paper company! You sell paper! While this is true enough, it’s also an oversimplification—and it’s not very engaging.
Mission statements like “selling paper since 1903,” worked fine fifty years ago when there were only a few major competitors in your area. Now, thanks to the internet, you’re competing with business and services all over the world! Even service businesses like roofers and electricians which are traditionally location-based are having to step up their branding and digital marketing practices to keep up with consumer demand and expectations.
A solid mission statement is the definition of your brand—all of your marketing, branding, and culture efforts should be centered around it.
How To Write a Mission Statement
The first thing you should do when you’re writing your mission statement is to answer the following questions:
- What does my company do?
- How do we do it?
- Why do we do it?
So, for instance, if you sell shoes you answers may look like this:
- We sell shoes
- By creating high-quality products
- Because everyone deserves to own a pair of shoes that they love and which fit properly
So the final result might be something like: “To sell shoes of the highest quality to spread the joy of comfort and style in one package.”
Obviously, you’ll want to retool for verbage. And you can’t expect to get it done on the first try—you’ll likely go back to your how and why multiple times before you have refined your mission statement into a punchy, memorable, meaningful phrase that employees and customers can engage with.
Learn More About Your Mission Statement vs Vision Statement from the Pros
Still, have questions about your mission statement vs vision statement? Contact iProv! We’re happy to schedule a discovery session and walk you through the process of developing your brand’s fundamental building blocks.