How to Create a Great Vision Statement

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The vision statement. How many have you seen that are no more than bland drivel? How about these beauties:

‘We work hard every day to make X the world's most respected service brand.’

‘X’s mission is focused on six core aspirations the company continually strives to achieve.’

‘At X, our purpose is to build trust in society and solve important problems. It is this focus which informs the services we provide and the decisions we make.’

‘X’s business is to utilise crowdsourced technology that provide key differentiators between us and our competitors.’

Actually, I cheated. That last one was created using the Mission Statement Generator. But, let’s be honest - there’s not a lot in it.

I’m not sure why some companies bother with them; half-hearted, dull and meaningless vision statements are worse than useless and expensive (McKinsey don’t come cheap you know!) But a carefully created, powerful one is a very useful thing for a small business to have. 

As a small business, it is often the case that you don’t have the money for marketing or hiring to compete with the larger players. A good vision can help you connect with the people who work for you, the people you’d like to work for you, and the people you want to buy your product.

Because a good vision statement will resonate with people who agree with your vision. A good vision will move them to action.

So, how do you go about it?

The first thing you should do is recognise that your mission is about how you want to change the world; for some value of ‘change’ and ‘the world’. It should talk about what that end state looks like.

Let’s say you were making a smart fire alarm, your vision might be ‘Nobody dies due to fire or smoke inhalation in their home by 2028’. We’re not talking about excellence, our brand reputation or striving to achieve. We’re stating our purpose, what we’re about and why we exist.

Do you see how a vision like this can be powerful? Anyone who cares about fire safety, has had someone they care about affected by a home fire or is simply worried themselves, would have an emotional response to this message. A nod of the head, an “I want this” or, even, “This is my mission too.”

Many businesses struggle to find the right people and can’t afford to pay top rate in their industry. A powerful vision that really speaks to the people you want can act as an attractor and help tell them they are in the right place. That they want to go on this journey too.

Maybe this vision risks trying to boil the ocean, though. How would you tackle that? You might use something like:

‘Halve the number of UK deaths from home fires by 2028.’

This is slightly less powerful but perhaps more honestly achievable. Honesty is another incredibly valuable trait in such statements. There are around 325-397 domestic fire deaths per year, so you are talking about a major reduction and potentially saving thousands of lives. That’s still a worthy goal.

It is also a measurable one. In 2028 we can look at the number of people who died due to home fires and see if it halved or not. Better yet, every year we can see if we are making progress towards delivering on our vision.

A good vision is simple, clear, direct, and purposeful.

Some things to ask yourself when developing a great vision statement:

Does it say what impact we are going to have?
Can it be measured?
Is it worthy of our time and attention?
Are there people who will care?
Is it pithy?

A good vision statement will pass all these tests and be both enjoyable to read, meaningful, and - to the right people - inspiring.

What about your vision statement? Have you shared it with prospective customers or hires? What do they think?

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Matt MowerComment