If you go into any large, successful company and look at their employee materials, somewhere you’ll probably find vision and mission statements. That’s because these “big-picture” statements are some of the most important things a company can have.
But vision and mission statements are not just for big businesses. Solopreneurs and other small business owners will benefit by defining the big picture as well.
Why is it important to define the big picture?
Your vision and mission are the foundation on which your business is built. You probably have an idea in your head of where you want to go and why you do what you do, but if you don’t have it codified, then it is easy to go off-track. You get an idea, start to work on it, get another idea, change directions, get another idea. . .rinse and repeat.
By codifying your vision and mission, you have a touchstone on which to make your business decisions. Thinking of creating a new course? Considering branching out into a related area? Intrigued by a hot new social platform? Test it against your vision and mission statements first, and you’ll know if it’s something you should pursue. By considering opportunities in light of your vision and mission, you’ll make better choices.
What’s the difference between vision and mission?
Your vision statement is about the future. It expresses where you want to go. Your mission statement is about the present. It defines what your business does, who you do it for, and why.
(Note: sometimes you’ll see these definitions reversed. Don’t sweat it. Just decide which way makes more sense to you.)
Your vision statement
The purpose of a vision statement is to keep yourself going when you’re tired, but not even close to achieving your goals. It defines what success looks like to you and expresses what you are striving for. A vision statement reminds you that there is a point, there is an end in sight, and if you keep pushing you’ll get there. Vision is what keeps us from giving up on our dreams.
Crafting your vision statement will help you get really clear so that you can be intentional and focused on where you want your business to go. It expresses what your world would like if there were no limitations or boundaries and it should be inspiring to you (and your team, if you have one).
Keep in mind that as your business grows, your vision will change. You can hit your vision many times.
How do you define your vision?
Basically, you just have to sit down and figure out what you want. Sounds pretty simple, but if you’ve ever actually tried to accomplish this, you know it’s a bit more difficult than it sounds.
To define your vision, think about what you want – from your life, from your business, and for your family. If it helps, you might want to write separate statements for your personal life and your business.
Questions to ask yourself:
- What does your perfect day look like?
- What do you want to accomplish?
- What do you want to be known for?
Your mission statement
Your mission statement is a great opportunity to speak directly to your ideal customer. A strong, clear mission statement will identify the exact type of person that your business can help, so it’s important to have defined your ideal audience first. Potential customers should be able to read your mission statement and immediately know whether or not you’re a good fit.
But a well-thought-out mission statement is so much more important than that. It’s the litmus test to which every new idea or strategy must stand up. If you don’t stay true to your mission, then you’ll find yourself spinning your wheels, because you’ll be doing things that feel wrong to you.
How do you define your mission?
To define your mission, think about what your business does, who you do it for, and why. It may be helpful to consider your core values – how you view the world and what you believe in – as they will inform your “why.”
Questions to ask yourself:
- What does your business do?
- What purpose does your business serve?
- Who is your ideal customer?
Writing your vision and mission statements
While having vision and mission statements is great, the simple act of writing them is a benefit in itself. It causes you to sit down and think about what you REALLY want out of your business, and out of your life. This is something many of us have never actually done.
Keep your statements fairly short and concise. Fifty words or less is ideal. It may take a while to whittle down your thoughts but is worth it in the long run.
Keep your vision and mission statements in mind
Once you have your vision and mission statements, be sure to keep them in mind. They don’t work to push or motivate you if you put them aside and forget about them completely. You may choose to use your vision and mission statements on your website, in your marketing materials, in your tagline, or elsewhere.
Or you can keep them completely to yourself, using them as a touchstone to guide every business-related decision. At the very least, print and post them near your desk, or make them your desktop wallpaper, where you will be able to see them every day. One of my friends even has her mission statement written on a post-it note, which is stuck to her monitor.
It may take some time and some thought, but well-thought-out vision and mission statements can be fantastic tools for your business.
P. S. If you already have written vision and mission statements, then why not take this opportunity to revisit them and revise as necessary?