The following section will take you through what these terms mean in a business context and how you can use them to help create your overarching business strategy.
So, in the context of developing your business, what is a vision?
Having a vision for your business means looking to the future and clearly defining what success looks like. This may change or evolve as your business develops and grows but you should be able to describe and measure how you will know that your business is successful.
Your Vision statement then, describes WHERE you want your business to be in the future, describing your over-arching business goals. It also helps to define why your business is there in the first place.
So, start with a timeframe, then state your core strategic goal and finish with a description of your product and/or customer base.
Example: Five years from now, AI Technologies will be the fastest growing supplier of robotic arms to the wind farming industry in the East of England.
Microsoft – “a computer on every desk and in every home”
So, in the context of developing your business, what is a mission?
Essentially, your mission statement should describe what your business does in general terms and its purpose.
By doing so, your mission will set out why the business exists and help to guide the day-to-day operations and decision-making of your business,
Example: Our mission at Keynote Farms, is to develop a range of sustainably grown, organic vegetables, ethically cultivated in order to reduce climatic change
Amazon – “To be Earth’s most customer-centric company, where customers can find and discover anything they might want to buy online, and endeavours to offer its customers the lowest possible prices”
Greenpeace – “Greenpeace is an independent campaigning organisation which uses non-violent, creative confrontation to expose global environmental problems, and to force the solutions which are essential to a green and peaceful future”
Why does your business need these mission/vision statements?
They are both really important in setting your business’s purpose and objectives. Your vision is a statement about the long-term goals for your business.
Mission/vision statements are important to show all stakeholders that your business has a purpose and direction. This includes getting ‘buy-in’ from employees, showing customers that your business isn’t just in it for the money and demonstrating to shareholders that you have a purpose behind the business strategy.
Remember that this is not an exact science and that many organisations don’t follow the “rules” of business definition for these terms – indeed, quite often both vision and mission statements can be seen to be interchangeable. However, it is very good practice to begin with your own definition of these terms, particularly at the start-up phase, as it will help you define and describe your business to others – to customers, possible funders and potential partners or employees.
Which comes first – vision or mission?
The answer to this question is that the mission should come first as it states the purpose of the business and why it exists. As a business develops, the mission statement could evolve but it will still focus on why the business is in existence. The vision is the business in a future defined time and will be a specific statement with stated goals showing how the mission is being delivered in tangible terms.
What are the main characteristics of a strong mission and vision?
The characteristics of a strong mission are:
The characteristics of a strong vision are:
Both the vision and mission statements must be clear, straight forward and unambiguous. Use plain English and don’t try to spin who you are and what you do but there is no point in being mediocre.
Embedding your vision and mission into your business
Having a vision and a mission is a great start in helping your business develop but – of itself – they are not enough. You need to embed the purpose, values and aspirations in these statements into the business in order to get the full impact.
The two key methods by which you can do this are:
Continuously being true to what you have stated in your vision and mission – e.g. Ask yourself are you still delivering the purpose of the business and making progress with the goals set? If not, what changes do you need to make.
Continuously communicating the essence of your vision and mission both internally and to other stakeholders – i.e. through your marketing and publicity externally and through discussions and meetings with staff internally.
Other aspects of your business where you can embed your vision and mission include:
Across your organisational culture
Supporting behaviour of your staff which mirror the values and aspirations of your mission and vision is a key area – such as rewarding staff who strive for efficiency gains where part of your mission is low cost to the consumer.
Within your organisational processes
Looking to find ways of supporting your vision and mission in the ways in which organisation works (setting aspirational sales targets for example).
In your business’s policies
Sense checking your policies so that they reinforce your business values and goals.
Do your products and/or services match the unique high-quality claims of your vision statement, for example?
Within your marketing materials and campaigns
Ensure that your marketing materials and your campaigns reflect the qualitative and quantitative claims you make in your mission and vision.
Does your brand identity support your objectives and values? How can you develop your brand so that it continues to support the development of your mission and vision?
Embodying your mission and vision
A crucial aspect of all of this is that you, personally, walk the walk on your vision and mission – i.e. that others see in your actions and conversations that these are the values which you personally hold for your business. And that you are personally committed to achieving the vision.