Modern society has shown us the value of living in the present. Meditation and mindfulness practices have become so common that they’re touted by celebrities such as Jerry Seinfeld and Goldie Hawn. And we are all for it. But when it comes to business, it’s a whole other ball game.
Living in the moment certainly has its advantages, but business is about planning for the future. From creating your business website to building your product, you need to strategically project costs, revenue, and your vision for the future.
That’s where vision statements come in. Not to be confused with a mission statement, or an executive summary, an effective vision statement clearly outlines the aspirations of your business and what you hope to achieve long-term. You’ll need to consider questions such as, What is your company’s overall vision for the future? and How are you going to help consumers long-term?
After you’ve answered these questions, you can follow our five steps for writing the perfect vision statement.
How to write a vision statement
Most companies, especially large corporations, have a vision statement consisting of one or two sentences as well as a multipage document describing its future plans. As the business owner, it’s really up to you to decide if you want to extend your vision statement beyond a few sentences or not. But no matter how long or short you make it, what’s important is that you have one.
Without a vision statement, your business has the potential to veer off course. You and your employees can lose sight of what you are working for and what you are trying to achieve.
While there are no hard and fast rules for writing vision statements, these five steps can help you with the process:
01. Define the purpose of your business
By purpose, we don’t simply mean the product you make. Think about the bigger picture: what does your business bring to the world that no other business does? Consider how you intend your product or service to change people’s lives for the better. How will the future be different with your business thriving in it?
For example, an insurance company doesn’t just provide insurance. It also provides customers with financial security and peace of mind knowing that they are taken care of if things go wrong. Using that idea, an insurance company could create a vision statement such as,
“Our vision is to not only provide insurance, but to be a friend to our customers by providing a sense of long-term security in their lives.”
02. Determine long-term goals
Consider what goals you hope to achieve 5-10 years down the line that can set you apart from the competition and list them as part of your business proposal. Why should someone buy from you instead of the person down the street?
Consider our example of the insurance company. There are hundreds, if not thousands of insurance companies in the US, each one needing to set itself apart from the competition. Perhaps an insurance company wants to offer significantly lower rates or provide better customer service than their competitors. Or perhaps, it has a unique business model, like Lemonade, that donates leftover funds to charities of their customers’ choice. These are the kinds of aspects that you could highlight in your vision statement.
With that in mind, let’s take the statement above and expand on it:
“Our vision is to not only provide insurance, but to be a friend to our customers. We will provide a sense of long-term security in their lives by providing 24/7 customer support.”
03. Don’t be too specific with your statement
A vision statement should address broad and ambitious future goals. There’s no need to elaborate on these in detail. Your statement should outline an overview of what you plan to achieve and provide inspiration. This is typically not the place to write specific objectives, such as, “We want to hit $5,000,000 in sales by 2025.” You can, however, include these details in your expanded vision statement document, if you choose to create one.
04. Come up with a list of values
Next, come up with a list of values that your business adheres to and incorporate the most important one(s) into your statement. By referencing your company’s core values, your vision statement will better encompass what your company stands for. This will also help make your vision statement a part of your company culture.
Continuing with the example of the insurance company, let’s say it wants to highlight the fact that it is:
In this case, the vision statement could read:
“Our vision is to not only provide insurance, but to be a friend to our customers. We will provide a sense of long-term comfort and security in their lives by providing 24/7 customer support.”
05. Make your statement actionable
The point of a vision statement is to identify a long-term goal for your business to work towards. Make sure to include actionable terminology to show that your business is moving forward and continuously striving. Examples might include:
In our insurance company example, we use the word “provide” to show action. This helps all stakeholders understand that your vision statement isn't just a vague assertion, but that your company is actively moving toward achieving these goals. When crafting your own vision statement, consider which action words best align with your goals. That way, you’ll be on the path to solidifying the perfect vision statement for your brand.
What is the purpose of a vision statement?
A vision statement is a living declaration that is part of a company’s overall strategic plan. It is typically written in the early stages of starting a business and helps steer the company in the intended direction.
All types of businesses can benefit from vision statements, from small mom-and-pop shops to large corporations. It should be a reference tool to help ensure that your business is moving in the right direction and that every business decision is aligned with your long-term goals.
A well-written vision statement should motivate, excite and inspire. It should outline the future of your organization for all stakeholders, from investors to employees, and should be a core part of your corporate culture. It should also provide your employees (and potential future employees) a reason to wake up every day and continue working hard for the company.
In fact, according to a study of over 50,000 employees, those who found the vision of their organization meaningful had engagement levels of 18% above average. This means that employees aligned with the vision of their companies aren’t just working for a paycheck; they’re working because they believe in the company and find meaning in their work. This can help improve employee retention and even your overall bottom line.
Is a vision statement the same as a mission statement?
This is an excellent question, and the answer is no.
While the two work together to mold the future of a business and shape company culture, there are distinct differences. Unlike a vision statement, a mission statement focuses on the present. A mission statement focuses on the immediate goals of a business and what it’s doing to achieve them. It should consider questions like, What do we do? and How do we do it? while vision statements consider questions such as, What are we striving to achieve overall? and What is our long-term goal?
To give you a better idea of the differences between the two, here are five excellent mission statement examples and their vision statement counterparts from top US brands:
You can see that each company’s vision statement contains goals for the future. The idea is to always have a greater purpose to strive for, providing the company with direction and motivation.
What makes a good vision statement?
While you may think that writing a vision statement is simple, it actually takes quite a bit of finesse to create one. Your vision statement should be:
Your vision statement should be one to three sentences long. While you can choose to elaborate on it in a more detailed vision statement document, your vision statement itself should be punchy and to the point. It’s also best not to include buzzwords that only add fluff, such as “amazing,” or “premiere.” Also, avoid industry jargon so your statement is clear and understandable to those both in and outside the company.
Your vision statement should relate directly to what your company sells or does. A vague statement such as, “We aim to increase our number of shareholders by increasing revenue,” is a substantial goal, but doesn’t belong in your vision statement. It should project how your business is going to improve the lives of your customers.
While we would never knock ambition, you don’t want your vision statement to be unattainable. A statement like, “Our vision is that every person in the world will use our product,” isn’t realistic (but what an amazing triumph that would be). Dream big, the best companies do. But don’t create exaggerated goals that your business can’t possibly achieve.
Your vision statement should align with your company standards and values and be integrated into your company culture. You’ll want it to motivate your employees and be something they look to for inspiration. To do this, you’ll need to make sure that your employees are aware of the company vision in the first place. Make sure to review the vision statement during orientation or even hold employee workshops. You can have employees brainstorm ways they can incorporate the company vision throughout their work days.