Do you ever get a chance to escape the daily fire-fighting of being a small business owner to think philosophically? Where is the business now and where should it be? What are we about, what’s our purpose? How can we effect our customers, employees and the world? The first chapter of most strategic planning books is about developing a vision and mission for your business. “How do you know which direction to head unless you know where you’re going?” is the commonly used justification. I’ve found that most small business owners have a vision and mission statement in their head that just needs to be extracted in the right way. When done properly it will keep them focused and help communicate their dream to others – investors, employees and customers.
Vision and Mission – What’s the 'Dif'?
There are a lot of different definitions and uses for the terms vision statement and mission statement, some organizations even combine the two or use them interchangeably. At Sigma College of Small Business we like to keep things practical for the small business owner with the following definitions: Vision Statement – a short written sentence that defines a desired future state caused by your business. Notice how the following examples I pulled from Skills2Lead define a general state of being:
Anheuser-Busch – “Be the world’s beer company.”
Boeing (1950) – “Become the dominant player in commercial aircraft and bring the world into the jet age”
Mission Statement – a short written set of statements that clearly define what you try to do or accomplish on a daily basis. Different from a vision statement, notice how these examples describe the philosophy behind actions.
Nike – “To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete* in the world. *If you have a body, you are an athlete."
AmerisourceBergen (Pharmaceuticals) – "To build shareholder value by delivering pharmaceutical and healthcare products, services and solutions in innovative and cost effective ways. We will realize this mission by setting the highest standards in service, reliability, safety and cost containment in our industry."
The Purpose of the Vision and Mission Statements
The reason to have, and to start your planning process, with vision and mission statements is that they communicate direction and identify priorities for the rest of your planning. For small business owners, vision statements tell the world what you want to be when you grow up! My clients often want to change the way the world _____ (fill in the blank) with their products. I ask them what it will take to be in Wal-Mart. The point is that in order to change the way the world does something requires mass production, competitive pricing and a world-wide market demand. Those things equate to manufacturing, marketing and logistics decisions in the strategic and business plans. That vision communicates a specific direction and scale to employees and investors and helps the business owner prioritize his activities – you aren’t changing the world working weekend craft fairs. It may be a good start, but you better have a next step in mind! The small business mission statement communicates what is important in daily activities and decisions. Ideally it helps to guide decisions based on who and what is important to the company. I like the Nike mission statement because it creatively communicates that they see athleticism as something that has value to everyone. So, the priority of Nike marketing and product development should be products and campaigns that reach out to a wide variety of audiences – not just young men.
Crafting the Vision and Mission Statements
In Parts 2 and 3 of this series we will discuss some specific techniques for creating vision and mission statements for your small business. In the mean time, please comment with your own vision or mission statement for the rest of us to review, or paste your favorite and tell us why!