How to Create an Inspiring Vision Statement
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A vision statement is a key part of a company’s brand and overall identity. It’s a clear and bold declaration of what a company stands for and what they aspire to be in the future. An inspiring vision statement provides a business with a greater sense of direction and distinguishes it from its competition – both in the minds of consumers and its employees.
However, writing a vision statement can often be a daunting task for business owners: it’s all too easy to get bogged down in trying to perfect it or to overcomplicate the process.
To combat this, in this post, we explore how to create an inspiring vision statement, as well as advise you on how to get the most out of it once you’ve written it.
What Is a Good Vision Statement for A Business?
Before we start developing your company’s vision statement, let’s establish exactly what a vision statement is and what makes a good one.
What Is a Vision Statement?
A vision statement is a document that clearly and concisely details a company’s future goals and values. It paints a vivid picture of where you hope to be in the future if your company were to achieve everything it set out to. It should also give greater insight into what your company stands for, what makes it unique, and how it’s different to your competitors.
While your vision statement is primarily used to help your brand to forge the desired connection with consumers, it’s also incredibly useful for those within your company. It can be a source of motivation for your existing staff and a way for them to find greater satisfaction in their work. It’s also an invaluable tool for attracting top talent to your company.
Examples of vision statements from famous companies include:
- Amazon: “To be Earth’s most customer-centric company, where customers can find and discover anything they might want to buy online.”
- IKEA: “To create a better everyday life for the many people.”
- Oxfam: “A just and sustainable world.”
- Microsoft: “A computer on every desk and in every home.” (And this vision statement was created at a time when barely any of us had ever used a computer – let alone needed or wanted one!)
What Is the Purpose of a Vision Statement?
The purpose of a vision statement is to give your company a stronger identity and a greater sense of direction. By developing an accurate image of what you want and where you want to end up as a company, you also clarify what you don’t want and where you don’t want to end up. Consequently, it helps you focus on what’s most important and to pay less attention to activities and opportunities that don’t support your vision.
In that way, a vision statement guides the actions of a business – adding a layer of intention and consistency to what a company does. In short, the purpose of a vision statement is to give a company purpose.
What Is the Process of Writing a Vision Statement?
Decide On the Ultimate Destination
First, you need to define what success looks like for your company. To make your vision statement impactful and inspiring, this is best expressed as the output, or effect, of what you do as a company – as opposed to just providing your products or services. This comes down to the benefits that consumers gain from purchasing from your company: the needs that are fulfilled or the problems that are solved.
So, if a company makes sports apparel, for example, the output could be for athletes to reach their potential and perform at their best – instead of selling them the clothing that enables them to do it. If a business is a financial advisory firm, then the output could be helping people achieve financial independence or to retire earlier in greater comfort – instead of just providing the advisory services that will allow them to do achieve those things.
Define How You’re Unique
Outline how you plan to do things differently from your competition. Explain why you’re in a position to do things better than your competitors and the closest alternatives to your products or services. What it is about your company that’s going to allow you to succeed where others have failed?
By doing this, you’re also starting to craft your value proposition: how you communicate to your target market why they should purchase from you rather than your competition.
Though you want your vision statement to be lofty and represent something you’re not currently capable of, it still needs to be grounded in reality so you’ve got something to measure against. If it’s too outlandish, you and your employees won’t feel like you’re making progress, which is discouraging.
That being said, you don’t have to be too specific – that comes later.
Add a Human Element
Make your vision statement relatable and personal, so those that read it can latch onto it and apply it to themselves. Allow them to conjure up a mental image that they can place themselves in. By doing so, you then have a better chance of provoking the required emotional response to initially get their attention and forge a connection.
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How Do I Write a Business Vision Statement?
Now we’ve come to the point where you can start writing your business’ vision statement. There’s no right or wrong way to do this, however, and you’ll find different methods and contrasting advice on how to craft one. But each approach shares a handful of best practices, or principles, on how to make your vision as inspiring as possible. Let’s take a look at these now.
Best Practices for Writing a Vision Statement
- Set a 5 -10 Year Timeframe
There’s no ironclad timeframe your vision should be within but 5 – 10 years tends to be ideal.
Any shorter than 5 years and lofty ambitions seem unachievable. It’s easy to overly identify with where you are now and the obstacles between your present situation and your vision can seem insurmountable. Any longer than 10 years, however, and it’s ¬too far off. Most of us can’t focus on a point that far in the future for very long, so it’s difficult to maintain motivation.
- Be Brief
Your vision statement needs to be as concise, yet meaningful, as possible – a few sentences at most. Keeping your vision short helps make it memorable and easy to understand. Plus, when you can express your vision in a few words, you would have had to think about it and make every word matter.
However, if need be, it’s fine to expand on your vision statement and create a longer version, but the main version should be brief and impactful.
- Determine Your Purpose and Position as an Organization.
Your purpose is why your company exists: why you want to achieve what you’ve envisioned. Now, naturally, unless you’re a non-profit organisation, you’ll want to make money, but your purpose needs to look beyond that.
Let’s use Apple as an example. On one hand, of course, they want to generate as much money as possible (and as the world’s most valuable brand, they’re doing a fine job!). But on the other, you have their purpose which is “to empower creative exploration and self-expression”, which is evident in their products and services. It’s because consumers identify with this purpose that they’re willing to pay significantly more for Apple’s products and queue up for the privilege.
You don’t have to be a resource-rich tech company to have a purpose: any business can:
■ A decorating company could aim to make people feel as happy, safe, and comfortable in their homes as possible
■ An accountant could strive to help individuals retire in as much comfort as possible or for businesses to grow and fulfil their full potential
■ A café could set out to add a little joy to every customer’s morning or to create a welcoming atmosphere where people can spend time with each other
Your position is how you want to be viewed by your target market; it’s the space you want to occupy in the mind of consumers in relation to your competition.
For example, Nike is positioned as high-end, high-performance, fashionable sportswear so people are willing to pay more for their products. In contrast, Aldi has positioned themselves as a low-cost, value-for-money grocery store, where consumers can go stretch their weekly shopping budget.
As you’re required to consider who you’re going to target and how you intend on appealing to them, your position is, in essence, how you plan on achieving your purpose.
- Describe What Success Looks Like
A key part of your vision statement is describing the most desirable outcome for your business if you’re able to achieve your purpose and position your company correctly.
An effective way of doing this is to for you and everyone at your company, to complete the sentence “We are successful if we __________”. This will provide a range of answers which you can then compare and attempt to extract a common thread. Eventually, you’ll arrive at an answer that everyone can get behind and represents your collective idea of success.
How To Draw Value from Your Vision Statement
Creating your vision statement is one thing but for it to be worthwhile and have the desired effect you have to draw value from it. Here are a few ways to get the most from your vision.
- Put It Front and Centre
Once you have your vision statement, place it wherever you can. This could include:
- Hanging it up in your workplace – or even painting it on a wall
- Putting it on your website
- Adding it to company email signatures
As well as having a written version of your vision statement, feel free to express it in any form that you can. If you can get it across in images, in a video, or even in a song or animation, then go for it.
- Encourage Feedback
Encourage feedback from your employees about the vision: if it resonates with them and if not, why it doesn’t. Gaining feedback offers the chance to learn something you might have missed and allows you to reinforce it. An even better option is to involve your employees in the creation of your vision statement, as you’ll benefit from their ideas throughout the entire process, as opposed to just afterwards.
- Act In Line with Your Vision
Most importantly of all, you have to take the appropriate action to bring make your vision a reality. This requires regularly saying no to things that aren’t in line with your vision – even if they’re beneficial in the short term. In contrast, it requires consistently saying yes to things that will bring you closer to realising your vision – even if it requires taking risks or doing things that bring no immediate reward.
What Are the Four Key Ingredients for Creating a Strong Vision Statement?
Another way to make sure your vision statement is inspiring is for it to feature four essential elements. Let’s go through each one in greater detail.
As stated above, there are several ways to tackle your vision statement. However, no matter your approach, there’s no getting away from your purpose.
Your vision flows from your purpose. Your purpose is your big why: why you originally started your company and why your staff come to work each day. In reality, without purpose, there is no vision. Sure, you could still formulate a vision but with no purpose behind it, you won’t get very far. If your vision is the destination, purpose is the fuel that gets you there.
The image is the actual vision you’re attempting to bring to fruition. Although we’ve been exploring how to write a vision statement, it needs to conjure up a vivid image of how you want the world to look when your products and services have had the desired impact.
Your values are the set of guiding beliefs and standards that help define your company, communicate your uniqueness to the marketplace, and help you take the right action/stay on the right path towards a particular goal.
Values are principles that your company will stand by in pursuit of its vision. There may be times when your business is presented with opportunities, perhaps lucrative ones, that would bring quicker short-terms success, but taking them would contradict your values and compromise your vision. Examples of values include:
- Environmental Sustainability
- Social Responsibility
For some companies, their purpose came from values held by their founders. There are countless companies, for instance, that looked at a particular industry, didn’t agree with the values that governed it and saw an opportunity to do things differently.
And lastly, you need to have goals as part of your vision. It’s these goals that take your grand ambitions and ground them in reality – making them more manageable in the process. This is where you get the chance to make your vision more specific and quantifiable.
Your vision represents your main goal, as that’s the ultimate objective (and of course, when you achieve it, you’ll need to revisit your vision and set a new goal). However, you also need to set separate, smaller goals. These shorter-term goals serve as milestones for you to reach along the way and affirm you’re taking the appropriate risks, are engaged in the right activities, and are on the right path in general. Also, just as importantly, they act as motivation, giving you and your employees a series of small wins while in pursuit of your vision.
One of the best, and tried and tested, ways to set effective goals is to make SMART, which stands for:
We go into greater detail on how to set these properly in our previous post on goal setting, so please take a look if you’d like to learn more (or just need a quick refresher).
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Your business’ vision statement doesn’t have to be perfect by any means, it just has to be ambitious and aspirational. More importantly, your ultimate vision for your company shouldn’t reflect your current capabilities – what you think you can achieve – it just needs to highlight what you want to accomplish most. In fact, for your vision statement to be inspirational, your goals need to be beyond what your business is currently capable of.
But therein lies the power of sitting down to create a vision statement: the process forces you to think about your company, your ideals and values, and how you could make a difference in the world. It makes you start to think ‘what if’ – opening your mind, as well as your employee’s minds, to what’s possible for business and the legacy you could leave the world.
Steve Jaenke is the Founder & CEO of Digimark and a judge for the Australia Web Awards. He has a strong background in social psychology, design, and SEO. Steve is a futurist with a great love of technology, but also deeply believes in the importance of taking action in the present to enact a better future.