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Business

How to Write Vision and Mission Statements

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This post is part of a series called Strategic Planning for Your Microbusiness.
How to Tell Your Business Story

Together with an elevator pitch, your vision and mission statements form the core of your business plan. Anyone who reads through your vision and mission statements will know what your business does, how you help people, where you're going, and how you plan to get there.

In this tutorial, I'll give you a step-by-step guide for writing your vision and mission statements. If you've been following our series on strategic planning for businesses, you'll find you've done most of the work already.

Unlike your elevator pitch, which I suggest you write before you start work on your strategic plan, I recommend you write your vision and mission statements last. Your vision and mission statements draw out the essentials of your strategic plan. To write them, you need to know what's inside your strategic plan. Look at your vision and missions statements this way:

  • Vision relates to seeing and looking, so vision statements are about looking ahead. Your vision statement outlines your business goals and where you're headed.
  • Mission relates to doing, so mission statements are about your day-to-day operations. Your mission statement outlines the practical things you will do to achieve your vision statement.

You may insert different language for these statements, as some business leaders do modify the use of these terms. But keep in mind, it's important to do the work. Get your vision and mission statements written. That puts your business on track for success.

1. How to Write Your Vision Statement

As I've explained, your vision statement outlines where your business is headed. Because it's about where you're going, it is future-oriented. At the same time, it provides a guiding light for the day-to-day work of your business.

Step 1: What is a Vision Statement?

Before you can write your vision statement, it's a good idea to know what you're working on.

A vision statement can be between one line and several paragraphs long. It provides direction and inspiration for your company. It sets out your most important goals, but doesn't include a practical plan to achieve those goals.

It outlines how you help people, the value you offer to the world, and what you plan to achieve as a business.

Ideally, a vision statement should be written in ordinary, everyday language that is meaningful to you, your customers, and your employees. Where possible, avoid business jargon.

A vision statement is:

  • Aspirational in that it's about your goals. Once you achieve your vision, you'll need to write a new vision statement.
  • Inspirational in that it provides life and direction to your day-to-day work (the root of the word “inspiration” relates to breathing life into things).
  • Motivational in that it provides a reason for the work you do.

Step 2: Revisit Your Strategic Plan

Everything you need to write your vision statement is in your strategic plan. If you've already started work on your strategic plan, you can go back through what you've done. Otherwise, you'll need to work on the following:

  • Your elevator pitch. This outlines what you do and how you help people. For this exercise, you may want to expand on your elevator pitch, going into more depth.
  • Your business values. Your values can form part of your business statement, especially if you're still moving toward a place where your business reflects your values. Even if your values don't explicitly make it into your vision statement, they should be present below the surface, informing everything you write.
  • Your business goals. Goals are a key part of your vision statement. Only include the business goals that reflect the essence of your business. For the purpose of your vision statement, it's a good idea to look for patterns in your goals and combine them into a single aspiration. The down-to-earth part of how you'll achieve this big goal comes later, in your mission statement.
  • Your business strengths and opportunities. Your vision statement can include maintaining your current strengths or taking advantage of new opportunities.
  • Your business story. Your story gives your business an identity. As with your values, your story may not be explicit in your vision statement, but it should be present, supporting your vision statement.

Step 3: Make a Vision Board

Everything you've collected from your strategic plan forms your vision board. This is the mixing pot out of which you'll write your vision statement.

You can expand on your vision board by writing detailed answers to the following questions:

  • Who does your business help?
  • What's the purpose of your business?
  • How do you want to make the world a better place with your business?
  • What problems does your business solve?
  • What's your ultimate aim for your business?

Additionally, if you're a visual person, you may find it helpful to collect pictures of successful businesses you admire that serve the world in a similar way to your business. Images can help you discover vibe, energy, and words you might not have thought of to include in your vision statement.

Step 4: Distill to the Essentials

You've collated a ton of information in your vision board. Work through everything you've collected, and discard anything that's not absolutely core to your business. You will need to be ruthless. Remember that anything you discard can form part of your business plan.

After you've finished this step, you'll have the skeleton of your vision statement.

Step 5: Write

Take the skeleton of your vision statement, and craft it into something special.

  • Use short words and sentences to keep it engaging. In general, the shorter the better for everything in your vision statement, including the vision statement itself.
  • Limit yourself to concrete language. Remember the lesson from writing an elevator pitch? If you can't put it in a wheelbarrow, it's not concrete language.
  • Focus on what your business does for others - how you help your customers and inspire your employees.

It's totally okay to make a mess! If you come up with ten different ideas for your vision statement, keep them. You'll need to choose one, but you don't have to do that yourself.

Step 6: Ask for Feedback

Next, take what you've created to ask others what they think. Get feedback from your mastermind group, your customers, your employees, and friends and family.

Ask everyone to be honest, but bear in mind that anyone you ask may be positive out of kindness. Look for genuine enthusiasm, and beware of reserved endorsements.

After you've collected your feedback, choose the best vision statement. Don't freak out if it's not perfect! You don't have to keep this forever; there's always room for improvement in the future.

Step 7: Continually Review

Your vision statement is continually up for review. That doesn't mean you need to think about changing it every day. But it does mean that any time you think of a way to improve your vision statement, you can update it.

Your vision statement grows with your business. If your business gets too big for your vision statement, it's time to get a new one.

2. How to Write Your Mission Statement

Your mission statement explains what your business must do day-to-day to make your vision statement a reality. It is practical and rooted in the present. Any time you wonder, What should I do today? or How should I act today?, you can turn to your mission statement for guidance.

Because it has a practical focus, a mission statement is easier to write than a vision statement.

Here's how to write a mission statement for your business:

Step 1: What Is a Mission Statement?

The phrase “mission statement” has many different meanings depending on who you ask. For our purposes, a mission statement is a few short sentences or paragraphs outlining what your business does to achieve its vision statement.

Step 2: Get Familiar with Your Vision Statement

To write a mission statement, you must first create a vision statement. If you haven't done so already, go write yours now.

Step 3: Write Your Mission Statement

With your vision statement to hand, ask yourself, “What must I do to make this happen?” Mission statements tend to be customer-focused, so another way of asking the question is: “What must I do for my customers to make this vision a reality?”

The easiest way to see how this is done is to use an example.

Let's take my vision statement:

I write awesome articles for business blogs that give their readers an “aha!” moment and keep readers coming back for more.

And see how this would become a mission statement:

I network with bloggers and business owners. I aim to brighten the day of everyone who contacts me by being a fun person to work with. I write great content that gives me an “aha!” feeling as I write it. I read a lot, online and offline, to keep my blogging ideas fresh.

As you can see, my mission statement doesn't cover everything my business does. There's a lot of paddling beneath the surface - bookkeeping and other admin. But it does cover most of what I do, from my marketing (networking and being fun to be around) to my core work (writing great articles) to giving people a glimpse of what goes on behind the scenes (reading a lot). If ever I feel stuck, I can go back to my mission statement to remind me of exactly what I should be doing.

Step 4: Continually Review

As with your vision statement, your mission statement should be under continual review. As your vision statement changes, your mission statement will need to change, too.

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