Setting a company vision should be easy. All too often, however, entrepreneurs and managers complicate the process of establishing one for their businesses, mostly out of anxiety for finding the right wording or phrasing or (gasp) setting the wrong one altogether.
Confusion also exists when it comes to mission statements. Some believe vision and mission statements are interchangeable and redundant, instead opting for just one. Others develop epic mission statements, which are never truly understood, much less read, and hence fade into the background like last year’s nature wall calendar you refuse to take down.
Ultimately, entrepreneurs needs to be comfortable with their own understanding of a vision and mission statement -- but, if you need a little inspiration, consider this simple analogy I like to use.
Say you are someone who enjoys sailing. You have a nice sailboat, and you plan to use it for a long, well deserved trip to the Caribbean. More than likely, you have reasons for choosing this particular destination. You picture yourself in a cozy hammock, slung between and shaded by tall, lush palm trees on a beautiful, white sandy beach, surrounded by the crystal clear surf and cloudless blue skies. Perhaps you have a cocktail in your hand and are sharing this ideal setting with someone you care about. You are ridiculously happy.
This idealistic image of yourself on a beach in the future is your vision.
Your business also needs to look into the future and have a well defined goal (or destination) defining where it wants to go. Maybe that goal is to be the largest company in your industry, maybe it’s to start a nonprofit arm of the business, or maybe it’s simply to make a comfortable living while your young children are still at home. Whatever the reason, if you have not identified that far-off vision of where you want to go, setting and prioritizing actions and resources can get very complicated.
Now that you have determined the vision for your sailing trip, it’s time to determine how you get there. More than just a map and a set of directions, however, a long sailing trip, such as the one you are planning, involves many risks and requires careful consideration. You need to identify and set priorities that will help you stay the course to your vision. For instance:
- Safety: You will not take any unnecessary risks while you are on the trip.
- Family and friends: You will stay in touch with those who support you to keep them abreast of your journey.
- Health: You will find ways to exercise, eat properly and get enough rest on your trip.
- Fun: You will make time to indulge in activities that are fun and exciting, and you will do your best to maintain a positive attitude.
What you have done is just created a mission statement for your trip. As you plan your trip and your actions, you will use these priorities to guide decisions. For instance, if there is a strong storm in the forecast, rather than rushing to get to your destination, you will instead take the necessary measures to assure the safety of you and anyone traveling with you.
Again, like the sailing analogy, your company needs a mission statement that identifies its priorities as you strive to reach your company vision. Together, they will guide decisions made by you and your team members and will help determine the allocation of energy and resources. Any action that does not fit into the mission and is not aimed at achieving your vision should be reconsidered.
Of course, that is just one travel analogy that could be applied to developing or refocusing your company vision and mission statements. As someone, however, who has a bucket-list goal of learning to sail and eventually retiring on a sunny, warm beach and managing a humble taco stand and scuba boat, this is exactly the analogy I regularly look to.
How do you set your company vision? Please share your tips with other entrepreneurs in the comments section below.