There are a million different things that you need to consider if you are a business owner. Daily operations, product development, overheads and other expenses – the list goes on and on.
However, one very crucial thing is ensuring that your business and all its components are aligned with the direction you want to take. This holds true no matter what industry you are in, or what size your business is.
The best way to do this is to create a formal Vision and Mission statement, as well as a list of company Values.
Maybe you’re in top management, and you feel that your company’s Vision and Mission statements need some polishing and updating. Or maybe you’re an entrepreneur with no business background, and you’re a couple of years into your business and everything is going well.
Regardless of your situation, Vision and Mission statements are an integral part of your organization. A well though-out Vision and Mission statement will help propel your business into the future, and ensure that all parts of your organization are aligned and working together.
There are a lot of schools of thought and theories on how best to approach this topic – what this article will present is just one way of doing it.
This is a crash course on Vision, Mission, and Values. I will define what each term means in the succeeding sections, and present you with samples from two well-known firms to see how they do it.
I will also provide some tips on how to do it, so that you can start crafting your own Vision, Mission, and Values.
What is the point of having a Vision, Mission, and Values Statement?
One can argue that a lot of businesses succeed without a formal Vision, Mission, and Values Statement. However, if you want your business to reach its full potential, it is best to formalize the direction you want to take.
This is especially true of large companies (or growing SMEs), as there is a need for the direction to be cascaded to every single employee, so that each component of your business acts harmoniously.
The Vision, Mission, and Values statement allows top managers of the organization to define goals and objectives, and determine how each employee will contribute to achieve it.
In bigger corporations, Vision, Mission, and ValueStatements also directly tie in with each employee’s Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), so that every single employee is rated depending on their adherence to the company’s direction.
No matter the size of your business, it is important to consider Vision, Mission, and Values as they have a direct contribution to the growth and prosperity of your business.
In order to provide a clearer picture of what Vision, Mission, and Values should be, I will be presenting a case study throughout this article on two very popular and successful corporations: Google and Ikea.
Maybe you can even see how these corporations imbibe their Vision, Mission, and Values with your interactions with their products – that’s how well-integrated these statements are with everything that a business does.
At the end of this article, hopefully you’ll be inspired to craft or improve your company’s Vision, Mission, and Values.
Without further ado, let’s get into it!
Vision – what you want your company to be
A vision is something that is seen or imagined; or better yet, something that is dreamed.
The company’s vision then, simply put, is what your company wants to become. It should be aspirational, and something that you want to achieve in the future. A Vision Statement is the desired future position of your company; it is a statement of what your company wants to become.
Maybe you want to be the best in your industry. That’s good, but everyone wants to be the best. Maybe a better way to think about your vision is this: what do you want your business to contribute to the world? What do you want the world to become because your business exists?
The Vision Statement aligns all employees in the company to the future that you are working towards. It can be seen as the fundamental reason why your business exists.
For our first example, here’s Google’s Vision Statement:
It’s a short and powerful statement, that anyone (employee or customer alike) can remember. It is perfect for the company’s nature of business; it resonates with everyone who has ever did a Google Search for something.
This vision says a lot about Google and the products that it offers. It provides access worldwide to information. Not only that, the fact that it is one click means that it is easy for everyone to access that information. That’s why most of Google’s products are no-nonsense, and available to almost everyone in the world.
It ticks all the boxes of what a Vision Statement should be. It is aspirational, and it reflects what Google wants to be: the gateway to the world’s information. One might even argue that they’ve already achieved this, as Google Search is arguably the most popular search engine today.
Next, take a look at Ikea’s Vision Statement:
It might sound general, but it will make sense if you consider what types of products they offer. Ikea is known to be a global brand for home furniture and other furnishings that are well-made despite their price point. They are known for no-nonsense, functional designs that everyone can afford. Since most people spend every day in their homes, better furniture and furnishings mean better lives for people.
The vision shines when it is translated inward. It reflects how Ikea is also striving to improve the lives of its employees. This vision guides the whole organization into achieving its aspirational goal of better everyday lives for people all over the world.
Visions are great, as they show where companies want to be in the future. However, vision without action is just an illusion. A great Vision Statement must have a corresponding Mission Statement, to help the organization achieve its goals.
Mission – your company’s roadmap to the future
A mission is a task or an assignment, and the connotation of the word is that it is something that is of great importance.
Mission Statements explains why a company exists. It is what the organization does every single day in order to achieve that aspiration vision of the future.
Some are so detailed that they describe what the company is and what it isn’t. Some define the type of work a company does, or the clients they cater to. But all share one thing – they provide everyone in the company with focus on how to achieve their goals.
Mission Statements work with Vision Statements to show how the company pushes for that vision to come true. One can say that the Mission Statement is the guiding force that drives the company into the Vision that it has for the world.
Going back to Google, here’s their Mission Statement:
Tied with their vision of providing access to the world’s information with one click, Google’s Mission is a more active statement of the company’s purpose. It provides a more concrete way of providing information: they first organize it, make it universally accessible, and then make it useful for everyone.
This mission is parallel to Google’s Vision Statement, and puts emphasis on the utility that the company wants to provide the world. This mission cements the company’s place as one of the leading Information Technology companies in the world.
On the other hand, Ikea’s Mission Statement synergizes well with their Vision:
It clearly describes Ikea’s business philosophy of having affordable, well-made products. It doesn’t beat around the bush, stating outright that their products are sold at a low price so they can reach as many people as possible.
When taken together with the Ikea’s Vision, this mission serves as the roadmap for the company, and details how they plan to get to that future.
Now that we’ve looked at Vision and Mission, there is one final thing that completes the formal declaration of the direction a business wants to take.
If you take the Vision as the goal, and the Mission as the plan, you can think of Values as the soul of the business.
Values – the guiding principles of your company
A value is something that is intrinsic, and something that is perceived as desirable.
In the same way, a company’s Value Statements, or what other businesses call Core Values, serves as the guiding light for all employees for all internal and external interactions. In short, values are what your company believes in, and how your company should behave.
The best Core Values are ones that reflect the very nature of an organization, how each person in the company acts, and what each employee in the company believes in.
These values must not be only on paper – these beliefs are translated into systems that govern actions for the company. Core Values are sometimes the foundation for a company’s Code of Conduct, which show how each employee must behave (and what the corresponding sanctions for any violations are).
Some companies name random traits (honesty, integrity, etc.) and call it a day. However, Values must have short explanations of what exactly those traits mean, so that it resonates well with the organization.
In the end, Values and the people who share them define the culture of your company, and help each employee connect with each other as well as prospective clients.
To illustrate,here are Google’s Values. They are actually ten (10) phrases that describe how each Google employee should act:
Not only did they not stick with just one-word values – Google wrote paragraphs explaining concretely what these phrases mean.
For example, for their first value, Google explains that they aim to provide the best user experience, and this is reflected in the interface of everything that they release. According to Google, they make it a point to ensure that they serve their customers, rather than their own internal goal.
Each one of Google’s 10 values explain exactly what each value means, so that there will be no room for misinterpretation.
Ikea on the other hand has eight (8) values that guide them in their work:
It’s a mixture of single-word traits and phrases, but like Google, Ikea also defined each Value clearly.
For example, simplicity for Ikea means that a simple and down-to-earth way of life is part of their heritage. According to Ikea, they make it a point to be genuine about their identity, and with simplicity comes the traits of being informal and pragmatic about the way they conduct business.
These specific traits guide all employees in living a simple and pragmatic life with the corporation, and it also reflects the no-nonsense aesthetic that Ikea furniture possess.
How to start crafting your Vision, Mission, and Values
Now that you know what each statement means, what they should describe, and examples of each from two major corporations, you’re ready to start crafting your own company’s Vision, Mission, and Values.
To begin, it’s best to take all three as a whole, and then start breaking it down and focusing on one thing at a time.
Here’s a summary of the definitions and purpose of each statement:
- Vision – where you want your company to be – the goal
- Mission – what your company is, and how to get to that vision – the plan
- Values – what your company believes in, and how you should behave – the soul
Of course the specific methodology varies depending on the size of the company. Maybe you’re just starting it, so you’d have no problem just sitting down by yourself, with your partners and incorporators, or trusted officers, and hash them out one by one. Or maybe you are part of top management, and it takes several planning seminars to consider everything and flesh it all out.
No matter your situation, consider these tips to start creating your Vision, Mission, and Values:
- Get out of your daily routine
You cannot create and formalize these statements if you’re surrounded by paperwork, deadlines, and bills. Take some time off of work, and schedule a whole session exclusively for crafting your company’s Vision, Mission, and Values. Maybe find a nice place out of town where you can really get out of your daily routine, but make sure that there are no unnecessary distractions. And make sure to entertain the possibility that you might need several sessions to really flesh things out – it might take several, depending on how the discussions go.
- Consider all viewpoints – ask all the questions
This is where teamwork comes in – your own personal perspective might not be enough to really capture the essence of your business. If you have a corporation, and you have partners, make sure that each one of you has ample time to explain what they feel should be a part of your company’s Vision, Mission, and Values. Make sure all sides are heard and considered. If you’re in a single proprietorship, maybe ask your closest friends and relatives on what they think of your ideas – or better yet, ask your own employees what they think about your business.
- Narrow it down to the most important things
After considering all the viewpoints, you run the risk of having too much in each statement. Yes, you want to capture everything, but you also have to be clear and concise with your Vision, Mission, and Values. There should be no unnecessary words. Looking at the examples above, it’s clear that every single word has meaning, and contributes to the idea that each statement wants to describe – remove one word, and the whole statement changes its meaning. Whittle it down to the important parts.
- Don’t rush, let it marinate
Now that you have clear, concise, and meaningful Vision, Mission, and Value Statements, let it marinate for a few days and give it time to rest. With all the flurry of your planning sessions, all the heated and mind-numbing conversations needed to reach the final form of each statement, it doesn’t hurt to give it a little time. Don’t rush and announce it to the entire company or the world a day after you finish it. You might see something weird that you want to change, or maybe you think of something that is really crucial to be included. This is the future of your company, so really, patience is a virtue.
Hopefully this crash course on Vision, Mission, and Value Statements will give you some ideas on how to craft your own. There are a lot of other noteworthy samples of these online, and all it takes is one quick Google Search – which, by now you know is part of their Vision and Mission as a company!
Again, there are a lot of schools of thought and theories on how best to do this – however, despite that, the points presented in this article are fundamental truths that will help you and your company formalize the direction you want to take.
Arthur is a productivity coach and writer who helps top young execs and entrepreneurs achieve game-changing results in their work without giving up the rest of their lives. His favourite tool is his daily planner. “Look after the days, and the years will look after themselves.“