Having a vision statement in your small business is an essential tool for success. But just like everything else in business, no one hands us the guidebook on how or why to do this. So we have a feeling that amongst a million and one other things having a business vision might be important, but it's usually nowhere near the top of the priority list.
From personal experience, with my first business, I had moments of inspiration when I could see the need for and benefit of having a compelling business vision. I remember taking myself to the office full of excitement and starting to craft my business vision, a simple statement that would inspire my team and me to change the world.
Travel forwards about 30 minutes. I've spent 20 on google researching other business visions and scribbled down ten plus sentences that are too long and confusing. I'm growing more frustrated at my inability to get this simple thing done. Eventually, I distract myself with another more demanding task. I tell myself I'll come back to it another day. I never do. If you know, you know.
Through a lot of trial and error, research and working with other companies, I've established that writing your vision statement doesn't need to be that difficult. At the end of this post, we'll discover the three raw ingredients you need to write your visions statement.
But first, why bother?
In owning a small business, we can fall into the trap of convincing ourselves we don't need things like vision statements. The truth is, they're just as if not more important in a small business than a big corporation. Let's look at why a:
They give the owner freedom
You already have a vision. It's what got you started and keeps you going. But if you keep it floating around in your head, the business and your employees will always be reliant on you. So get it written and well communicated, then your employees and business have clear direction even when you're not around.
Your vision statement is your ultimate goal. Whether it be very business-focused (to be the best company of your kind ) or purpose-focused (to improve lives/the world) is irrelevant. Having that inspirational long term vision keeps you moving forward in the right direction faster.
Employee attraction/retention & engagement
Although money is an important factor in a job, often it's not the most important factor. This 2019 study by total jobs found that 26% of all UK workers would take a pay cut to get a job contributing to protecting the environment. The right team for your business will be just as if not more motivated by your vision as they are their wages. Getting your vision out and shouting about it will attract the right people. It will engage your existing people and give them more of a reason to stick around.
How do we get that vision statement out of our heads and onto paper without infuriation?
Start with the raw ingredients.
A good vision statement works in unison with a good mission statement. We'll cover mission statement in a separate post. It's important to know that your 'how' will go in your mission statement, not your vision.
The ingredients for your vision statement are:
The people or thing you ultimately want to help
The outcome/change you want to create
A verb that starts your vision
So to start with, you need to brainstorm these three things. Set a timer for 10 minutes and ask yourself the following questions:
Who or what am I ultimately trying to help with my service?
Is it specific people? The world? The environment? Everyone? People like you?
What problem am I/are we trying to solve?
If I/we achieved everything, I/we dreamed of what is the change we have created?
What's our ultimate why? If I keep asking why, what do I reach?
Are we trying to enable, create,
If I could click my fingers and achieve the ultimate outcome with my business, what does that look like?
Now you've finished your brainstorming session, see if you can group what you've written into three columns following the titles numbered 1-3 above.
Now let's look at three vision statements that all have quite different nuances to help us make sense of ours.
To be earth's most customer-centric company; to build a place where people can come to find and discover anything they might want to buy online.
The people or thing - Customers
The outcome - Earths most customer-centric company
Verb - To be
Amazon is unashamedly focussed purely on business success. We might think our vision needs to 'nice'.. it doesn't. It needs to be true. If you are laser-focused on creating the most successful business in your industry, like Amazon, your vision should be a reflection of that.
If you are highly motivated by Builder (read my post on motivators here), this will resonate with you. If you are more motivated by Searcher (meaning and purpose), this vision will not resonate with you at all. I'm very Searcher motivated and do not connect with Amazon's vision statement at all. I wouldn't want to work for Amazon, and they probably wouldn't want me. See, it works!
To create better everyday lives for the many people.
The people or thing - the many people
The outcome - better everyday lives
The verb - to create
Notice how Ikeas vision statement doesn't mention furniture. Furniture is their how and comes in their mission statement.
But without even reading their mission statements, we can see how this vision has driven everything they do. They create products that are useful at a price that most people can afford. Their products are also available to most of the world. They have the Ikea foundation committed to addressing poverty across the globe, again driven by this vision.
During COVID-19, Ikea didn't claim furlough for its 10'000 staff in the UK and is planning to pay back furlough it took anywhere else in the world. I hope you can see how this vision directs everything Ikea does and enables it to stand out as so much more than just a furniture company. P.s. If I were looking for work, I would highly consider Ikea because of their vision.
To make the world a better place through happy businesses and people.
The people or thing - Happy businesses and people
the outcome - The world a better place
The verb - To Make
Like Ikea, notice how we do not mention our service. That comes in our mission.
There are a few layers to what we do, and we might find ourselves tempted to try and list them all in our vision. Our vision might then look something like this:
We design consultation and systems to make businesses grow through happy owners and employees. Why do we do that? Because we believe that happy business owners and employees are the key to business growth and that businesses (of any size in any industry) have the power to make the world better.
Yes, this is powerful, but it's too long, and in truth, it doesn't achieve anything more than our actual vision statement. Our short vision statement makes it clear to our clients and us why we exist. It drives our actions. It's why we donate a percentage of everything we earn to B1G1 and encourage our clients to do good in some way.
Here's your challenge. Using your three ingredients, set a timer for 20 minutes and write one to three vision statements. Try writing one with 15 words or less and one with 25 words or less. Give yourself a score out of 5 on the following questions:
Does this genuinely inspire me
If I achieved this, have I fulfilled my purpose with this business
Would this attract my ideal team?
Would this appeal to my ideal clients?
Is it easy to understand
Remember, your how will come in your mission statement, which I'll be posting on soon.
I'd love to hear your vision statements and feedback, so please share them with me or tag us when you share them on social media and your website.
How well is your business set up to scale through happy people?
Take five minutes to find out your score below:
AboutMike: Mike loves all things health, happiness and business. He believes that businesses are the key to making the world a better place. Mike built his first business from the ground up and although it was successful he suffered burn out and depression along the way. Learning from all of those lessons and recognising that many other small business owners were suffering the same led Mike to Co-found Better Happy.