In Episode #47 of the The Cultivating Business Growth Podcast, we are revisiting the crucial topic of vision statements. If you don’t understand how a vision statement can help you reach your long-term goals, we recommend you revisit episode #01: Strategic Planning – Vision & Long-Term Goals. We want to talk about the actual components you need to create a vision statement that can be utilized by your management team and help guide decisions of your business. If you'd like to listen to the full episode, you can listen on our website, iTunes or any podcast app.
What we cover in this episode:
- 01:49 – The purpose of a vision statement
- 05:03 – Before you start your vision statement
- 13:08 – Creating your vision statement
- 18:47 – Bringing your vision statement to life
The purpose of a vision statement
When leading others to success in your organization, it’s important for those you lead to know and understand your vision. Openly communicating the image of the future you’re seeking to create can be done easily in your vision statement. What exactly is a vision statement? A vision statement can be considered a proclamation of your organization’s objectives, with the intent to guide internal decision making.
Vision statements should be used internally within your company to make decisions and to motivate your team. It’s quite possible some of you have negative feelings about vision statements because of past experiences where you’ve seen vision statements created, thrown on a website and never mentioned again. Trust us, we’ve seen this happen numerous times. Vision statements shouldn’t be a mirage! Vision statements should be known by everyone in the company and understood so they can be used to guide the company. Vision statements are valuable if used on a regular basis.
Long story short, if you have a vision statement, one takeaway should be – communicate your vision to your people. Help them to understand its importance and help them keep it top of mind. Your vision statement should help drive your organization!
Before you start your vision statement
You shouldn’t be surprised, but there is some important groundwork you, your leadership team, board, and/or partners need to lay before establishing your vision statement because you can’t have a vision statement without knowing your company vision. One book we (PJS & Co. CPAs) find value in and recommend to others is called Traction by Gino Wickman. It is an excellent resource to get you thinking about strategic planning and organizing yourself. Based on information in Traction and our experience, we recommend you and your team take time to complete the following steps before crafting your vision statement.
Identify, consolidate, and define your company core values.
Core values are also known as guiding principles. These values are woven into every piece of your company and how it operates. It’s important for you to take the time to stop and really think about these because your vision should incorporate each of the core values. Wickman advises companies should have somewhere between three and seven core values. If you have more than seven, consider evaluating your list and boil it down.
Identify core values.
One way to identify your core values is by looking at the attributes of your team. See who is successful on your team and learn what makes them successful in your organization. The answers may help you define what your company is about. Why, you ask? Think about it. If someone in your organization is successful, their success could mean that what they bring to the table, what they believe, and how they perform fits with your company values and what your company is trying to accomplish. So identify their characteristics and brainstorm a list.
Consolidate core values.
The list you compile may lead you to discovering values you weren’t aware of or you may discover where they can be pulled into an already established value. For example, integrity may be one of your core values. Integrity can also be encapsulated into professionalism, work ethic, timeliness, and turnaround time. If your core value list includes professionalism, work ethic, timeliness, and turnaround time, consider boiling those down to just integrity. At this point, your list of values should be more narrow than it was when you started but it still encompasses what is truly valued. Identify your core focus as a company and write it down.
What your core focus should and should not do
The core focus should answer the questions: Why does our organization exist? What is our purpose? What is our cause? What is our passion? Once you can answer the question “What is the core focus we have as an organization?”, write that down because it should be stated simply with three to seven words. This doesn’t need to be long or complicated. Instead, it should be clear, simple, and bold. This bold core focus should come from the heart. It should reflect your values and encompass everyone in your organization and where you’re going.
The core focus should not be specific, about money, or a particular milestone. Specifics like milestones or KPIs (key performance indicators) will come into strategic planning, but that’s not part of the core focus and why your company exists. Yes, we all need to make money, but generally speaking the business should exist for reasons beyond simply profit. Traction mentioned the company Orville Redenbacher and their core focus, which is, “to take one thing and do it better than anyone.” That is a very general statement, but it illustrates why they exist and what they are trying to accomplish. Another example mentioned is a wealth strategies firm. Their core focus is, “to create lifelong relationships and raving fans.” Clear, simple, and bold. Truly evaluating your core values and core focus can be a lengthy process. It takes soul searching and really diving deep, so be patient because this may take time.
Creating your vision statement
Once you know your core values and focus, and have written those things down, it’s time to put pen to paper. As you draft your vision statement, there are a few best practices to keep in mind.
Use present tense verbiage.
Present tense verbiage is real and powerful. Your company should feel like the vision is always current, which can be motivating.
Use a powerful and memorable summary phrase as the first sentence of your vision statement.
The more simplistic this sentence, the more powerful and memorable it will be. This sentence will also set the tone for the rest of the vision statement. One main goal of this summary phrase is for it to be used often throughout the organization.
Include additional content that speaks to the whole of the vision statement.
This content should:
- Articulate a timeless, achievable outcome. It’s ok for the outcome to be lofty as long as it can be achieved. It should be timeless because as part of the vision statement you aren’t setting numeric values or stating a specific period in time. Organizations should be designed to be timeless and expansive, and able to continue on. That’s what the vision statement needs to be as well.
- Use unequivocal language, not business lingo.
- Be detailed enough to evoke emotion, portray passion, and paint the picture of what your organization is doing, seeing, thinking, and feeling. Ultimately, the vision statement should build the picture of what the organization is going to be, but stating it as if it’s happening right now.
- Be easily visualized by your team. You want everyone to see a similar picture since you will be working towards the same goal, so be descriptive.
Bringing the vision statement to life
Once you have your vision statement written and are happy with it, you don’t just want to slap it on your website, brochure, or handbook and call it a day. Your website, brochures, and handbook are excellent places to communicate your vision statement, but you’ve got to do more than that.
Bring your vision statement to life by first defining it to your team, and emphasize its importance. They need to understand that the vision statement needs to be a constant, living, breathing thing referred to and used on a regular basis. Also, ensure your team considers the vision statement when making decisions. Doing so can help identify the direction to take and keep you on the path to reaching the goals already outlined.
Your vision statement should be something you, as the business owner, are excited about. It should engage and energize your team. If the vision statement isn’t exciting, it’s likely you are going in the wrong direction. If that’s the case, you need to pause, back up, and figure out the right direction. You have a passion, purpose, and something you are trying to accomplish. Looking into the future and visualizing what that could be should be exciting for you AND your team! With your team knowing the vision of the company and where it’s going, the chances of achieving that multiply exponentially.
Every business owner has a vision for their company. Today we discussed the importance of taking that vision, putting it into a vision statement, sharing that with you team members, and integrating the vision statement into everyday business. If you invest the time to evaluate the core focus and values of your business, visualize the future of your business, properly and energetically articulate this vision to your team, and keep it top of mine, your vision statement could really drive your business to new places.