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Demystifying Mission & Vision Statements

by Chrissy VanScoten

One of the services we offer here at VGC is developing mission and vision statements. These are two of the most vital pieces for creating any company: they are literally the framework from which everything else is built. The problem? Most people don't know what their purpose is or even how to differentiate between the two. So let's take a deeper look:

What are they?

Vision: A vision statement is all about the future. It's where your company aspires to be, the ideal outcome for all of your hard work. Your vision statement should depict a clear image of where you hope to be without getting into any specific details about how you plan to get there. (That'll come later.)

Do I have any Game of Thrones fans out there? There's a scene in season six where Littlefinger tells Sansa about a picture he's created in his mind of himself on the Iron Throne with her beside him. In essence, that is a vision statement. It's clear, concise, and explains his ultimate goal.

Mission: A mission statement is all about what steps you will take now to accomplish that goal. It gets more into the practical details and action. This is equally concise to bring as much clarity as possible.

Back to my GOT reference: Sansa will later go on to accuse Littlefinger of lying, manipulating, and murder in his quest for power. Ultimately, that becomes his personal mission statement, to use any means necessary to get what he wants.

How are they different?

This vision statement answers the 'why' question. Why does your company exist? Why do you do what you do? The vision statement ultimately comes down to the purpose of your company.

The mission statement answers the 'how' question. How are you going to make your vision a reality? How do you plan to see this through? The mission statement is ultimately about the process your company will implement.

Why do I care?

Mission and vision statements do two very important things for every business:

  1. They clearly and succinctly define your company.
    If I told you my business: was all about impressing functional fitness routines on various individuals at various levels of fitness, while teaching proper techniques for olympic weightlifting, cardiovascular training, and specialized exercise techniques through multiple sessions per day, you'd not only fall asleep mid-explanation, but you'd be left confused and unable to explain to anyone else what my business was about. But, if I said, I own a CrossFit Gym, you'd know exactly what that is (even if you don't know about CrossFit, you know conceptually what a gym owner does) and can tell other people about it with ease.

    Brevity and clarity are key here.

    Yes, you can explain your mission and vision in greater detail through your website and social media. You can show more nuanced steps you plan to take to reach that ultimate goal. But if you--the most invested person on the planet for this company's success--don't know how to present your business to someone in one sentence, how can you expect a maybe-interested, sort-of-listening, stumbled-on-to-your-Instagram kind of person, to understand or remember anything about you?
  2. They direct every decision you will ever make in relation to your company.
    Let's go back to GOT one last time:

    "Every time I’m faced with a decision, I close my eyes and see the same picture. Whenever I consider an action, I ask myself, 'will this action help to make this picture a reality? Pull it out of my mind and into the world?' And I only act if the answer is 'yes.'" -Littlefinger to Sansa (S6E10)

    Couldn't have said it better myself really. Should you make that large purchase? Should you open another branch? Should you take on a certain client? Heck, should you use a traditional or square business card? The answers are clear and simple as long as you know your mission and vision. Forget anything that will steer you away from your ultimate goal; it isn't worth your time or effort; and follow through with everything that will bring you one step closer to your desired outcome. Although we highly recommend leaving the lying, manipulating, and murder to fictional characters.

Are your mission and vision statements clear and concise? Do you need to reevaluate how you developed them? What other purposes do these statements serve? We'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!