Build your dream team

How to efficiently work out your vision and mission statements

Apparently the first rule for start-ups is: “find out why you do what you do and start communicating it - to your customers, your investors, and of course to your team!” This advice is not new nor very helpful. Because founders often struggle in pinning down their most essential guidance for all efforts put in the journey. This quick 5-step guide aims to help you develop two of the most essential strategy items for your endeavor in less than a day.
Vision and mission statements
5
Min Read
February 21, 2022
Journey to a dream team series: What is a dream team? What does it take? And how will you get there? The journey includes several iterations, feedback loops, coaching, presentations, and developing handy visual tools to manifest the implemented changes along the way. We will be sharing all insights with you in the upcoming five separate articles: The best team setup, Build a vision & mission, Team values & behaviours, Right goal setting, Communication & feedback. Every article will include a substantial piece of content, concept/method you can download and work through with your team.

Belief, Purpose, Vision, Mission, Golden Circle, Why – How - What, Values, Behaviors, OKRs, BHAGs.... anyone confused out there?


Well, apparently the first rule for a start-up like yours is: “find out why you do what you do and start communicating it - to your customers, your investors, and of course to your team!” This advice is not new nor very helpful. Because founders often struggle in pinning down their most essential guidance for all efforts put in the journey. This quick 5-step guide aims to help you develop two of the most essential strategy items for your endeavor in less than a day.


Spoiler: both your vision and your mission statement will never be “final”. Especially not while building a new company. Even Apple Inc. has changed its corporate vision and mission statements over time to reflect changes in the company from the time of the visionary Steve Jobs to the current leadership of Tim Cook. Therefore, try to get comfortable with changing and adapting them over time. This is normal and the only way to find satisfaction in this process.

First things first, why do you need one in the first place?

Well-shaped vision/mission statements provide inspiration and direction for all internal and external stakeholders from your ecosystem, acting as a company’s guiding torch. A vision statement explains why a company exists at a meta-level and matches the founder’s vision for a better world. Further, it will motivate your team, inspiring them to represent the company’s vision in their work every day.


What is the difference between Vision and Mission?

Vision statements are 100% future-based and meant to inspire and give direction to company employees (...more than to customers).

A mission statement is based in the present and designed to transport why the business exists to both members of the company and the external stakeholders (...including customers).

The vision is about your big, long-term goals for the future and how you will get there. It should stretch the imagination while providing guidance and clarity.

Your mission is about where you are now, why you exist, and why your customers pay for your product/solution. The vision should motivate your young team to make a difference (sometimes even history) and be part of something bigger than themselves.

Although both mission and vision statements are essential elements of your company, a vision statement should serve as your company’s guiding torch, your north star. Something that you can see from far, yet it takes years to get there – and some part of it is even aspiration. A mission, on the other hand, is actionable, concrete, and often clear input-driven.

Ultimately, both vision and mission statements guide everything from strategy to implementation, to recruiting, and to company culture as you scale. The statements should stem from your company’s elevator pitch, strategic plan, and company values. Develop and manifest these first, then use vision and mission statements to reiterate these materials to be understood by a wide audience.


Ready to come up with your Vision?

Writing a vision statement is no rocket science at all, especially if you know your company and your “Why” as good as you do, as a founder or one of the first team members in your start-up. We will guide you through a 5-step approach that is doable in less than a day, supported by your key team members.

Step 1:

Define the team you need around you to go through this exercise. Your most strategic and powerful (internal) sparring partners should include founding members, key players of your organization, strategic advisors, early supporters/believers, etc. Developing a vision is a participative process; however, don’t make the group too large, somewhere around 5-8 people is sufficient. Less is OK, too.

Step 2:

Set up a short survey of no more than five questions that should be answered before the group of participants meet for the actual (approx. 1⁄2- to 1-day) working session. Questions you may want to include are, for example:

  • What do we want our organization to look like in 10 years? Culture? Ethos? Mood?
  • Where are we going?
  • What can we realistically achieve? What is unrealistic and why would this be particularly fun?
  • What words or phrases depict the type of organization and end-goals we want?
  • What would you like your company to become? (the best in ...or a leader in ... or nationally recognized for...)
  • What would you like your company to strive for? (What reputation? What level of excellence?)
  • What would you like your company to look like in the future?
  • What ultimate impact do I want my brand to have on my community, my industry, or the world?
  • In what way will my brand ultimately interact with customers and clients?
  • What will the culture of my business look like, and how will that play out in employees’ lives?

Step 3:

Have your team look at some standout examples of successful (tech-) companies of your/their choice, e.g. close to your business model, in your industry, or inspirations from your past. The plan is not to copy them but rather search for impulses that lead you your way. Our selection looks like this:


"Make the best products on earth and leave the world better than we found it.” - Apple

"To create the most compelling car company of the 21st century by driving the world’s
transition to electric vehicles"
Tesla

"To be Earth’s most customer-centric company, where customers can find and discover anything they might want to buy online"Amazon

Step 4:

Set up a full “strategy” day in your calendars and invite your selected experts who filled out the short survey. Collect, review and categorize the inputs (e.g. on a Miro board) beforehand and start your session with collaboratively discussing all details and perspectives.

While discussing, remember these hopefully useful tips for formalizing a vision statement that reflects the uniqueness of your organization:

  • Force yourself to project five to 10 years in the future.
  • Dream big and focus on success – only!
  • Use the present tense to represent activeness.
  • Use clear, concise, jargon-free language.
  • Fill it with passion and make it an inspiring piece of your company.
  • Align it with your business values and goals.

Step 5:

Once you have created your final version of your vision and mission, it is key to develop a plan to communicate your statements to your entire team. This requires some time and follows a simple logic: identify it, define it – be remembered. Think about mechanisms that remind you and your team of your vision, how you plan to achieve it and why it gets you out of bed daily.

It is essential to be prepared to commit sufficient time and resources to the vision and mission you established. Otherwise, it will neither fulfill its purpose nor help you create the successful start-up you are hoping for.


Add on: Mission statement process

Talking a lot about crafting your vision, finally a few words on developing your mission statement. The process described above works for both: creating a vision and a mission. Most times, it’s done in one effort due to the closeness of these two statements. However, it does not have to be this way and can even sometimes help a founder to separate the discussions, to ensure clarity for you and your team.

Below you find the mission statements from the companies we used above, hopefully serving as good impulses for your efforts:

"Bring the best personal computing products and support to students, educators, designers, scientists, engineers, businesspersons, and consumers in over 140 countries around the world." - Apple

"We strive to offer our customers the lowest possible prices, the best available selection, and the utmost convenience."Amazon

"To accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy."Tesla

In a nutshell: Mission statements turn vision statements into action and should focus on the business’s more tactical aspects. A company’s mission should be operational, procedural, actionable, realistic, and match with the steps and hierarchy to win the game in your competitive environment. And unlike a company’s vision, the “mission” has everything to do with doing – and mission statements have everything to do with what the company will do to make the world a better place.

Hands-on Tips & Tricks for the crafting process

If you have never done a workshop like this before, or if you are stuck on how to create a vision statement and cannot afford to hire professional help, you can follow one of the many templates and worksheets out there in the business world that offer a framework for developing a vision statement.

For example, the following five worksheets can help you refine your vision statement:

  • Khorus: Mission, vision, and values worksheets
  • Diggles Creative: Brand vision worksheet
  • Whole Whale: Nonprofit vision and mission statement worksheet
  • Lone Star College System: Worksheets for developing mission and vision statements
  • Smartsheet: Vision statement worksheet

Ending our short blog post on crafting your vision and mission, we want to share some best tips around the length and rigidity of messaging:

  • Length: While many companies favor the one-liner approach, vision and mission statements can be as long as a couple of paragraphs. It all depends on your business, your culture, and your preferences. Remember, Jeff Bezos wrote letters to the investors, describing the long-term vision of Amazon year over year again, always referring to the very first letter being the lighthouse for the company goals.
  • Rigidity of messaging: A company’s vision and mission can and should evolve over time, as technologies and trends shape customer needs and preferences. The key is securing buy-in across the organization for any changes made, as vision and mission statements provide important guidance for decision making.

You are all set now - have fun developing your vision and mission statements. Feel free to reach out to our CONUFACTUR experts who helped develop and constantly refine ours during the last couple of months.

Sources:

1) https://www.matternow.com/blog/startup-guide-how-to-write-vision-and-mission-statements/
2) https://www.businessnewsdaily.com/3882-vision-statement.html

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Written by
Daniel B. Werner
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Written by
Daniel B. Werner

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