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Every business needs a vision. A vision statement articulates where you want your business to be in the future. An important leadership skill is being able to express your vision in such a way that inspires others to action. You probably already have a vision for your business, but it may be vague and unexpressed. When you take the time to think about your vision and write it out, the clarity helps you and your team set the direction for your future and guides your planning.

Mission Statement vs. Vision Statement

There is sometimes confusion between a Mission Statement and a Vision Statement. For purposes of this paper, we’ll define a Mission Statement as an answer to the question, “Why do we exist?” A Vision Statement is more directional, answering a question such as, “Where do we want to be?”

Vision Statement components

A Vision Statement should contain and express the following:

  • Where the business will be in the future
  • Be specific to your business
  • Ambitious
  • Excitement and motivation
  • Passion and emotion
  • Use present tense
  • Use clear concise language, no more than two sentences
  • Provide a mental picture of the business

A Vision Statement doesn’t contain specific goals. Those will be your Strategic Goals, which I discuss in another paper. The Vision Statement is a memorable and inspirational summary of what you want to achieve that will motivate employees and attract high quality new hires. You can also use it externally to communicate your vision to customers and vendors.

Process to create a Vision Statement

I suggest that you as the leader generate the overarching themes of the Vision Statement and also involve the team. It’s first important to understand clearly where the business is today.

This includes:

  • Skills, competencies and performance of the team
  • Market segments and market share in each segment
  • Types of customers
  • Financial performance
  • Strengths and weaknesses as compared with your competitors

Once you know where the business is, you’re ready to create your Vision Statement.

Step 1: Decide on your primary market segment and your primary target customer base.

Step 2: Define the most important outcome that you’ll produce for your customers. You may provide a lot of services for your customers, so it may be difficult to narrow it down. An outcome is what your customers experience, not the specific service you provide.

Step 3: Figure out what unique twist you bring to the above outcome. What is it that makes your business successful and different from your competition? Don’t try to list all of your value added services. Think of the one thing that makes you unique.

Step 4: Think of words that will help create a mental image. Go back and look at the words you used to describe the outcome and unique twist. Make sure the language isn’t too abstract, but that it’s relatable and real-life.

Remember to involve your team in the process.

Sample Vision Statements

Apple Computer

“We believe that we are on the face of the earth to make great products and that’s not changing. We are constantly focusing on innovating. We believe in the simple not the complex. We believe that we need to own and control the primary technologies behind the products that we make, and participate only in markets where we can make a significant contribution. We believe in saying no to thousands of projects, so that we can really focus on the few that are truly important and meaningful to us. We believe in deep collaboration and cross-pollination of our groups, which allow us to innovate in a way that others cannot. And frankly, we don’t settle for anything less than excellence in every group in the company, and we have the self-honesty to admit when we’re wrong and the courage to change. And I think regardless of who is in what job those values are so embedded in this company that Apple will do extremely well.”- Tim Cook, CEO of Apple Computer

Amazon

“Our [Amazon’s] vision is 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.”

Anheuser-Busch

Be the world’s beer company. Through all of our products, services and relationships, we will add to life’s enjoyment.

AT&T

To design and create in this decade the new global network, processes and service platforms that maximize automation, allowing for a reallocation of human resources to more complex and productive work.

Ford Motor

To become the world’s leading consumer company for automotive products and services.

GM

GM’s vision is to be the world leader in transportation products and related services. We will earn our customers’ enthusiasm through continuous improvement driven by the integrity, teamwork, and innovation of GM people.

IKEA

The IKEA vision is to create a better everyday life for the many people. We make this possible by offering a wide range of well-designed, functional home furnishing products at prices so low that as many people as possible will be able to afford them.

Zappos

One day, 30% of all retail transactions in the US will be online. People will buy from the company with the best service and the best selection. Zappos.com will be that online store.

Our hope is that our focus on service will allow us to WOW our customers, our employees, our vendors, and our investors. We want Zappos.com to be known as a service company that happens to sell shoes, handbags, and anything and everything.