A vision statement serves as your company's "North Star," motivating your team and guiding your organization as it grows. It's not something to take lightly—a good vision statement should be written collaboratively by multiple company stakeholders and will require a significant time investment. Here we've broken down the elements of a great vision statement as well as instructions on how to write one and a few examples to inspire your writing.
When you start a business, it's important to have a strong set of founding principles upon which to build your company. In addition to a mission statement and company values, and motto, you also need a compelling vision statement to guide your business into the future.
The vision statement is designed to inspire employees, compel investors, and engage the imaginations of your customers. It paints a picture of your company's future and the impact you want your business to have on the world.
It takes work and creativity to write an inspiring vision statement. Here, we'll break down the elements of a great vision statement, guide you through the process, and walk through a few examples of excellent vision statements and explain what makes them great.
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What is a vision statement?
A vision statement is your company’s guiding beacon. It zooms out to give perspective on the overarching reasons for your company's mission. Rather than articulating the specifics of your business operations, the vision statement describes how your company seeks to impact and improve the world around it.
Vision statement vs. mission statement
While both statements help define your company's character and personality, there are some key differences between a vision statement and a mission statement.
The mission statement describes what your company does in the present. It's comprised of three parts: what you do, how you do it, and why you do it.
A vision statement outlines the company's long-term goals and aspirations for the future in terms of its long-term growth and impact on the world. Your mission defines what your organization does and what you stand for, while your vision statement speaks to your goals and ideals for the future.
Characteristics of a great vision statement
Vision statements are like snowflakes—each one is unique to its company in length, form, structure, and scope. Your vision statement should reflect your company's personality. However, there are a few traits that all great vision statements share. No matter how unique a statement is in terms of size, shape, or structure, a good vision statement should be:
The purpose of a vision statement is to inspire employees, investors, and customers to believe in your company's mission. Great vision statements are aspirational and ambitious. They convey a sense of passion for the ideal future toward which the company is working.
Though your vision needs to be ambitious in order to be inspiring, it shouldn't be so far out of reach that it feels impossible. You want to choose something that your company will have to strive for, but a completely unattainable goal isn't a vision—it's a fantasy.
Read: How to set Big Hairy Audacious Goals (BHAGs) to do the impossible
A vision statement connects your company mission to your goals, but it isn’t a goal in and of itself. If your vision statement feels too finite or specifically achievable, try to zoom out and broaden the scope of your vision.
Don’t try to cram every detail of your vision into your vision statement—be strategic in selecting the ideas that feel the most relevant and compelling to your stakeholders. You might dream of someday having offices in every major city in the world, but your vision statement should focus on aspirations that speak to your company's mission and purpose.
Vision statement writing tips
Here are a few best practices to keep in mind as you start writing your vision statement:
Collaborate. The vision statement should reflect the character of your entire company, and there's no better way to accomplish this than to write the statement alongside key members of your team. Gather leaders from across the organization to participate in vision statement brainstorms, and run drafts by these same people to get buy-in on your final vision statement.
Write first, edit later. Don't try to write a succinct, well-crafted vision statement right out of the gate. Put everything you think of down on paper, no matter how small. You may not see the value in a particular idea when it crosses your mind, but if you write it down anyway, it may spark better ideas later on.
Keep your own vision statement separate. Many people have personal vision statements that reflect their individual goals, and if you're a business owner, our own vision statement may overlap strongly with the vision of your company. It's important to keep your personal aspirations and your company's vision separate, so that your company's vision statement is something that your entire company can relate to and feel represented by.
Avoid buzzwords and jargon. Using "industry-speak" makes a brand feel aloof and inaccessible, even to people within the industry. Plain language is always more powerful than jargon, so if you find yourself falling back on buzzwords, isolate the phrase in question and picture a friend or family member asking, "What does this actually mean?" Write or record the explanation you would give to that person and use that language to replace the buzzwords in your vision statement.
Avoid ambiguity. Vision statements don't have to be concrete the way a mission statement should be, but you want to avoid using words that could potentially be interpreted in a way that changes the entire vision statement's meaning. You won't be there to clarify or offer context to everyone who reads your statement, so it needs to be able to stand on its own.
7 steps to write your company's vision statement
There's a lot more to crafting a great vision statement than just writing a few sentences. In order to create a statement that's truly aspirational and inspiring, you're going to need to do a little bit of work. Here's our seven-step process to write a great vision statement:
1. Identify important stakeholders
Your vision statement speaks on behalf of your entire company, so make a list of co-founders, fellow executives, and high-level employees who can help you craft and refine your statement so that it represents your organization as a whole. Getting buy-in from company leaders is also a smart strategic move—the more they believe in the vision statement, the better they'll model it in their daily work and communicate it to their own departments and teams.
Make a second list of stakeholders that represent your vision statement's audience. This list may consist of personas rather than actual people, and should include:
Different customer personas
Depending on your industry, this list may be longer or shorter; the main point is to write down a basic overview of the group of people you're writing for. If you're only thinking about your customers, your vision statement may not feel as relatable to employees or might not inspire potential funders to invest. Check your drafts against this list to make sure it feels applicable to all of your key stakeholders.
2. Start with a list of keywords
Ultimately, you're aiming to craft a few concise sentences—and the process of crafting those sentences will be a lot easier if you have a "word bank" of sorts to draw from as you write. Hold an open brainstorming session with your internal stakeholders to come up with a keyword list.
Make sure your keyword list is comprehensive by subdividing it into smaller categories and making sure you have a good list of keywords for each. At a minimum, you should collect keywords related to:
Your product or service
Your mission and values
Your company's goals and initiatives
Your company's long-term strategic plan
Adjectives that describe your company, product, teams, community, and ideal future (e.g. expert, innovative, affordable, inspiring)
Adverbs that describe the way in which your company operates (e.g. flexibly, sustainably, cooperatively, fearlessly)
Just like your list of stakeholders, the number and type of keyword lists you should generate will vary depending on your industry and company. The important thing is to create a document filled with keywords that you can draw from as your writing, if you get stuck trying to communicate an idea, or if you need to replace some jargon-y text.
3. Answer foundational company questions
In addition to your keywords document, take time during your brainstorm to answer the following questions:
What is our organization’s main purpose?
What are our company’s main strengths?
What are our company values?
Why does what we’re building matter?
How do we want to make a difference as a company?
What is our vision for our company culture?
What are our most ambitious goals?
What impact do we want our company to have on the world?
What are our company wants? What about company needs?
If our company succeeded in everything it set out to do, how would the world be different?
4. Sort your answers by importance
By the time you're finished brainstorming, you should have a lot of stuff written down.Put all of this content aside for a few days, so that your mind is clear when you return for the next step: deciding what goes in your vision statement and what gets left on the cutting room floor.
Sit down with your vision statement tiger team and a highlighter and review everything you have written down. Highlight ideas and phrases that your group feels are the most important to your company, and cross out items that you're ready to eliminate from consideration (however, don't throw this content out entirely—everything you brainstormed can be helpful in creating other important documents, like your core values, roadmap, or business plan).
5. Write your company's vision out longform
At the end of step four, you'll have a smaller "word bank" of your most important phrases, ideas, keywords, and answers to foundational company questions. Your next step will be to organize these ideas into sentences that flow logically and are ordered according to your company's priorities.
Right now, don't worry about length—focus instead on communicating your vision in a way that makes sense, touches all of the key points you want to include, and feels relatable to your stakeholders and your audience. It's much easier to edit a long but comprehensive statement than it is to bulk up a statement that's missing pieces.
6. Step back and evaluate
Before you go through the work of editing your vision down to size, take a step back and look at your vision paragraph from afar. This is another point where you may benefit from setting it aside for a few days and returning with fresh eyes.
As you review your vision paragraph, check for the following things:
Is it ambitious enough? Your paragraph should feel aspirational, not like a finite goal to be accomplished.
Is it too ambitious? Make sure you strike a balance between idealistic and unrealistic.
Does it accurately reflect your organization? Run your paragraph by internal stakeholders who weren’t involved in creating it, and as for their feedback on what may be missing, what parts may be unnecessary, or how certain ideas may be phrased more effectively.
Does it make sense? Have friends and family members read your paragraph to confirm that it makes sense to the average reader.
7. Write your final vision statement
Once you've adjusted your vision paragraph and made the changes you wanted to make, it's time to edit your vision paragraph down to a vision statement. In many cases, your paragraph may naturally shrink as you solicit and implement feedback from others, and you may even want to specifically ask for opinions on how your paragraph could be more concise.
Here are a few ways to shorten your vision paragraph:
Eliminate what's unnecessary. Now that you've stepped away from your paragraph a few times and gotten a few rounds of feedback, are there any phrases or ideas that don't feel as necessary as they did when you wrote it? Cut any parts that feel lackluster or less impactful than the rest of the paragraph.
Look for synonyms. Are there any areas where you used several words to say something that there's already a word for? For example, you might replace the phrase "give people the ability to," with "provide access."
Edit each concept individually. Chop your paragraph into sentences and chop your sentences into phrases. Pick up each small segment on its own and see if you can come up with a shorter way to phrase it. It helps if you evaluate the smaller segments out of order—hopping around or going backwards piece by piece will help you notice things that your brain smooths over when you're reading a full sentence.
When your vision statement is finished, bring it back around to your stakeholders to get final feedback and make any finishing tweaks.
Vision statement examples
There's no way around it—writing a vision statement is hard, especially if it's your first time doing so. Before you get started, or if you get stuck and need to spark some new ideas, take a look at some of these example vision statements for inspiration.
Note that not all companies have both a mission and a vision statement. Some companies combine the two into a single small paragraph that touches on tangible objectives (mission) as well as more long-reaching aspirations (vision). In some cases, companies won't label either statement, encasing them in a broader page dedicated to "purpose," "who we are," or another similar title.
Here, we've gathered mission and vision statements for a few companies that have publicly set both.
Mission: To act in the public interest, BBC serves all audiences through the provision of impartial, high-quality and distinctive output and services which inform, educate and entertain.
Vision: To be the most creative company in the world.
Mission: IKEA offers a wide range of well-designed, functional home furnishing products at low and accessible prices.
Vision: To create a better everyday life for the many people.
Mission:Southwest connects people to what’s important in their lives through friendly, reliable, and low-cost air travel.
Vision: To become the world’s most loved, most flown, and most profitable airline.
Mission:Hasbro creates the world's best play and entertainment experiences.
Vision: To make the world a better place for all children, fans and families.
Mission: To make things universally accessible and useful, Google organizes the world's information.
Vision: To significantly improve the lives of as many people as possible.
Mission: To harness the next wave of innovation and solve customers’ toughest challenges, VMware uses disruptive technologies like edge computing, AI, blockchain, machine learning, Kubernetes, and more.
Vision: To build a sustainable, equitable and more secure future for all.
Use your vision statement to help you grow
A company's vision statement is a living document—it should adapt and change as your company achieves its business goals and sets new ones, grows in size, expands its offerings, and updates its mission. Revisit your vision statement once every year or so to make sure it still accurately reflects your company's ideal future; if not, adjust it!
But for now, enjoy the fact that your vision statement is written. Share it with your team, announce it to your customers, and use it to proudly guide your company forward.
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