Everyone needs a destination or a goal. It helps us feel that there is purpose and meaning in life.
And that is what a vision statement does for companies. If you ask me, many companies don’t really know how to write an aspirational or inspirational vision statement. They'll write a one-line abbreviated summary lifted from a long-term business plan and say—that’s what I want to do with my business, that’s my vision. I want to be the leader of my industry, I want to be global, I want the best clients or the most revenue or what have you. And I don’t disagree that such goals are admirable. But that’s not a vision. That’s a one-line operational plan.
A vision should inspire your customers and employees and outline the problem your company will solve for your customers, your industry, or the world. It can and should be aspirational and inspirational. The mission states how you plan to achieve that goal strategically. It doesn’t include specific approaches or methods—that’s reserved for your operation plan. Such statements are timeless for your business and should serve as a guide for your employees to solve customer problems and create great experiences for them and help your customers understand how you can help them.
As an example, let’s look at Gearmark’s vision: "Customers become active participants in every company’s community."
I would love it if customers were actively involved in every company’s community—and I want to help all of my clients make that happen. And there’s a lot of work to do because there are a lot of companies and their customers aren’t always at the center of those businesses.
I have outlined in my book, Revenue or Relationships: Win Both, a number of ways companies can achieve this, even without requiring a purchase. That would be so great to see the future - a company community where customers and employees collaborate to solve problems. It’s not 100% achievable—and it shouldn’t be. There will always be new ways to collaborate, new problems to solve, new ways to approach communications. If a vision is achieved, the company has nothing else to do. The vision statement should paint a picture of the world that will always be out of reach. That keeps the inspiration and motivation going with your teams.
Now a solid vision also tells your customers how you help them. In this case, Gearmark’s vision statement tells companies that it wants to help them make customers active participants in their community. It doesn’t say how—just that is the larger goal they will achieve by working with Gearmark.
Now for the Gearmark mission: "Empower companies to build great customer relationships."
I plan to do this by providing companies tools and resources to build great customer relationships. Over time, this could include videos, eBooks, guides, templates, case studies—all sorts of materials. I could be a consultant or write another book. I’m looking into creating an open source organization to help create metrics to measure the quality of relationships. But that’s not in the mission—the mission keeps it general enough so there can be many ways to support it.
In my book, I outline a number of other examples of mission and vision statements from companies. I’ll include my favorite company here, Airbnb. I love Airbnb because their customers are the community. It is a community-oriented company on so many levels. So I’ll read you what I wrote in my book about their vision and mission statements:
Airbnb is one of my favorite companies for many reasons, especially because it has a clearly defined vision and mission.
Vision/tagline: Belong anywhere, people can live in a place, instead of just traveling to it.
Mission: Airbnb’s mission is to create a world where people can belong through healthy travel that is local, authentic, diverse, inclusive and sustainable.
Airbnb’s vision is inspiring: belong anywhere; live in a place instead of just traveling to it. It’s a vision that hits the heart of every traveler. You don’t want to just experience being in a new country; you want to experience what living there feels like. For the true traveler, everywhere you go becomes home for a short while. And the more comfortable you feel, the more memorable the trip.
It is unusual that the vision statement and tagline are the same (typically those are different). However, the vision is clear and succinct, so it makes sense why Airbnb would have a dual-use for its vision as a tagline.
What’s great about the mission statement is that Airbnb clearly states how it plans to help travelers feel that they belong anywhere. It is working to create a world where people feel that they belong through “healthy travel” (and they define what that means) within the community that Airbnb has created through its products. Notice there is no mention of technologies Airbnb plans to use or how it plans to implement this idea. This leaves Airbnb open to solve this problem in various ways—through technology, through government policy, or through new community-based products.
What I like about the vision and mission statements is that they don’t specify Airbnb’s flagship hotel-like product. They are larger than that. Airbnb is creating solutions to solve the problem of travelers feeling a sense of belonging or connection to a city. This may be because many travelers don’t feel that there are people like them there, or they have a difficult time finding something they like to do, or they don’t feel “at home” where they are staying. Traveling can include exciting adventures, but also exclusion because you aren’t part of the community or culture you are visiting. The targeted openness of Airbnb’s vision and mission has enabled it to expand its “places to stay” business to include designed experiences, in which local residents “sell” a package of events and activities that presents what they like most about their city. Airbnb understands that belonging comes from a sense of community, which it has been building over the years through its hotel product and is now extending through its host-designed experiences.
Airbnb requires a sense of community in its products to not only support its unique business model, but to support its mission and vision statements. The original hotel product allows hosts to connect with guests, making them both a type of customer. The hosts post vacancies to attract a guest; the guest is looking for a place to stay. Airbnb needs them both to offer a wide variety of booking options. Strangers come together to create a safe, affordable travel experience (a place to stay or local experience in a city) in a type of community. By focusing on customers as people and community building in its vision and mission statement, Airbnb was able to brilliantly create a product that brings people together who crave travel experiences as a host, a guest, or both.
So, with all this in mind, how does this apply to your company?
Well, some questions you should ask yourself so your company can also have a great vision statement are:
Does your vision inspire you, as a person? That’s pretty basic, but if you aren’t inspired, no one else will be either.
Does it inspire your customers and employees to see a bigger picture about what you are trying to achieve in the world? Is it inspirational enough for them to want to find ways to make that vision a reality? Inspiration provides motivation. You can’t sell anything if people aren’t motivated to get your product or service to change their life.
Does it allow an employee to add to your company in their own way with a new program? Is it scalable? Employees need room to contribute to your company’s growth.
A rigid vision or mission may prevent your employees from contributing to your organization so you can’t add ideas for growth.
Will it change an industry or the world? Or is it just a goal for my company? Are you making the world a different place? Again, your vision needs to be inspirational for not just a company but an industry or more to change.
Is it meaningful? does it reach into your soul to keep you going every day to work on something.
Now for the mission statement…
Does it share how you will do something? Does it mention specific methods? That’s where mission statements fall flat. Don’t mention exact technologies or approaches.
Mention the strategy you plan on using to achieve the vision. Exactly how you do it is up for your teams to decide.
Will your employees be able to make your vision a reality in different ways with the guidance of the mission? Is it flexible enough to support it? Or is there only one path to success.
Those considerations should get you started to create a vision that will inspire and influence your employees to create awesome customer experiences which will ultimately increase your revenue and inspire your customers to understand the problem you solve. It will also help customers see the world as your company sees it.
Hope this was helpful! Let me know if you need help creating your vision or mission statements.
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