What is a Vision Statement?

vision statement
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A vision statement is a declaration of a company's goals for the midterm or long-term future. Ranging from one line to several paragraphs, a vision statement identifies what the company would like to achieve or accomplish. A good vision statement provides the inspiration for the daily operations of a business and molds its strategic decisions.

Aspirational in nature, vision statements lay out the most important primary goals for a company. Not to be confused with business plans, vision statements generally don't outline a plan to achieve those goals. But by outlining the key objectives for a company, they enable the company's employees to develop business strategies to achieve the stated goals. With a single unifying vision statement, employees are all on the same page and can be more productive.

"A high-quality and inspiring vision statement for a small business should have two key characteristics: It needs to state where the company wants to be in the near future, and it also must have a level of excitement and motivation to it," said Andrew Schrage, founder and CEO of financial consulting firm Money Crashers. "Use your company-culture description for more details on the goals and direction of your business."

Vision statement vs. mission statement

A vision statement should not be confused with a mission statement. The terms are often used interchangeably, but mission statements are present-based statements designed to convey a sense of why the company exists to both members of the company and the external community. Vision statements are future-based and are meant to inspire and give direction to the employees of the company, not anyone outside the company. A mission statement answers the question, "Why does my business exist?" while a vision statement answers the question, "Where do I see my business going?"

Vision statements are dynamic and can change over time. As a company grows, its objectives and goals may change. Vision statements need to be revised as needed to reflect the change as goals are met, but they should be written to last for at least a few years.

Tiffany Silverberg, a professional writer and editor for businesses, reminds small business owners that their vision statement should go beyond profit margins and internal benefits and look toward the long-term effect they want to have on their customer base, their industry, the economy and/or the environment. Here are a few examples of corporate vision statements that focus on the company's larger impact:

Macy's: "Our vision is to operate Macy's and Bloomingdale's as dynamic national brands while focusing on the customer offering in each store location."

Microsoft: "A personal computer in every home running Microsoft software."

Coca-Cola: "Profit: Maximizing return to share owners while being mindful of our overall responsibilities. People: Being a great place to work where people are inspired to be the best they can be. Portfolio: Bringing to the world a portfolio of beverage brands that anticipate and satisfy people, desires and needs. Partners: Nurturing a winning network of partners and building mutual loyalty. Planet: Being a responsible global citizen that makes a difference."

Avon: "To be the company that best understands and satisfies the product, service and self-fulfillment needs of women — globally."

How to write a vision statement

When writing a vision statement, a good place to start is the mission statement. Where could the elements outlined in the mission statement take the company in the future? Dream big, and make a list. Don't worry about practicality for now — what initially looks impossible could be achieved down the road with the right team and technologies. Brainstorm with a group of employees to visualize where you may see yourselves in the midterm and long-term future.

A couple of questions to ask yourself when writing your vision statement include the following: What problem does your company exist to solve? What does your company hope to achieve? Who is your target customer base, and what do you want to do for them?

"Based on your responses to these questions, ask yourself what success will look like if you accomplish those things," said Jené Kapela, owner and founder of Jené Kapela Leadership Solutions. "This answer should shape your vision statement."

Roy Farmer, owner of leisure-product company Allstate Home Leisure, recommends writing an imperfect first draft "from the heart," and then choosing the elements from that draft that really speak to you. Consolidate and review the list, and then rewrite.

"Repeat this process a few times, until you feel like it's done," Farmer told BusinessNewsDaily. "Then, take your statement to people you respect and trust. Ask them what they think, but be prepared for both positive and negative feedback."

Another strategy to follow when writing your vision statement is to imagine that your company will be appearing in a publication in five to 10 years.

"Draft out a short article describing your business in this projected future," advised Neil Desai, director of marketing agency Dynamic Digital. "What has been its biggest accomplishment? How many employees does it have? What is its net worth? How does your company compare to its rivals? Go all out, even if it's unrealistic."

Tips for crafting your vision statement

Vision statements should provide a sense of aspiration and stretch the imagination. A good vision statement will help inform direction and set priorities while challenging employees to grow. It's important that the vision statement be compelling not just to the high-level execs of your company, but also to the junior-level employees.

Here are five tips to keep in mind:

  • When describing goals, project five to 10 years in the future.
  • Dream big, and focus on success.
  • Use the present tense.
  • Infuse your vision statement with passion and emotion.
  • Paint a graphic mental picture of the business you want. 

After the vision statement is complete and finalized, your employees will have a clear idea of your vision for the company. It's up to you to nurture and support that vision each day and to inspire your employees to do the same. With your support and dedication, you can empower your employees to fulfill the goals outlined in your vision statement.

Additional reporting by Nicole FallonBusinessNewsDaily Staff Writer