In a nutshell: Don’t overlook the need for strong, distinctive and well-written mission and vision statements. They will guide daily operations and help you set a direction for the future.

Do you know where your business is headed? And how it’s going to get there?

Clear mission and vision statements will certainly help you focus on your core competency and achieve your goals. They should not be overlooked or considered an unnecessary marketing ploy.

Sometimes people use “mission” and “vision” statements interchangeably, and sometimes you’ll notice a company has one or the other. But they are two distinct statements that your company uses to guide you and your employees to meet your objectives as well as make consumers aware of what you do and how you do it.

A mission statement defines the business, its objectives and how you reach those objectives. And a vision statement is goal-oriented and describes the future position of the company. Here are some do’s and don’ts in creating your small business’ mission and vision statements.

Do’s

  • Get input from stakeholders and customers. Asking advice in business is a good practice. Working smarter means seeking counsel from mentors, peers, employees, suppliers, vendors and customers. Survey them to see what they want you to do and how they would define success in that realm.
  • Keep it short. If your mission and vision statements have a clear focus, they don’t need to be multiple pages in length. According to Inc.’s “5 Tips for a Useful Mission Statement,” they should only be one to two sentences each. A step further: A well-written mission statement could double as your slogan. By keeping it concise, it not only makes it clear what you do but it’s more memorable externally.
  • Make sure it’s unique. You would think that if your mission statement describes the purpose of your business and your reason for starting, that it must be unique. But many small business owners are so worried about making their mission statement concise or really don’t know how to efficiently describe their business’ value proposition. If your first attempt doesn’t spell it out, ask clarifying questions with the goal of being more specific.

To get you on the right track, below are some great examples of mission and vision statements:

  • Warby Parker’s mission: “To offer designer eyewear at a revolutionary price, while leading the way for socially-conscious businesses.”
  • Amazon’s vision: “Our 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.”
  • Honest Tea’s mission: “Honest Tea seeks to create and promote great-tasting, healthy, organic beverages.”
  • Alzheimer’s Association’s vision: “Our vision is a world without Alzheimer’s disease.”

Don’ts

  • Don’t write something right away. Before you put pen to paper, do some soul-searching. Ask yourself a series of questions to think about key elements to include in your mission and vision statements. Here are some to consider:
    • Why are you in business?
    • What level of service do you provide?
    • How do you differ from your competitors?
    • What image do you want to convey to the public?
  • Don’t use vague terms. Your mission statement should accurately define what your company does. Avoid language like “maximize shareholder value” or “deliver excellence,” which can apply to other businesses. Dig deep to make sure you’re telling people what your company actually
  • Don’t set unachievable goals. When it comes to your vision statement, you want to aim for the stars. After all, this is supposed to describe your company’s desired future state. But be sure the aspiration is attainable. As a small business in a competitive space, you probably won’t be able to become the market leader within six months, for example – so don’t go there. It will only work against you in terms of motivating yourself and your employees to achieve the objectives you set forth.

Here are a few examples of vision and mission statements that don’t work:

  • Albertson’s mission: “To create a shopping experience that pleases our customers; a workplace that creates opportunities and a great working environment for our associates; and a business that achieves financial success.” If you’re not sure what Albertsons does (it is not mentioned it the mission statement), it sells groceries.
  • Avery Dennison’s vision: “To help make every brand more inspiring, and the world more intelligent.” Now, that’s a lofty goal for a company that makes labels.
  • Hershey’s (previous) mission: “Undisputed marketplace leadership.” Thankfully, the candy company has since updated its vague mission statement to be more specific.
  • Enron’s mission statement: “Respect, integrity, communication and excellence.” While it’s vague, that’s not even the major problem. The now-defunct energy company didn’t adhere to its mission statement, made evident during its accounting fraud scandal in 2001.

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