Have you ever wondered what makes a good vision statement, and whether or not it’s necessary for your business to succeed?
I answer these questions—and much more—in a Live Facebook Video session.
View the video here, or read the transcript below (which includes bonus content!)
Topic: Vision & Mission FAQs
Recorded on Thursday, 07/19/18 10:30a-11a Pacific Standard Time
This is the first of 5 events that I’m doing on topics related to owning and managing a business, specifically in a service environment.
These questions were asked by a variety of business owners and managers.
My work focuses on natural health practitioners who are certified and licensed, such as Naturopathic Doctors, Chiropractors, Midwives, Therapists, and other healers.
Natural healing methods have helped me personally in the past, and I find that practitioners who focus on natural techniques have a very different perspective on bringing relief to pain, and focusing on the holistic needs of patients. While the modern medical community has a very important role, I tend to align with individuals who see the “whole person,” and who care a lot about the emotional state of a patient who is looking for pain relief or for other medical treatments.
I have personally experienced a lot of help from this community. I’ve had three home births; all 3 of my children were born at home with certified nurse midwives in attendance. And I have also received a lot of help from naturopathic doctors, chiropractors, massage therapists, and others in the healing community. So I support what they do, and my services are tailored to their needs.
This 5-week series will cover topics that relate to running an independent practice or service business.
Frequently Asked Questions about Creating a Company Vision and Mission
One of the topics that comes up quite often in my conversations with business owners, but especially those who have a more open-minded and Yin perspective, is:
“How do I look into the future and create a structured business plan?”
“Do I need more structure? Is that important, or can I serve the patients/customers who need my help right now?”
A Yin mentality is one with openness, receptivity, and going with the flow, which a lot of natural health practitioners have (and maybe as a business owner or leader, you have as well). But when Yin goes to an extreme, it can be difficult to successfully grow a business.
When evaluating your goals, it’s important to balance Yin with a Yang mindset—a more assertive, structured, and logical approach—which gives you a clear idea of where you’re going and which boundaries to set. Even if you don’t have an extreme Yang approach (with high levels of aggression and rigid rules), it’s important to find balance between the two. Because without any structure, there can be a lot of confusion and frustration in reaching your goal. A lack of structure makes it hard to know where you’re going in the business.
Read more: Yin and Yang Approaches to Management
Can you define “Vision” and “Mission”?
The word “Vision” has to do with looking to the future.
This is something that may come to you naturally, or it may feel foreign. Imagining what the future is like may be very difficult for you.
A company vision answers the question:
- “What does a perfect future look like?”
- “What is a perfect image of what you want the world to look like?”
- “How does that feel?”
So a vision is imagining what it would be like to have a perfect world, where the problem you’re trying to solve is solved already. So the objective—serving customers or patients, or the focus of what you are intending to do in your business—has been met. You have solved or fixed the problem.
It can be hard to think in this way. We want to have an endless supply of people who need our services or products. But it’s helpful to ask yourself: “Okay, if that problem didn’t exist, the future would look like [this].”
For example, if you are a chiropractor, and the focus of your service is adults who have been through a bad car accident. So your main patients have spinal misalignment. You might imagine “a future where no one has pain after a car accident.” You would focus all of your attention on getting to the point where that problems is totally resolved.
A Vision answers the question:
“What does a perfect future look like?”
Your company’s Vision could start with:
- “A world where…”
- “We envision… [this happening]”
- “A perfect situation is one that…”
You can start your Vision Statement using any words or phrases; it’s just a way of communicating where you’re headed. A Vision is an explanation of a future where you have solved the problem.
A Mission is different. It answers the questions:
“Why do we exist, and who are we serving?”
The focus is on the reason for providing your services or products, and also the customers or recipients who will benefit from your help.
You could start a Mission statement like this:
- “To help…”
- “To support…”
- “To increase…”
- “To enhance the lives of…”
- “To provide…”
Mission: “Why do we exist, and who do we serve?”
A Vision and Mission are actually very different; I’ll be answering that later.
What is a Vision & Mission for?
Why do we need a Vision and Mission statement at all?
There are a few reasons.
1. Decide on the outcomes.
First of all, every business exists to provide some sort of outcome. You’re focused on that outcome by providing things that people need in order to enhance or improve their lives, or to make a change of some sort.
There are many ways to make this happen; and service-based businesses are focused specifically on providing activity. A product is something that is tangibly delivered to the buyer. A service, on the other hand, provides intangible benefits and often requires the interaction of the provider.
A vision and mission statement helps you to state how you expect to make a difference, and what the future looks like. It is a formalized statement of your goals, and where you hope to go, and why you’re doing it.
2. See problems and dangers early.
Another benefit is that this allows you to foresee vulnerabilities and potential threats to your business succeeding. Without a formal, written statement, it will be very hard to recognize the internal and external impacts in your industry, or for your location, or the people who are in your company. If you are a solo owner, what are the outside forces that are going to affect your ability to keep your business running into the future?
If you don’t have a point of focus of where you hope to be, you might miss a lot of cues along the way of what could negatively impact you.
3. Identify areas of healthy growth
Writing out your vision and mission can also help you grow your company in a healthy way.
There are a lot of ways to grow; and a lot of experts who will tell you “How to Grow Your Customer Base,” and “How to Build Your E-Mail List,” and “How to Make More Money,” “How to Earn $1 Million In a Day.”
Some of these techniques can work.
However, they can also result in unhealthy growth.
It is possible to grow a business very quickly, or to expand in several directions, and still have that business fail.
In fact, this happens every single day.
You could make a lot of sales, but to the wrong people; you might end up committed to serving people who are not a good match for your business objectives. They may be “Non-Ideal Customers.”
An Ideal Customer is someone who benefits the most from what you offer. Someone who understands, appreciates, and is respectful of your policies & procedures, and the way you want the business to run. They fit your philosophy and are a good fit for you providing that service.
This is especially true for service owners who work closely with customers. It’s so important to select the right people to serve, rather than serving “Everyone Everywhere”—which can be a distraction at best, and devastation at worst.
Identify areas where you can grow your customer base in a healthy way. It would be better to serve a few customers who bring a high profit margin and who are a great fit for what you do—rather than serving a large number of people with some who may be an okay fit, and others who are a really bad fit and could potentially harm your business.
So serving a large number of people may not be healthy for your business.
4. Get control of your company.
I see a lot of business owners who are afraid of taking the reins, afraid of setting boundaries, and afraid of making rules.
That can backfire. It can become very difficult to move forward if you don’t have rules and processes that are clearly defined.
This is a mistake of business owners who tend to be more Yin: open, embracing, and supportive—which are wonderful qualities. But if that’s not balanced with having boundaries and rules and control, it can lead to confusion and loss. In fact, a lack of boundaries can actually lead to broken relationships.
Read more: Yin and Yang Approaches to Management
Determining a specific point in the future where you’d like your business to be, and also stating how you plan to get there (who you’re serving and why your company exists) will allow you to create a business purpose.
What else should I develop beyond just a company Vision?
Your vision and mission statements are part of a larger scope of your company’s strategic plan, which I call VMVOM:
Vision, Mission, Values, Objectives, and Measures.
These are the 5 most essential things you can have in a long-term business plan; it’s the core that states the scope of where you want your business to go.
Vision: “What does a perfect future look like?”
Mission: “Why do we exist, and who do we serve?”
Values: “What guides our behavior to others?”
- Appropriate and inappropriate behavior
- Includes core beliefs and your philosophy: how you see the world, and in what way you believe things should happen.
- Also impacts the Company Culture (a future topic in this series).
Objectives: “Where are we going, and How are we getting there?”
- Specific tactics to achieve the vision and mission
- Services or products you offer
- Marketing methods and timing
- Processes to get and keep customers
- Internal processes to deliver value
Measures: “How will we know when we’ve arrived?”
- How can you tell if you’re making progress?
- Status to see whether you’re Moving the Needle (# of sales, % profit margin, etc)
- Not just “hoping to pay all the bills” and “flying by the seat of my pants.”
- Reviewing quantitative and qualitative data
- Evaluate your profit margins—the most important number in your company: whether you’re keeping money after the expenses are paid. Some people get really confused and are embarrassed to talk about it. This topic comes up a lot with really intelligent business owners who are simply unclear on what a profit margin is and how to calculate it. (a future topic in this series)
So the 5 aspects of what should be in your strategic plan are what I call the VMVOM.
Are Vision and Mission the same thing?
Sometimes, a Vision Statement (what a perfect future looks like) and Mission Statement (why do we exist, and who do we serve) can be interchangeable. Some companies have a combined statement like “We help XYZ people to [solve a problem].” Or “We’re passionate about serving the needs of [people].” Or “We help to solve [this issue.]
But they are actually very different.
Vision: Looking into the future, where things have already happened.
- It’s where you want your company to be.
- An ideal place once everything you’ve dreamed of accomplishing has happened.
- Everything you set out to do has been checked off your list.
- Everyone who had the problem you solve, has gotten help.
- The problem no longer exists.
- You have “worked yourself out of a job.”
Some people think of a company vision as a specific target that they try to hit; but that is more of an Objective.
A Vision is the feeling that the world has changed because of what you’ve done. How does that feel? What does that look like?
Mission: The focus of your journey to get to that point.
- Who you’re serving,
- why you’re doing it, and
- why it matters.
If you want, you can interchange them; but it is more useful to create both.
Technically, a Vision is a future point, and a Mission defines who you serve and the reason your business exists.
Can you share an example of a Vision and Mission statement?
There are a lot of great examples out there, and I’ll be writing more about the differences between a compelling statement and a blasé one.
Midwives’ Association of Washington State
One that I really like is by the Midwives’ Association of Washington State. I’m not in contact with this group, but I recently found their website and enjoyed their take on why their group exists.
The MAWS is designed for professional members who are Licensed Midwives and Certified Nurse Midwives in the state of Washington (where I live). They also welcome associate members who are professionals, students, and supporters of midwifery.
Here are their Vision and Mission Statements:
- “Midwifery is the standard of care for all healthy individuals during the childbearing cycle.
- “Midwives support each other in maintaining and improving the quality of care.
- “The profession of midwifery is recognized as a safe and valid choice for reproductive health care.”
Quality is extremely important, and I appreciate that they included it in their 3-part vision statement. In my past role as a Privacy and Compliance Officer, quality was an integral aspect of designing a great patient experience. To increase quality, we focus on improving a situation to cause less damage, create less harm, have a better outcome, and avoid the potential for risk.
“To promote reproductive health and well-being through the development and support of the profession of midwifery.”
This statement doesn’t limit their mission to just the state of Washington, where they’re based. The association states that they want to promote their ideal future (the Vision) for the profession at large.
- Shared Decision Making,
- Risk Assessment,
- Evidence Based Care,
- Continuity of Care,
- Equity and
The Midwives’ Association of Washington State also shares their 6 goals, as well as an Equity and Inclusion Values Statement. Check it out at https://washingtonmidwives.org
LaConte Consulting’s Vision:
“A world where every person knows their value and has a voice.”
I’ve always been passionate about helping people to be heard, and also the potential for insight based on listening to the opinions of those at the Foundational level of a company. I define Foundational Staff on my Definitions page and in a blog post. They are a vital component of creating a strong strategic plan. When you develop your Vision and Mission based on your employees’ feedback, and even your customers and other stakeholders (anyone who is affected by your business) can make your company even stronger.
LaConte Consulting’s Mission:
Our mission is to “Help independent natural health practitioners to find and fix organizational vulnerabilities.”
I focus on licensed practitioners who have a natural healing perspective, and I want to help them recognize and overcome the struggles and barriers to building their business.
Find out more at https://laconteconsulting.com/about
What are the biggest hurdles to creating a good vision?
- Not enough time
- “I don’t know how to fit it in!”
- “It’s too complicated.”
- Not interested
- “Planning is not for me.”
- “I don’t really care about visioning.”
- “I don’t like looking into the future.”
- Too much effort
- “It’s so hard!”
- “I don’t enjoy it.”
- “It means I’ll have to sit down and think about stuff that I don’t want to think about.”
- “There’s too much on my plate.”
- Too general
- “I want to help everybody.”
- “A future world is where everyone is happy.”
- Self-focused vision
- “To make a lot of money.”
- “My vision is to be wealthy.”
- I have met business others with a vision that is actually more of a private Objective; it’s not going to motivate customers to invest in your services or products. Building wealth is a wonderful goal to have; but not as your vision.
- Outward focused vision
- “Everyone will get the help they need no matter what.”
- “I will serve their needs even if I do it for free”
- A vision that comes at the cost of your own resources, health, or financial stability is not balanced either.
- Not compelling or interesting
- “I want the world to be better.”
- “My vision is to help my patients.”
Your vision statement should be a conversation between you and your leadership team, and should involve staff and others in your circle of influence who have a stake in the company. It should be based on what YOU want but also needs to connect with your Ideal Customers by solving their problems and compelling them to hear more.
What are some mistakes business owners make when they write a business plan?
I think the biggest mistake is that a business plan is not in SHAPE:
- Your plan has a framework and follows Best Practices
- Your plan is based on your intrinsic beliefs
- It is compelling, connects with others, and fosters trust
- The plan should align your Vision and Mission with your strategy for growth
- It should not contradict the daily business activities
- Consider using Participatory Job Design by involving your employees in deciding how to reach your business goals; this gives them more ownership and provides you with better outcomes rather than relegating them to a “box” of specific tasks.
- Invite all employees in the planning process.
- Everyone should know what the plan is.
- Everyone should be able to repeat the Vision and Mission statements.
- Everyone should know how their role impacts the future of the organization.
- You can use Healthy Feedback Loops (read more: How to Use Good and Bad Pain in Decision-Making). This allows you to receive information, even if it’s not fun to hear. I call this “bad news”—things that are not pleasant to hear, but which is important for you to recognize potential harm in your company.
Read more: Is Your Strategic Plan in SHAPE?
Is a strategic plan the same as a marketing plan, or is it different?
They are different.
A strategic plan defines the organization’s overall direction including its focus for the future (Vision), purpose (Mission), and the goals you want to achieve (Objectives) with the actions and tactics that are needed, and how you’ll know it’s successful (Measures).
A marketing plan is a component of an overall strategic plan that is specifically focused on identifying products or services that meet the needs of customers.
You definitely need an idea of who will buy your products and how to reach them. But a strategic plan goes beyond that; it encompasses the company’s focus, where you want to be in the future, how you’ll get there, the internal processes, your policies and procedures, and the culture you create.
Marketing is one small part of strategic planning.
What do I do when a strategic plan doesn’t go as expected?
I would recommend that you first evaluate what happened.
Try using a Post-Mortem Evaluation, in which you ask 4 questions:
- What happened? (facts and figures; the data)
- What went well?
- What did not go well?
- How do we adjust for the future? What can we do differently to get a better outcome?
It’s very simple, but it’s extremely helpful and can give you insights that wouldn’t otherwise be possible. Once you start doing this regularly, your strategic planning process will become a routine thing.
Read more about how to do a Post-Mortem in How to Do a Year In Review
How often should I be reviewing my strategic plan?
I recommend updating your plan every single month. Things change. Your perspective changes, your customers’ needs and expectations change, and the market changes constantly.
Since your company’s vulnerabilities will appear faster than you are able to adjust your plan.
If you wait a full year before reviewing it, you could miss a lot of opportunities and potential threats in the meantime.
So I suggest a full Strategic Plan review at least once a month. In addition, you should talk about your Vision and Mission, Values, Objectives, and Measures as often as possible with everyone who is involved with the company: your executive team, your board (if you have one), employees, customers, potential customers, community members, vendors, and anyone else who is involved in what your company does.
Here are answers to other questions I’ve been asked about creating a Vision and Mission.
What are the benefits to using a Vision and Mission in my company?
Three are so many ways you can generate more value by using a Vision for the future, and a Mission statement that tells everyone who you’re serving and why.
Here are my top reasons:
- Allows you to make risk intelligent decisions
- Gives you a clear picture of the future
- Provides inspiration to reach big goals
- Keeps you on track to reach your goals
- Helps you measure your financial growth
- Lets you avoid possible problems (like losing your staff)
- Protects your company from liability
I’ve never written a strategic or business plan before. Where do I start?
Every plan reflects the priorities, beliefs, and philosophy of the company’s owner.
If you’re more laid back and hate the feeling of being “boxed in,” your plan might be a simple one-page document. If you’re more of a plan-ahead type of person, then you might feel better using a variety of tools and resources to create a comprehensive document.
If you’re a visual learner like me, then you’ll want to depict your vision using images and graphics. A Strategic Vision Board can be a very useful way to do this.
It also helps to design a mental framework (a drawing that shows how a process or systems works). You can see examples of a strategic planning mental framework in my 2-part guide:
Can you recommend a good book about Vision and Mission?
One of the best resources I’ve found is “Creating You & Co: Learn to Think Like the CEO of Your Own Career” by William Bridges. Although written primarily for job seekers, it provides some very thought-provoking exercises to put your abilities in perspective, and ways to identify potential profit-making ventures.
Dr. Bridges (who passed away a few years ago) also wrote the fantastic book Managing Transitions.
I hope this has been helpful! You can watch the video version of this here. In the coming weeks, I will be publishing more videos and blog posts about common business questions.
If you have a question about an upcoming topic, let me know by commenting below.
Interested in hearing how you can reverse a toxic workplace? Find out more here.
Grace LaConte is a business consultant, writer, workplace equity strategist, and the founder of LaConte Consulting. Her risk management tools are used around the globe, and she has successfully reversed toxic work environments for clients in the healthcare and non-profit fields. Grace specializes in lactation law compliance & policy development, reducing staff turnover after maternity leave, and creating a participatory work culture.