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Mission and Vision Statements: Envision your Business, Realize your Goals

By Carly Foster |

Vision and goals may seem like the "soft-stuff" of business, but as seasoned business owners know, these intangible elements play a very important role in the success—or failure—of a business.

While most 19-year-olds were out planning for future careers, Albert Lai was busy making his a reality. Less than two years after he came on board with the Internet start-up, the entrepreneur and his two young business partners had sold their venture to a U.S. firm for well over US$1 million.

One of the key things that Lai recommends for other entrepreneurs looking to build their own business is the need for clear vision and mission statements.

"Having unified vision and mission statements for your organization allows you to have a benchmark and touchstone for when you have to make decisions for the future," explains Lai. "This will help when there are no clear answers, or for critical decisions that will fundamentally impact you products and services."

George Torok, co-author of Secrets of Power Marketing, also emphasizes the importance of the mission and vision statements. In his book, Torok defines the two statements that make up the heart of your business:

"Vision is a big picture statement. It must be powerful, summarized in one memorable or motivating sentence or phrase. It should be general in scope, not restricting."

"Mission is the answer to 'What am I going to do about my vision?' This is more general than specific. The mission must inspire you and your customers. It points the direction you are heading. It is not the map just a compass heading."

Defining your Vision and Mission

Knowing exactly what your business is all about is the one of the best ways to exhibit confidence and knowledge to prospective clients. Crafting your statements is a vital task but can also be overwhelming, especially if you're not a wordsmith.

"These phrases take time to develop," said Torok. "Don't expect to sit down over lunch and develop the right statement."

Torok's favourite mission and vision statements can be drawn from the popular TV series Star Trek.

Star Trek's Vision Statement:

Space—the final frontier

"In just a few words we experience imagination and inspiration," explains Torok.

Star Trek's Mission Statement:

To seek out new life, to boldly go where no one has gone before.

"Notice how short, simple and powerful that is," said Torok.

Torok offers the following tips that can help you develop your mission and vision statements:

  • To find your vision, ask yourself "Why?"
  • Make your mission statement one that makes your customers want to do business with you.
  • Ask your clients what they like about you—look for common words, feelings or imagery.
  • How are you different from your competition?
  • What would be your proudest compliment?
  • Scribble words and phrases in your day planner or in your computer as you think of them and review them later.
  • Have coffee or lunch with someone you admire and ask their opinion.
  • Visit a local business school and offer your situation as a case study. Maybe hold a contest to develop your slogan, mission and/or vision.
  • By the way, don't make the mistake of thinking your mission is to make money—that is a condition of operating your business, but it is not the mission.
When Lai developed a mission statement for his business, he set out to develop a statement that would convey values, motivate owners and employees, and encompass long-lasting ideals. The final result, which he now uses for all of his companies, was:

"To empower, entertain and educate all people to advance humanity, through innovation and the creative use of information technology. To be a leader in delivering innovative solutions, and to be an icon of audacity in the digital era."

Lai offers the following tips to other entrepreneurs who are working on their own mission statements:

  • Convey your company values;
  • Inspire and motivate your organization toward objectives that are fundamentally key to the culture that you wish to establish;
  • Use long-lasting ideals, not fashionable statements based on current business or market trends; and
  • Keep your statements clear and easy to understand for anyone coming on to your organization.

The Result

Once developed, your vision and mission statements will provide a firm understanding of who you are and what you're all about to yourself, your staff and those you do business with.

"Writing these statements will require some serious thinking and wordsmithing on your part," said Torok. "But the work will pay off when your customers buy into your approach—and buy your product."

Mission and vision statements. They are a fundamental element of your business communications, and are one of the first steps a business will take toward developing a cohesive image and communications approach.

Watch for the next issue of CanadaOne and our in-depth look at the power and elements of image.

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