From Disney’s “to make people happy” to Starbucks’ “to establish themselves as the premier purveyor of the finest coffee in the world while maintaining their uncompromising principles while they grow,” well crafted vision statements are at the core of every successful business. So what exactly is a vision statement, and why would creating a vision statement be so important for the success of your small business? At its core, effective vision statements encapsulate the core values and ideals that gives a business its shape, direction, and provides a roadmap to where it wants to go. Kathryn Taylor, CEO of Untold Content, says “A company vision statement reveals, at the highest levels, what an organization most hopes to be and achieve in the long term.” She adds, “It serves a somewhat lofty purpose—to harness all the company’s foresight into one impactful statement.” Know the Difference: Vision Statement vs. Mission Statement Before diving head first into creating a compelling vision statement, it’s critical to determine what a vision statement is, and what it isn’t. While a mission statement is a present-based statement designed to describe why a company exists to the employees of a business and to the external community, vision statements are future-based and used to create direction to employees and small business owners rather than customers. EXAMPLES Disney: “To make people happy.” Starbucks: “To establish Starbucks as the premier purveyor of the finest coffee in the world while maintaining our uncompromising principles while we grow.” Notice that Starbucks’ vision statement is lengthy, but it encapsulates the core ideals relevant and meaningful to Starbucks’ long term vision, including: Premier purveyance Finest coffee in the world Uncompromising principles Growth A mission statement is a statement conveying your company’s reason for being. Its purpose is focused on what you’re doing right now. EXAMPLES Disney: “To be one of the world’s leading producers and providers of entertainment and information.” Starbucks: “To inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighbourhood at a time.” To sum it all up, a vision is an aspiration whereas a mission is actionable. According to Alison Brehme, founder of Virtual Corporate Wellness, “Your mission statement is your company’s reason for being—it’s all about what you’re doing right now.” If long term success is important to you and your small business, then let’s get started creating a compelling vision statement of your own! 1. Examine Your Mission Statement Ask yourself a simple question: “Why do we exist?” (we—as in your business). Whether you’re a solo photographer freelancing as your side hustle to recruiting full-time employees for your small business, examining your mission statement will help you understand what you’re doing right now. Once you understand why you exist and what problem you’re solving right now, you can begin to visualize what you want your business to look like in the future. 2. Be Bold When It Comes to Visualizing Once you’ve solidified your mission statement, don’t be afraid to think outside the box. To write a vision statement, focus on the basics of your mission statement and deduce further meaning. If your small business is a solo freelance career or you just opened up shop recently, where do you see your business five years from now? What will your business have accomplished? Start by forming a mental picture in your head. Imagine if someone is interviewing your business. What are you and your business being recognized for? For instance, if your current business is running an up-and-coming graphic design agency, you might imagine being featured on HOW Magazine on your business’ latest innovations, offerings, and even career opportunities. 3. Extract Your Vision Into a Usable Statement When you were busy visualizing, you probably counted an entire list of accomplishments that you saw your small business achieve. To create a vision statement, start by extracting the most essential parts of your vision (the stuff that stood out to you) into a usable form. How? Use the following equation to shape your vision statement: Five years from now, (my business name) will ____________ by _____________________. Using this equation to create a vision statement will force you to choose what you consider as the most critical accomplishments that you want your business to achieve and give you a time frame to achieve it. For example: Five years from now, Chicken & Waffles will be rated as a “five-star” restaurant in Vancouver, Canada area by consistently providing top quality food and outstanding service that creates an extraordinary dining experience for family and friends. Notice that a truly compelling vision statement positions itself to align with your values—not just written as something the brand believes. Here are some more examples of vision statements. 4. Commit to your vision statement Use your established vision statement as the building blocks of your business planning. Remember, a vision statement provides a destination for your small business—giving shape, direction, and provides a roadmap to where it wants to go. It encapsulates all your goals, strategies, and core values into helping your small business get to where you envision it to be in the next few years. If your vision statement is something you only tell your employees, friends, and family once—your statement will fade away. Commit to your vision statement by using it daily. Share it with potential investors, partners, and employees if you have them. Print it out and leave it on your desk, in your staff kitchen, or where you and your staff can see it (and be reminded of it every day). The keys to a successful small business starts with a clearly defined vision statement. As Simon Sinek summarizes perfectly, “Customers will never love a company until the employees love it first.” The bottom line is that you and your staff need to collectively understand the meaning and purpose of your business—and believe in it—in order for it to thrive.