Launching a small business takes a lot of hard work. Considering everything an entrepreneur has on his or her plate – from product development and pricing to staffing and marketing – crafting a mission and vision statement is not likely to be a top priority. But perhaps it should be.

Every business owner needs to establish a mission, vision, and values to guide them toward long-term success. Mission and vision statements are far more than words on a page or a plaque on the wall. They form the foundation on which to build your business and help you stay focused as your business evolves.

If you’re just getting started, now is the time to develop a strong mission and vision to guide your new venture through its varies stages of growth. If you’re already in business without a clear mission, work with your team or a trusted advisor to put your mission and vision in writing.

What is the Difference Between Mission, Vision, and Values Statements?

While each of these statements has a different objective, elements of mission and vision statements are often combined to define a company’s purpose, goals, and values.

Mission

A mission statement explains an organization’s reason for being. It summarizes the overall intention of the business, its objectives, and its approach to reaching  those objectives. It also serves to communicate the company’s purpose and direction to employees, customers, vendors, and other stakeholders. It may include the type of business, products or services, and target market.

Vision

A vision statement looks forward. It describes the desired future position of your business and what you want to achieve five or 10 years from now. Developing your vision can help you set specific goals to guide you toward the success you see for yourself as a small-business owner. Therefore, it should be inspirational, aspirational, and challenge you and your employees.

Values

Many businesses go one step further and develop a values statement. This lists the core principles that guide and direct ownership and staff, and establishes a standard against which employee performance and conduct can be measured. Depending on the nature of your business, you may choose to share your values publicly or keep them internal. Either way, your values should be reflected in your strategic plan and day-to-day operations.

How Mission and Vision Statements Work

No matter who drafts your mission and vision statements, it is important that you solicit input from employees, suppliers, and customers. Communicate your message in clear, simple language and keep it as short and specific as possible. Make sure the objectives are measurable, the approach is actionable, and the vision is achievable. This will go a long way towards getting buy-in and support throughout your organization.

Once you have finalized your mission and vision and shared it with your team, you will discover the value it has both internally and with customers, vendors, and your community. Here are just a few of the reasons why it is worth investing the time and effort to develop a mission and vision statement for your small business:

  • It Defines and Establishes Your Brand: At its core, your mission and vision statements explain who you are, why you are passionate about what you do, and what you offer your ideal client or customer. When you communicate the purpose behind your small business and the goals you’re working towards, you’ll foster connections with others who want the same thing. It will make you more human and more appealing as a brand people want to do business with.
  • It Shapes Strategy: Every business needs a strategy, but strategies cannot be created in a vacuum. Instead of looking at what competitors are doing, wise business owners focus on creating the most effective strategies possible to accomplish the mission and vision their company has set out to accomplish.
  • It Leads to Better Business Decisions: Your mission and vision provide a framework for evaluating opportunities and deciding whether they fit your business model and strategy. They are to a company what a rudder is to a ship – guiding you and your entire organization by setting boundaries to help you stay on course towards achieving your goals.
  • It Gets Everyone on the Same Page: A mission and vision statement forms the basis for alignment not only with the business owner, but the entire company. By ensuring that every member of your team is on the same page when it comes to what you do and why you do it, it helps sustain productivity, efficiency, and effectiveness.
  • It Keeps You and Your Team Moving Forward: Having a clear mission and vision can help motivate you and your staff, inspiring you to continue working towards your goals even during tough times. Consider posting your mission and vision where it is visible to you and your team so it will serve as a constant reminder of what matters most.

Make it your mission to review your vision and values when hiring a new employee, and discuss these statements at least once a year at staff meetings. Knowing exactly where you want to go in the future will reinforce the importance of the work you do today.

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