Search any reasonable sized company’s website and you will probably find that they have a Vision statement written down for all to see. Now, walk into that same company and ask a member of staff what the Vision of the company is and the chances of them staring at you with a blank face is also very high! Why is this the case?

Over the years, the likes of Stephen Covey have taught many business leaders that Vision is important and as a business owner, when you finally get your website launched, you think, obviously, it’s got to have a vision statement.  However, one of the main problems many businesses struggle with is how to keep it fresh and current for both themselves and their staff members.

Having said that, I also know of a few business owners who think the whole idea of a Vision Statement is ‘woolly’ and ‘fluffy’! They’ve said “Let’s just get on with business, not all this touchy feely Vision stuff!”  Well let me first show you the power of having a vision:

In the mid 70’s, a man left Harvard University to start his own software company, this man and his friend/business partner had a vision which was to see “A Computer on every desk and their software on every computer”.  Have you guessed who that was? Yes! Bill Gates! He had a huge vision and now we are witnesses of the impact this has had.

So why do many Business owners either have a vision statement but don’t use it, not have one at all, or don’t see the value and importance of having one?

I think there are a few reasons for this:

1. You got someone else to do it for you.

When business owners call in consultants to write their vision statements for them, long after the consultant leaves, the organisation will usually go back to how it was before and very rarely would anyone remember what it is about.  The whole principle of Vision is really an inside job, and until the staff know what the leader or leadership team are trying to build and can articulate it, confusion will always occur.  A real vision statement is closely related to the passion of the business leader or leadership team (we will look at this when we cover leadership). The Vision of the business is what drives the organisation and it cannot be handed down by a group of consultants.  The Vision Statement is an expression of where the leader sees the company heading in the future. A coach or consultant can facilitate it and draw it out of the leader, but they can’t show the leader what it is.

2. You started your business by accident.

I hear many stories of how people stumble on a product or service that becomes so successful and before they can breathe, they have hired staff and found themselves in a position that they didn’t originally plan.  The Company has grown up to a point but is now beginning to struggle or become stagnant.  Because of this, you’ve been playing the role of a technician rather than entrepreneur.

3. You are too busy dealing with ‘urgent’ matters.

Many business owners feel like they are just managing to survive and don’t feel like they can afford to take time off to develop a ‘Vision Statement’ etc.  Unfortunately, these type of business owners will crash and burn because it makes a big difference whether you use a ‘clock’ or a ‘compass’. You might move at high speed with the clock, but it could be in the wrong direction which spells disaster, or you could use the compass to find the right direction and keep making sure that everything you do is taking you closer to your destination.

What is a Vision Statement?

A Vision is defined as ‘An image of the future one seeks to create’.
The definition for sample Vision statements is a short paragraph providing a broad, inspirational image of the future.

Examples of Vision Statements for some well-known companies (even though some of these statements have been updated/modified, these are the statements that made them successful):

Sony’s Vision statement in the 50’s

“Becoming the company that most changes the worldwide image of Japanese products as being of poor quality.”

Coca Cola Vision

Our vision serves as the framework for our Roadmap and guides every aspect of our business by describing what we need to accomplish in order to continue achieving sustainable, quality growth.

⦁ People: Be a great place to work where people are inspired to be the best they can be.
⦁ Portfolio: Bring to the world a portfolio of quality beverage brands that anticipate and satisfy people’s desires and needs.
⦁ Partners: Nurture a winning network of customers and suppliers, together we create mutual, enduring value.
⦁ Planet: Be a responsible citizen that makes a difference by helping build and support sustainable communities.
⦁ Profit: Maximize long-term return to share owners while being mindful of our overall responsibilities.
⦁ Productivity: Be a highly effective, lean and fast-moving organization.
General Motors Vision

“GM’s vision is to be the world leader in transportation products and related services. We will earn our customers’ enthusiasm through continuous improvement driven by the integrity, teamwork, and innovation of GM people.”
McDonald’s Vision

“McDonald’s vision is to be the world’s best quick service restaurant experience. Being the best means providing outstanding quality, service, cleanliness, and value, so that we make every customer in every restaurant smile.”

I chose these well known brands as examples for you to see the integrity behind the vision statement. These companies are actually known for what they stated in their vision. This is key to why you need to have a practical living vision statement.

Some points to remember:
⦁ Shaping a vision could be a long-term endeavour
⦁ The vision comes from the members of the organisation
⦁ It takes people of character to accomplish great vision
⦁ Vision achievement takes commitment and hard work

Benefits of a Vision Statement:

Below are five benefits for having a Vision Statement that is living and actively used in your organisation:

1. It will help you know where you are going.

As the saying goes, “If you don’t know where you are going, you will end up nowhere!”  It sounds elementary, but would you get in a car and start driving without knowing where you are going?  Well, where is your business aiming to be at in the next 1, 3, 5 and 20 years?  What about the next 100 years? The only thing that will stop your business being around in the next 100 years is because you never thought about or laid the foundation for it to go that far.

2. It will help you make better decisions.

We live in a world of constant distractions. More and more opportunities come our way especially as we get more and more successful. Having a clear vision gives you a clear reason to say ‘no’ to several of these opportunities. Unfortunately, I have heard of many companies that after achieving a level of success got side tracked into other ventures that they weren’t really cut out to undertake. A clear Vision statement can help avoid such misfortune.  On the other hand, clear decisions can be made easily because you know that the decision will take you a step closer to your destination.

3. It will help you attract and motivate your staff

Your business success is directly proportionate to the quality of staff you attract.  A company with a compelling well articulated vision is very attractive to men and women that want to make a difference with their lives.  Your vision could be the answer to their prayers, as such staff will buy in to what you are trying to accomplish and would need less motivation.  Using Sony’s Vision statement in the 50’s as an example, any Japanese person who had to same conviction and was employed by Sony would go the extra mile to see the company succeed.  When we look at leadership and team building, you will see that creating your Vision Statement is your greatest tool to motivate your staff.  People are best motivated by a Vision and they will go the extra mile to make your company a success.

4. It will keep you going when the going gets tough

We know that life is filled with ups and downs and the economy also has its fair share of ups and down’s. During tough times, it is the Vision of a company that keeps you going. The vision can pull the staff together, bring out a higher level of commitment, encourage the creativity of others and show the tenacious spirit of you and your staff.

5. It will help make the company not totally dependent on you and a few individuals

This point is perhaps the most important! If you go back to look at the companies I chose as examples, you will see that the original founders of all these companies have long died but the company still lives on. If you can create a vision that will outlive you, then you are truly building a successful company.  But even before this happens, you will find it much easier to delegate to staff members because they see what you are trying to build and want to help you accomplish that.

How to create your Vision Statement:

Take some time to answer the following questions:
⦁ What would your business look like when it is finished?
⦁ What is your business out to accomplish?
⦁ What does success look like to you?
⦁ What is the purpose for your business and the reason it exists?
⦁ When your business succeeds, what would be its accomplishments?

If your company is well established with staff and senior managers, you might want to go away on a retreat to answer the above questions.

Some points to remember:
⦁ Shaping a vision could be a long-term endeavour
⦁ The vision comes from the members of the organisation
⦁ It takes people of character to accomplish great vision
⦁ Vision achievement takes commitment and hard work

What are your thoughts on the power of a Vision Statement?