Chouinard suggests these five tips for crafting a powerful vision statement for your business.
1. What is a vision statement
A vision statement describes your company’s desired future state in the coming years—commonly, three or five years out. It says what your business will look like if it achieves it goals.
“It should be clear, concise, with a high-level focus,” Chouinard says. “It shouldn’t be too broad. Aim to be realistic, but also inspiring.”
A single sentence is the ideal length. A vision statement can also change as a business evolves and grows.
2. What it’s not a vision statement
Vision statements are often confused with mission statements, but they’re not the same thing. A mission describes who your company is, what it does, why it exists and for whom. A vision statement often changes with time, while a mission statement generally doesn’t.
For example, your vision could be to become Canada’s leading retailer of art supplies. Meanwhile, your mission may be to equip artists with top-quality supplies at the best price.
A vision statement is also different from your business goals. The latter express your vision using a few concrete figures. Using the example above, your goal may be to achieve $10 million in annual sales in five years. A vision is also not the same as a value statement, which describes the culture you have and aspire to and how you want to act as a business.
A vision statement gives you direction, inspiration and a long-term view beyond the day to day.
3. Which companies should have a vision statement
All businesses should have a vision statement regardless of size. Most entrepreneurs have a vision of some kind even if it’s not written down. But if you don’t put it into words, your vision may not be clear to you, and your team may not be on the same page.
“It’s like going on a car ride, but not knowing where you’re going,” Chouinard says.
4. How to develop a vision statement
The vision statement is derived from the mission statement. If you don’t have the latter, your first step is to create one. The next step is to develop a vision based around your mission statement.
Chouinard recommends meeting with your team to discuss the company’s vision for the future. Come to a shared understanding about what the business will look like if it achieves its goals in three or five years.
The session shouldn’t take as long as hammering out your mission statement. An hour or two is typical, though it can take longer if there’s disagreement about your future. Dispute can signal a need to gather more information and do a SWOT analysis.
“If you don’t know where you’re going, you need to discuss it and get back to it again and again until you agree,” Chouinard says. “Working on your vision is a good excuse to figure out where you’re going with the business.”
Also, be sure to revisit your vision statement regularly as your business matures.
5. How to use a vision statement
A vision statement should be shared with employees and discussed internally to make sure it’s clearly understood. Chouinard recommends against publicizing it outside the company, especially if doing so could tip off the competition about sensitive goals. (A mission statement, by contrast, is made public.)
A vision statement should be used to frame your company’s business goals, your action plan for achieving them and strategic planning.
“A strategic plan is your blueprint for making your vision come true,” Chouinard says.