From the blog Mission Statements vs. Vision Statements: What’s the Difference?

Mission and vision statements are challenging to write. They look different for every business.

So why should we bother with them at all?

Truth is, both types of statements provide fundamental value. If any company wants success, they should take the time to write out their mission and their vision.

In this article, we’ll explore differences between the two statements, their importance, and how to write them. You can start working on your SMB’s statements in the next five minutes.

The difference between mission statements and vision statements

Mission statements describe why a business exists. They provide guidelines for day-to-day activities and long-term goals.

Vision statements, on the other hand, describe a world where a business fulfilled its mission statement. In this selfless future, the company in question may not even exist.

It may seem counter-intuitive to think of a world without your business. But it’s the best way to write compelling vision statements. 

Why mission statements and vision statements matter

Both mission and vision statements rally like-minded individuals. They should feel like a call to action—a lofty pursuit justifying money and time spent on the business.

“Pursuing a higher cause” seems contrary to the spirit of enterprise. In reality, it’s one of the most basic marketing methods. And it works for businesses in all kinds of unique situations:

  • Startups use these statements to catch investors’ notice.
  • Businesses launching new growth-oriented projects advertise with strategies drawn from their mission.
  • Benefit corporations and other companies with lots of competitors stand out with solid mission statements. 

Creating mission statements 

The best mission statements are short, usually about 16 words long. Their length makes them easy to understand. It also makes writing them a challenge. 

Let’s break it down.

A mission should answer two questions.

  • What does this business do?”
  • Why does the business do it?” 

What does my business do?

To start answering the first question, list everything your business does. And we mean everything from products sold to day-to-day operations to complimentary services.

Once there’s a page or two of info, re-read it. Find common threads and combine similar-sounding items. Hold on to this list—it will come in handy later.

Re-read until you carve out a concise answer.

Consider this example. An artisanal coffee cafe responsibly sources and roasts their own beans. They put care into their decor and atmosphere. They also QC beverages and experiment with new brewing methods.

They condense everything their “what” down to:

  • “We provide quality, craft coffee beverages.”

Ta-da! There’s the first half of a mission statement.

Why does my business do what it does?

The “why” of your mission statement is a bit trickier.

Review the first part of your mission statement and the in-depth list from earlier. Brainstorm the value each item offers.

These are “organizational values,” and they’re the thing driving day-to-day procedures. There’s usually more than one for every business, even SMBs.

And let’s be real—“because it makes money” is not an acceptable organizational value.

Our coffee shop from earlier came up with this list:

  • “Brewing coffee is an art form.”
  • “Coffee brings people together.”
  • “Caffeine helps people get through their day.”

Combining the “what” and the “why”

Now, simply put the two halves together. Try a few combinations to get the statement just right.

  • “We brew quality coffee, elevating it to an art form.”
  • “We provide quality, craft coffee to bring people together.”
  • “We practice brewing quality, craft coffee to help our neighbors work, and bring us all together.”

Don’t be afraid to keep it simple.

The best mission statements are short.

Mission statement examples 

  • “Our mission is to enable economic growth through infrastructure and energy development, and to provide solutions that support communities and protect the planet.” – Caterpillar.

Although it’s a little wordy, Caterpillar’s mission hits home. Who doesn’t want a beautiful, developed planet?

  • “Our mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” – Google.

This one’s elegant. Google wants everyone to learn.

  • “Tesla’s mission is to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.” – Tesla.

Here, Tesla drops its “what” statements to focus solely on the “why.” They’re a household name, so why bother reminding us they make cars?

Notice Tesla’s “why” is achievable. They don’t promise worldwide sustainability. They just want to get us there faster.

Another fun note: they use the word “accelerate.” You know what else accelerates? Cars! Very clever, Tesla.

Challenge yourself to be that clever when writing your mission statement.

Creating vision statements 

If mission statements describe the present, vision statements tell a business’s future.

Unlike mission statements, a vision isn’t always one sentence. Google and Tesla devoted several pages to their vision. 

Make your vision as in-depth as you like. What you put into it is what you’ll get back.

Our coffee shop from earlier has several visions.

  • “We see a properly caffeinated, appropriately kind world.” 
  • “Our brewing practice wants to become the new standard for coffee shops everywhere.” 
  • “We want our drinks to build bridges between neighbors to create a friendlier neighborhood.”

They could probably write a solid paragraph about each bullet point. And that’s fine—vision statements are your time to go crazy. Imagine the rosiest possible future for the business and the surrounding world. Get in the weeds.

No vision is too radical. 

If you’re having trouble getting started, brainstorm your customers’ struggles. What need do you fill? What would the world be like if your SMB didn’t have to exist?

Vision statement examples 

Vision statements can either generalize or focus on specific initiatives.

  • “Our vision is a world in which all people’s basic needs – such as shelter, clean water, sanitation, food and reliable power—are fulfilled in an environmentally sustainable way and a company that improves the quality of the environment and the communities where we live and work.” – Caterpillar, a community vision statement.
  • “To create the most compelling car company of the 21st century by driving the world’s transition to electric vehicles.” – Tesla, general vision statement.
  • “Our vision at Johnson & Johnson is for all employees to draw on their unique experiences and backgrounds together—to spark solutions that create a better, healthier world.” – Johnson & Johnson, a diversity vision statement.

Final thoughts 

Mission and vision statements help most businesses. 

  • When writing mission statements, think achievable, concise and clever. 
  • For vision statements, use your imagination to read the future.   

Remember, have fun with your business statements. Start writing yours today!

KEEP READING: 3 Things You Can Do TODAY to Create Business Growth

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