Why Traditional Vision Statements Don't Work (And What to Do Instead)

For the past 20 years, Cameron Herold has had a hand in some of the most successful businesses in North America.

He helped grow 1-800-GOT-JUNK from $2 million dollars to over $100 million dollars in annual revenue. He helped build College Pro Painters into the largest residential house painting business in the world. And he helped Boyd Auto Body grow into the largest collision repair shop in North America.

Cameron believes that if you want to grow your business quickly, you need to develop a vision for the future. But his recipe for writing a vision statement is probably very different from anything you’ve ever done before.

In this TGIM short, you'll...

  • Hear why most vision traditional statements are downright ineffective.
  • Learn about vivid vision documents and how they can help you plan your business' future.
  • Get access to helpful templates and documents that will help you write your own vivid vision.

Check out the full short below:

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Man 1: You've been here before, right? The big company retreat, all the key players piled into the meeting room, anticipation is in the air, everyone gathers around to right the new vision statement. Fresh sheet of papers in the flip chart, the whiteboard is wiped clean. There's a bunch of sticky notes on the table. Everyone is ready to go. There's only one little problem.

Cameron: Traditional vision statements don't work. Everybody knows that. You ask any individual in any organization if their one sentence mission statement or vision statement helps them. They kind of just chuckle and say "No. It's garbage." We all know how they're made. You get a bunch of smart people in a room and everybody puts their words up on a whiteboard and you vote on the words. You eliminate all the words that got no votes. You take your six leftover words and you mash them up into a sentence, and that's your mission statement. That really doesn't tell the whole story.

Man 1: Cameron Harold is calling out the classic vision statement as just plain ineffective. It doesn't work. Why would we do something that doesn't work? Probably because it's the only thing we've ever been taught, but you're an entrepreneur. You're building your own company. You don't have time to waste with tools that don't work. Thankfully, Cameron Harold has a solution.

Cameron: A vivid vision is a three or a four page written document that the CEO or entrepreneur crafts describing their company three years in the future. Almost like you went out to December 31st and you looked around three years from now and described what you could see, how every business area was interacting, and you described every area of your org chart in vivid detail as if you were standing in the future. That three, four page document, the vivid vision is what now allows your team to figure out the plan to make the future comes true. That's where the real alignment starts to happen. The vision statements, the one sentence statements have never really worked.

Man 1: It's all about trying to visualize the future. Athletes do it all the time. When you're watching the Olympics this summer, take a close look at the high jumpers. Watch their heads. Almost all of them stand very still as they prepare to make their jump. They usually close their eyes. They might even bob their heads up and down or throw their heads backwards. They're visualizing themselves running up to the bar and propelling themselves over it. Then, they open their eyes, stare at the bar and make the jump they just visualized. It's not just athletes that use visualization.

Cameron : Home builders have always used a vision process where they talk to the homeowner and the homeowner describes what the home looks like, or what the remodel looks like, or what the finished product looks like. The homeowner really doesn't know how to build the house or do the renovation, but they know what the finished product looks like. The home builder takes sketches and drawings from the homeowner, and that's kind of their vision that they work from. Then they take those away and they spend a couple of weeks and they draw the blueprints, which is effectively the plans to make the homeowner's vision come true. When the blueprints get signed off on, the blueprints are handed to the workers, and the workers essentially just follow the plan to make the CEO, or the homeowner's, vision come true. The reality is, when the vision is very clear, and the plan can be done, the CEO doesn't even have to talk to the employees because everyone's literally on the same page.

Man 1: If you're ready to create your vivid vision, Cameron has a few simple steps to followup. First, get out of your office, you need to let your mind wander into the future without the constraints of the daily routine. Then, turn off your computer, Cameron is a big believer is using a pen and paper for this exercise. Think where, not how. Try to visualize where you want to be, not how you'll get it done. Finally, think out of the box. I know this is a little bit of a cliché and don't worry if you're not creative. Cameron recommends mind mapping. Put random thoughts down on a piece of paper and then just flush them out later. Remember, this is an exercise about visualizing your future. You kind of want to imagine that you're getting into a time machine and traveling three years into the future.

Pretend that you're walking around your company's office taking notes. What do you see? What do your clients saying? What is the media writing about you? What are your employees saying as they gather around the water cooler. What does your marketing look like? How are you funded? What do your company's financials look like? How is your company running day to day? What kind of stuff are you doing every day. Take all of this and write a three page document that describes in vivid detail what your company will look and feel like. That's your vivid vision. It's as simple as that.

There you go. You've imagined your future. You've written down your vivid vision. Now, Cameron Harold says there's one last step.

Cameron: It's communicate, communicate, communicate. You're constantly communicating core values, core purpose, your vivid vision, so that everybody can always see the future, but they execute on today. CEO's need to put systems in place to keep communicating the vivid vision to all their employees, all their suppliers, all their customers on a quarterly and a monthly basis, where you want all stakeholders rereading the vivid vision monthly at minimum. They're always seeing and thinking about the future three years out, but then they're making decisions and executing on today, but the decisions they're making are aligned with that future vision. If you simply just put a vision out there and hope people remember it, you're crazy.

Man 1: We've got links in the show notes if you want to read a sample of a vivid vision from one of the company's that Cameron Harold has worked with, or you can download the worksheet that he designed for you to start writing your own vivid vision. You can get those in the show notes, in your Podcast app, or at Shopify.com/TGIM.

Show notes:

About TGIM: TGIM is a podcast for people who can’t wait for the week to start. In each episode we’ll be bringing you inspirational stories about entrepreneurs who have overcome obstacles, built incredible businesses, and are now living the life they want.