Mission and vision statements are the foundation for your business and how it connects with customers. They can build strong relationships, boost brand image, and improve sales. Achieving business success is a journey. Your company’s mission and vision statements are your roadmaps. Without them, getting where you want to go will be challenging.
Shopify merchant United by Blue, for example, sells sustainable goods. It connects with like-minded consumers through its mission and vision statements, both of which are focused on sustainability.
A mission statement typically involves more concrete goals, while vision statements tend to be more aspirational in nature. This guide takes you through the differences between vision and mission statements, with tips on creating them for your brand.
What is a mission statement?
A brand’s mission statement defines its goals and how it plans to achieve them. In a few sentences, it asserts a company’s values, what it offers, and why it does what it does.
Going back to the Shopify example, United by Blue’s mission statement is “For every product purchased, United by Blue removes one pound of trash from oceans and waterways.”
What is a vision statement?
Vision statements are what brands use to declare their aspirational goals, like changing the world. It’ll be challenging and inspiring, which motivates employees and consumers to support the brand.
For United by Blue, the vision is on sustainability. It envisions “a world without waste” and sells products that support that vision.
What are the differences between mission and vision statements?
A company’s mission defines its business goals and the values it will embrace to achieve them. By contrast, a vision is a more abstract idea of how the organization intends to impact society. Rather than setting specific goals, it’s something to strive for.
United by Blue, for example, commits to cleaning up one pound of trash for every product purchased. This is a very realistic, achievable goal. Its vision, on the other hand, is a world completely free of waste—a goal that’s much more difficult, and even impossible, according to some, to achieve.
Vision and mission statements differ in three main aspects: audience, purpose, and time period.
- Mission statements are aimed at both employees and customers.
- Vision statements aim to motivate employees and relevant stakeholders to see the value in their efforts.
- A mission statement has more specific, realistic goals that everyone can understand. They might be about growth, financial metrics, products, innovation, and consumer behavior.
- A vision statement declares ambitious goals that might be impossible but are worth striving for. The goal might be to change communities, economies, or societies for the better.
- Mission statements explain what the company is doing right now, and what it plans to do in the next few years, to achieve its goals. Many mission statements give a particular year the business plans to meet its goals.
- Vision statements don’t always have a defined time period, but they will be aimed toward the future. Because they cover big, abstract goals like societal change, they’ll potentially imply work that takes a decade or more.
Let’s say you own an ecommerce brand that sells healthier alternatives to conventional breakfast cereal. Your company’s mission might be to “convert 100 million breakfasts to healthier options by 2028, offering a range of products in every supermarket.”
Although it’s an ambitious goal, you should shoot for the moon to accomplish great things. This is also a specific statement. Even though it doesn’t outline the steps required to get there, it’s a clear goal with a deadline. It’s easy to understand and leaves a little wiggle room on the exact path you’ll take to get there.
But the company’s vision might be “To make breakfast the most joyous part of people’s day, helping transform the dietary habits of every American into something easy, healthy and sustainable.”
Mission vs. vision statement: how they’re related
The two work together nicely. A vision represents the soul of a company—its reason for doing things other than just making money. Many successful companies use this vision to underpin everything they do.
A mission, in other words, is an assignment—a set of tasks that need doing in service of a wider ambition. With the vision of a better future to inspire them, the mission statement brings this idea closer to the real world, with a more practical and definite set of goals.
If you want to change the world, you’ll have to define how you will do it. That’s why it’s good to have both vision and mission statements.
Mission statement examples
Our goal is to deliver world-class customer experiences at every touchpoint and do so on a foundation of trust and transparency.
This is a value-led statement that’s all about the how. Not only is GM going to deliver great things, it’s going to do it with integrity.
And it’s broad enough to cover almost everything it does. “Customer experiences” can apply to anything from one person being delighted in a showroom to a huge corporate deal being signed.
GM is a huge multinational corporation with many different interests—it’s known primarily for cars, but there’s a risk that defining that explicitly will be too limiting for future expansion.
To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world.
This example is short and to the point. Everyone can understand what it means.
It’s actually quite similar to a vision statement in its brevity, but it takes more responsibility. Nike’s vision might be for everyone to be as healthy as their body. But this is more of a mission, because it says Nike will make it happen.
The statement isn’t published in isolation—it’s explained and justified in Nike’s marketing material, expanding upon what it means and how it plans to make it happen. Remember, a mission statement isn’t a business plan. The details of how it will be achieved can come later.
Vision statement examples
Our purpose: to create technologies that drive human progress. Our story began with a belief and a passion: that everybody should have easy access to the best technology anywhere in the world.
This vision statement was declared when the company was founded in the 1980s, and it holds strong today. For a multinational tech company, it’s appropriately ambitious and broad enough to encompass everything Dell is involved in—both now and in the future.
Driving human progress is an inspirational goal that anyone can understand, and it’s much more encouraging than simply selling more computers.
Our vision is to be Earth’s most customer-centric company; to build a place where people can come to find and discover anything they might want to buy online.
This is an appropriately huge goal for a company as massive as Amazon. It’s also unique and underpins the company’s relentless drive for customer satisfaction.
While it’s ambitious and broad, like most vision statements, it’s also quite specific about what Amazon does (it sells almost everything). It works nicely as a lead into more detailed mission statements and plans. That said, it should be timeless enough to stay relevant for many years.
Writing your mission and vision statements
This section of your business plan will fundamentally answer two questions:
- Who are you?
- What do you plan to do?
Answering these questions in a concise, direct, and simple manner should provide an ample introduction of why you’re in business, why you’re different, what you have going for you, and why you’re a good bet if you’re asking for an investment.
This is when you really start understanding why your business exists, what you hope to accomplish, and what you stand for. Now, don’t spend more than a previously allocated time to get the answer to those questions together. Let’s face it: as a fledgling company, you’re learning as much about yourself each day as you are about your customer.
Don’t by any means feel that what you state here is set in stone. But what these statements do is give you a starting point to build on top of at a later date (hopefully when you’re in your growth phase).
1. Define your values
First off, it’s essential to clarify your values. In short, this means taking into account all the various stakeholders your company is accountable to. That includes owners, employees, suppliers, customers, and investors. Now consider how you’d like to conduct business with any one of those stakeholders, ideally. Start making a list and your core values should start to emerge.
2. State your business objectives (short and long term)
Now that you’ve got the “what” and “why” answered for your business, it’s time to jump into the “how.” That’s where setting goals and objectives come into play. Remember the importance of making them SMART, which means making them:
- S - specific
- M - measurable
- A - actionable
- R - realistic
- T - timeframe
At this point, you’re probably wondering, What’s the difference between a goal and objective? One way to categorize them is that goals tend to lean toward being more qualitative, while objectives almost always tend to be more quantitative.
Goals usually revolve around achieving big picture business intentions centered on market position, customer service, growth, and company culture, among other key things. On the other hand, objectives focus more on practical, day-in, day-out metrics that revolve around revenue, number of customers, and product-related metrics.
Lastly, let’s define the context around timelines for an entrepreneurial venture. “Short term” means the next nine to 12 months, while “long term” typically should refer to the next one to five years.
3. Write your mission
From there, you can pen your mission statement. Let’s break those words up first. A mission can be defined as an important goal or purpose with strong conviction, and a statement can be defined as a single sentence or assertion.
Now let’s put the two together to break down what your mission statement should be. It should state the purpose of why your business exists, convincingly, in no more than a single sentence—the shorter, the better.
Here are some dos and don’ts:
- Create something that connects with both employees and customers.
- Make it about you.
- Highlight your value proposition.
- Make it tangible.
- Mention a specific goal.
- Make it useless.
- Make it long.
- Make it generic.
- Make it confusing.
4. Craft your vision
Once that’s out of the way, you can move on to crafting your vision statement. Again, let’s start by defining what the word “vision” means. It’s when you anticipate something which will be or may come to be.
So, what impact do you envision your business having on the world once you’ve achieved your vision?
You can have more than a single sentence for this one, but we don’t recommend writing more than three. Gloss over it to ensure anyone who comes in its proximity feels the following emotions: inspiration, hope, commitment, and awe.
Just like the mission statement above, here are some dos and don’ts:
- Make it compelling.
- Make it detailed.
- Paint the intended end outcome.
- Highlight why your company exists.
- Make it the outcome of your mission statement.
- Make it bland.
- Make it generic.
- Make it uninspiring.
- Make it obviously unreasonable.
Defining your business’s mission and vision
Writing vision and mission statements is a great idea for any company. It challenges you to think big and define what will motivate you and your employees for years.
It’ll give you a foundation to return to over the years, keeping you on track to maintain focus and achieve your goals. And it will prove to your customers, investors, and employees that you’re working toward something with real meaning.