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Mission vs. Vision Statement: What’s the Difference?

difference between mission and vision

Vision and mission statements are not taken seriously when starting a business

They are, after all, just words on a digital document. You write them to check another business task off your list and focus on more “important” things, like product development and marketing. 

But that couldn’t be any further from the truth. Mission and vision statements are the foundation for your business and how it connects with customers.

They also can improve sales. A recent global study found that consumers are four to six times more likely to purchase, protect, and champion purpose-driven companies

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. 

This guide takes you through the differences between vision and mission statements, with tips on creating them for your brand. 

You don’t have to fear your own company being perceived as human. You want it. People don’t trust companies; they trust people.

Stan Slap, author

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.

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.

What is the difference between a mission and a vision?

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. In General Motors’ vision, for example, it aims to have “zero crashes, zero emissions, zero congestion.”

Vision and mission statements differ in three main aspects: audience, purpose, and time period. 

Audience

  • 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.

Purpose

  • 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.

Time period

  • 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.”

It’s less measurable, but more inspirational. Whether you are an investor, an employee, or a customer, everyone can understand it.

How are mission and vision 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

General Motors

general motors mission statement

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.

Nike

nike mission statement

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’ll be achieved can come later. 

Vision statement examples

Dell

dell vision statement example

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. 

Amazon

amazon vision statement

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:

  1. Who are you?
  2. 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 would 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.” Once you’ve figured out your vision and mission, it’s time to lay down how you’re going to execute and bring them to reality. That’s where setting goals and objectives come into play. We’ll start with a friendly reminder of 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 around 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. According to Dictionary.com, a mission can be defined as “an important goal or purpose that is accompanied by 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 we’ve deduced from several experts on the subject matter.

Do:

  • Create something that connects with both employees and customers
  • Make it about you
  • Highlight your value proposition
  • Make it tangible
  • Mention a specific goal

Don’t:

  • 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 is “the act of anticipating that 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, along with some examples:

Do:

  • Make it compelling
  • Make it detailed
  • Paint the intended end outcome
  • Highlight why your company exists
  • Make it the outcome of your mission statement

Don’t:

  • 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’ll prove to your customers, investors, and employees that you’re working toward something with real meaning. 


Vision and mission statements FAQ

What are the different goals of a mission statement and a vision statement?

A company’s mission statement focuses on keeping you aligned with your goals. A vision statement focuses on inspiring you as a business owner, manager, employee, or investor.

What is the purpose of a mission statement?

Mission statements explain why a company exists, who it serves, and what it hopes to accomplish. Inspiring and informative, it defines a company’s direction and how it will accomplish things.
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