Vision, mission and company values: what they are and how to define them
Before starting a startup you need to know, with absolute certainty, what you want to achieve from your new entrepreneurial adventure. To trace the route you will have to follow to achieve all the results you have set for yourself are mission and company vision, two terms that have now firmly entered the common business jargon but which still generate more than a misunderstanding. Too often, in fact, there is a tendency to confuse these two concepts, which, although linked together, refer to two distinct aspects of an entrepreneurial activity.
Having clear ideas about the precise meaning of company mission and company vision is important because it is what allows you to identify the short and long-term goals of your company and, above all, how you can achieve them. The two terms, in short, express what you propose to become and how you intend to be able to do so.
However, to fully understand the meaning of these two concepts and thus be able to define and exploit them in the best possible way within your business, it is advisable that you also take into consideration the corporate values, i.e. those values that you intend to support and that they will guide your every decision-making process and the work of your business.
Let’s proceed in order and clarify each of these aspects.
Corporate vision: definition and examples
The definition of corporate vision refers to the ambitions and dreams that are behind an entrepreneurial adventure, that is, the purpose for which it was started and is being carried out. On a more specific level, this concept identifies what your company wants to become in the future and, even more precisely, what it will look like in the long term.
Precisely because the corporate vision describes the status that the company intends to achieve in the future, it is very important that you identify it when your business project is still being defined and is just starting to take shape. In fact, every subsequent marketing action of yours will only make sense if it is oriented towards an ultimate goal to be conquered.
Worry that your vision is, from the outset, as concrete and realistic as possible, but know that in any case, over time, the company’s vision can still be revised, improved and updated in progress.
In this regard, it is worth mentioning a famous example of a corporate vision: when Bill Gates founded Microsoft in 1975, his initial vision was “Get a computer in every home and on every desk”. Over the years, his company has managed to achieve this and, therefore, that vision has been superseded by a new purpose: “To give people the ability to use any device to get what they want, anytime, anywhere”.
It is very important that the company vision is precise and clear for everyone, both externally (from suppliers to customers, from competitors to the media) and internally: a strong vision allows employees to identify and feel more involved in the project and a greater cohesion of the work team almost always translates into better results. Not only that: since the vision is based on the values of the company, expressing its ideals and defining its role within the company, it is advisable for the entire team to be aware of this and share the same philosophy.
To further clarify the concept of corporate vision, it is possible to mention further examples, in addition to that of Microsoft just mentioned: remaining in the same area, Google‘s vision is “Providing access to information in the world in a single click” , while for Apple it is “Making the best products in the world and leaving the world itself better than it was found” and for Amazon it is “Being the most customer-centric company in the world and building a place where people can find and discover everything they might want to buy on the web “.
Company mission: definition and examples
The definition of corporate mission, as mentioned, is connected to the vision, but expresses a different concept: unlike the vision, which refers to a dimension projected into the future, the mission of a company, in fact, focuses on the present, describing what the company does and why it does it. In other words, therefore, the company mission describes how the objectives set with the vision are translated in everyday life into concrete actions taken to achieve them.
The differences between vision and company mission certainly do not end with the temporal aspect: with the former, in fact, you translate your dreams and ambitions into a declaration of intent, but it is with the latter that you bring the discourse back into a dimension much more practical and concrete, that is, that of daily operations. Like and more than the vision, therefore, the company mission is able to guide and inspire the work of all staff, describing in a more practical way the values and actions that must arise from them.
Not only that: for the same reason, the mission manages to convey an even clearer image of your brand identity to the outside world. It is up to you to know how to handle this advantage with extreme care, because it could prove to be a double-edged sword: your mission statement, thus exposed, could be subject to criticism in the event that your actions fail to reflect in a manner faithful to the corporate values you declared.
Again, some examples may be able to shed more light on the difference between vision and mission and, that is, on the distinction between what a company wants to be and how it wants to achieve this aspiration.
For this purpose, it is useful to take the brands already mentioned above as a reference: Google‘s corporate mission is “To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”, Apple‘s is “Bringing the best products and offering the best support to students, teachers, designers, scientists, entrepreneurs and customers in more than 140 countries around the world “while Amazon‘s mission is” To offer customers the lowest prices, the widest selection and the greatest value.”
Corporate values: definition and examples
By now it will be clear to you that the corporate mission and vision both refer to corporate values, whose synthetic definition, not surprisingly, mentions precisely those two concepts. Company values, in fact, can be defined as all those principles set out in the vision and mission.
Thanks to the corporate values, all the souls that make up the company are able to align themselves with the same philosophy, which, again through them, can be communicated more explicitly even externally. The real challenge for you, once you have identified the company values, will be knowing how to communicate them effectively internally and externally: a declaration of intent, even if perfect, is useless if it remains unknown to most and, in the same way, an incorrectly formulated mission statement risks exposing the brand to criticism.
The list of examples of corporate values is potentially endless, but there are some recurring ones, even among the big brands mentioned above. Among the corporate values that, more frequently, companies consider relevant, stand out, for example, honesty (i.e. acting in a reliable and transparent manner), fairness (treating everyone with equal dignity) and responsibility (accepting responsibility for one’s own actions).
In addition to these, it is also possible to mention other more “practical” recurring corporate values, such as the quality of the products or services offered and what can be summarized as a promise to customers and which refers, specifically, to the loyalty that can be established between what is promised to customers and what is actually proposed. Pay attention to this aspect too, because it is able to contribute decisively to the success of your business.
Vision, Mission and values: how to define them and how to write them
Now you know the definition of corporate mission and vision and also that of corporate values. It is not enough: it is essential, in fact, that you know how to translate these concepts into practice, in relation to your new business activity.
To define your corporate vision, you need to ask yourself some very specific questions: what does your company do? What are your values? What is your purpose? What problem are you going to solve? What is the scenario you want to create?
The answers to this whole series of questions will allow you to write your vision, which must represent the ideal image of your company and, therefore, aim high towards ambitious goals, but without losing touch with reality.
Another tip: when writing your business vision, don’t think about selling a product or promoting a specific service. Instead, worry about being clear and concise: limit yourself to one or two sentences and avoid any kind of ambiguity.
Define a time horizon for your goals, but think about a vision that is as evergreen as possible: as explained above, your vision may also be updated over time, but it is always better to avoid the risk of being too dependent on market developments.
Like the vision, the mission also answers a series of questions. Some of them are linked to what has just been said: who are you and why are you on the market? What are your goals? Who are your customers? Other questions are, however, more practical: what situation do you have to create to ensure that your goals are achieved? What tools will you need to use?
Reasoning on the history of your company and on how and why it was born, on what contributions it can offer to society and on what are the values that direct its daily operational activity can help you become aware of what your company is and what it does, for whom and for what reason. Don’t forget, though, to keep yourself practical.
Reflect on your Unique Value Proposition, that is the distinctive element that makes your company different and better than the competition, and make sure that the product or service you offer truly responds to the promised benefits and advantages. Or, as Walt Disney would say,
“Make sure you never do less than your best.”
Defining the company mission and vision in the best possible way is very important because it allows you to identify short and long-term goals, to understand what resources are needed to achieve them and, consequently, to establish an adequate budget, to build your team in the best possible way and to improve your product or service.
To guide you in all these decisions, as stressed several times, it is essential that you define your corporate values in a precise manner, writing your “declaration of values“. This answers other very specific questions: what are the values in which you believe and for which you wish to be recognized? How do you put your corporate mission and vision into practice?
A very useful tool for determining corporate values is the model of Richard Barrett, founder of the so-called Barrett Values Center: this model has identified about 100 values that can be defined as “universal”, divided into 7 areas that refer to humans needs and motivations. Find the ones that best identify you and your company.
Here is a quick overview of the Barrett Values Center:
Your task does not end with the drafting of the “declaration of values”. Sharing it with all the people involved, both inside and outside the company, is in fact, as already pointed out, extremely important: you must not forget that this is precisely what allows anyone who comes into contact with you to know who you are, what does it represent and why.