A merchant who approaches business with the idea of serving the public well has nothing to fear from the competition. James Cash Penney
Entrepreneurs must keep their fingers on the marketplace’s pulse by understanding current trends and how they impact their customers’ experiences. For example, in the 1980s many companies focused on quality, brought to the forefront when sales of American-made car plummeted and imports – perceived as higher quality - were all the rage.
In the 1990s companies that demonstrated suppleness and flexibility dominated the business world as the old "company-first-customer-later" model disappeared under the weight of increased worldwide competition. Business leaders finally understood how a "can-do" spirit – one which translated into a "Yes, we can help you with that!" mindset – could transform their companies.
Now in the 21st century, companies are focusing much time, effort and money on discovering ways to become more innovative and collaborative using emerging technology and systems. This is particularly evident on the World Wide Web where the Internet’s accessible technologies and fast-growing Web 2.0 culture allow small businesses to compete on level playing fields with the "big guys."
That’s why it’s more important than ever to differentiate yourself in today’s marketplace and articulate your commitment – internally and externally - to your target audience’s key concerns.
One of the best ways to communicate your company’s insight into the future and key responsibilities is with a vision and mission statement.
What is a Vision Statement?
Simply put, a vision statement provides inspiration. Think of it as a painting that depicts your company’s ideal future.
Effective vision statements use colorful, vivid, and vibrant yet, concise language to:
- Communicate a compelling mental image of the future, such as:
- The gymnast who watches as she accepts an Olympic gold medal.
- The writer who sees himself receiving a Pulitzer Prize.
- The mountain climber who pictures himself on Mt. Everest’s summit.
- The florist who envisions Kentucky Derby winners draped in her rose blanket creation.
- Motivate and inspire others to take action.
- Describe realistic, but challenging, ambitions – usually five to ten years in the future.
- Articulate core values and culture.
- Present a guiding image of success.
Now, here are some good real, and not-so-real, examples…
- "XYZ Company will become the nation’s number one provider of electronic widgets by 2015."
- "By the end of the decade, we will put a man on the moon." (John F. Kennedy).
- "To be recognized and respected as one of the premier associations of HR Professionals." (HR Association of Greater Detroit).
- "Year after year, Westin and its people will be regarded as the best and most sought after hotel and resort management group in North America." (Westin Hotels).
- "A personal computer in every home running Microsoft software."(Microsoft Corporation).
If you’d like more ideas, go to google.com and type the keywords "Vision Statements" into the search field and hit "enter." You’ll be amazed at the number of resource links you’ll receive.
What is a Mission Statement?
A mission statement is a declaration that outlines the specific actions that will be used to accomplish a business’s goals. It addresses how the vision will be attained and is therefore narrower in scope.
Remember, it must be actual representation of your beliefs… not some fancy words on paper. And it’s a good idea to develop your statement using input from everyone involved in your business – particularly employees. After all, they’ll be called upon to make it a reality.
The best ones include a company's:
- Contributions… Who will do what?
- Intended audience… Who will benefit?
- Distinguishing features… What sets them apart from others in their industry?
Following are several samples of mission statements - all in narrative form
If you prefer a list format, that’s fine as well:
- Courtyard by Marriott: "To provide economy and quality minded travelers with a premier, moderately priced lodging facility which is consistently perceived as clean, comfortable, well maintained and attractive, staffed by friendly, attentive and efficient people."
- Otis Elevator: "To provide any customer a means of moving people and things up, down and sideways over short distances with higher reliability than any enterprise in the world."
- Dayton Hudson: "To appeal to a younger-thinking, style-conscious, moderate and better priced customer by providing trend merchandising and superior service. Trends mean private labels, fast reaction, measured risks; service means warm, friendly, helpful people in a convenient, efficient environment."
- Deluxe Checks: "To provide all banks, S&Ls, and investment firms with error-free financial instruments delivered in a timely fashion. Error-free means absolutely no errors; timely means a 48-hour turnaround."Ford Motor Company: "Quality is Job 1" (Notice how their famous slogan is also their mission statement.)
Once again, if you’d like more ideas, go to google.com and type the keywords "mission statement" into the search field and hit "enter."
The most important thing to remember is that your vision and mission statements shouldn’t be merely pretty words and fluff. Rather, they should be developed only after a great deal of thought and consideration and echo your loftiest ambitions and central undertakings.