Probably the most important sentence your company ever puts to paper is your strategic vision statement. It defines your organisation, your goals and the paths you take. A bold, visionary statement is the first step in establishing your firm as a bold, visionary leader. A mediocre statement keeps you on a path of mediocrity, trailing behind the visionary leaders. A lack of any vision leaves it to your customers and employees to assign a mediocre vision statement to your company. And they will.
Whether yours is a global organization or a one-woman business operating out of Poughkeepsie, your strategic vision statement should be but a few words, but those words are vitally important to where your company is going and how it is going to get there. Think about the leading company or two in any field and you probably have a good idea of their strategic visions. Think about Apple, Walmart, Facebook, Versace, Porsche, Victoria’s Secret.
In short, success for your business starts with a strategic vision statement and then flows through communication to your employees, customers, future customers, business partners, other stakeholders and your community.
A vision statement is essentially a moving goal that you aspire to chase after. The moving bit is important. You do not ever want actually to achieve the goal defined in your vision. If your vision is to sell 100 coffee mugs by next Wednesday, you’ll be lost come Thursday. On the other hand if your vision is to create unique, designer coffee mugs in limited batches of 100 which will only be sold for one week, you’ve got something that will keep you busy indefinitely.
Avoid Being Best Like the Plague
Amazingly, in view of the critical importance of a strategic vision statement, a large number of companies either have no defined vision or a vague, meaningless one. The worst thing you can do in crafting a strategic vision statement is to use the word “best” − it is almost certainly an indication of mediocrity and lack of vision. To understand why, the next time you are with a group of friends, ask everyone who makes the best pizza (or any popular food) in your city. The chances are you will get several different answers and a few disagreements. That’s because best is a meaningless word unless precisely defined − and even then it is dubious.
Or, look at it this way, you are visiting a new city and see three pizzerias. One claims to be the best pizzeria. The other makes no claim and the third claims to be a family owned restaurant specialising in novel pizzas made with fresh locally sourced ingredients. Which is likely to get your business?
No company ever became the market leader by being the same as everyone else in the field. Think about it. In order to have a field in which everyone is the same, there had to have been a visionary who defined normal behaviour in that field.
Your strategic vision statement should be unique. It should carve out your niche in the market place and allow you to own that niche. That can be scary. For most organisations, like people, it feels safer to follow the leader than to go off in your own direction. But you will know you have succeeded when you look back and find other companies following your lead.