If you’ve been hanging around the entrepreneurial block for a while, you’ve likely come across the terms Mission & Vision a few times by now. Coaches, consultants, marketers, and corporations all throw the terms around like everyone uses the same standard definition, knows exactly what they mean, and understands why businesses need them. But in my own experience, many entrepreneurs aren’t 100% sure what exactly the deal is when it comes to their mission and vision, much less how to put either into words to form a powerful statement.
So when my friend and fellow Canadian-entrepreneur-in-Munich Mélody Roussy-Parent approached me with the idea of collaborating blog posts on the topic of Missions & Visions, I was more than onboard. Mélody is the founder of RethinkPath and is a business strategist who specializes in helping companies uncover and harness their internal creativity. Her clients are mainly SMEs in the agriculture, environment and artificial intelligence industries who come to her for help with problem-solving or developing international expansion strategies.
Mélody approached our topic from a business strategy perspective, and I of course came at it from a branding perspective and the deeper we dove into it, the more we confirmed that your mission & vision is at the very core of your business foundation.
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A MISSION AND A VISION
Before we dive in, let’s make sure we’re all on the same page here:
Your mission is a short statement about the fundamental reason your business exists. It explains who you are, your philosophy and/or goals. Don’t confuse this with your positioning statement, which is more about your USP and what your clients can expect from you.
Your vision is your long-term aspiration, the driving element that sets the direction of your business. It’s not necessarily directly related to your business’ mission; it might not even be something you can achieve single-handedly. My own vision is to change the way the world does business in the long term: to change the focus from profit maximization to sustainability in all senses of the word.
THE FOUNDATION OF A SUCCESSFUL BUSINESS
As Mélody and I began our interview, we were quickly in agreement that one of the foundations of a successful business was crystal clarity around what exactly your business is, what you do, and how you do it. I loved that Mélody’s perspective on this topic picks up right where the branding process ends, filling it with the realities of business life and basically putting a business and brand’s foundation to the test. Here’s her take on it.
Mélody, how important is it for your clients to have a clear mission? What role does the mission play in your work with them?
I help my clients to either develop creative solutions internally or to create and implement internationalization strategies. In both cases, the mission is what steers my approach. For example, when I am helping a client take their first steps outside of their home market, one of the first questions we work on is how to apply their mission in that new target country. It’s so important to take into consideration that your or your company’s mission and vision are also formed by the market you operate in, and when you change that market you also have to question how your mission and vision will translate.
Expanding your business to a new country can also be very destabilizing; a strong mission and vision are necessary to help you stay your course. Sometimes, as a business adapts to a new country, we discover new opportunities or unexpected markets, but taking actions that aren’t in line with the business’ mission can throw your whole business off! A strong mission and vision is a guideline that keeps you focused on moving in the right direction.
Wow! How interesting! So a strong mission and vision are at the very heart of your work. How do you make sure there is a solid foundation for you to work with and what do you do when there are missing links?
I always start by asking questions. Expansion just for expansion’s sake is rarely a good idea and I can tell pretty quickly if an entrepreneur isn’t ready for it there is no strong link between their plans and their vision. I think as entrepreneurs, we tend to develop new ideas quickly and easily, but it’s worth taking the time to write out the vision that guides you and your business. It will help keep you on track and make the right decisions to really move your business in the direction of that vision!
My advice to entrepreneurs is to create a concise mission and vision statements that not only guide their businesses in the long term but also give their clients something to identify with. You want your mission statement to tell them what they can expect from your company, and your vision statement to build a connection on a deeper level. Your clients need to understand what and why they are buying from you! On the flip side, your employees also need to stand behind it, embody it, and deliver what your mission and vision promise.
Coming from the business strategy side, how do you approach the mission and vision question? How do you peel back the layers of the onion, so to speak?
I start right at the source, at the very beginning of the founding of a company. I want to know who, why and how a business was started. I need to understand the story and anecdotes behind the business , but also its founders. Then I ask about the short and long term goals – for the business but also for the founders. Because entrepreneurs tend to be action-takers who are always ready for ‘the next opportunity’, they often lack a strategy for the medium or long term. For me, it’s so important to understand the person or people behind the business in order to put together a strategy that really fits to them.