defining your vision, mission and position
The most important thing you need to do as a business owner is define your vision, mission and position.
- What is your vision (what you want your business to be)
- What is your mission (your purpose and values)
- What is your position (what is unique about your business and offering, and what differentiates you in the market)
You need to do this whether your business is just yourself, or you have a team. And whether you’ve just started or whether you’ve been going for years. Believe it or not, there are large, long-standing businesses that operate without one, two, or even all of these things!
OK, so let’s begin. Appropriately for Vision we’re going to kick off with a video.
So that first thing you must ask in defining your vision is … WHY do you do what you do? Your Vision Statement should not be concerned with the nuts and bolts of how you go about your business. It should rather speak to the essential reason of why your business exists. How does it make the world (or at least your customers' lives) better? Think big picture and make it inspiring. It shouldn’t be limited by time and it should always be future focused. Therefore it might be something you think is currently out of reach or beyond expectations: it just needs to be something you can always strive for. Check out these examples:
A just world without poverty.
To organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.
Delivering happiness to customers, employees, and vendors.
You’ll also notice they are quite simple! Try to keep your vision statement to just one sentence. A vision statement is also great for engaging and empowering your team: Research shows that employees who find their company's vision meaningful have engagement levels of 68 percent, which is 19 points above average. More engaged employees are often more productive, and they are more effective corporate ambassadors in the larger community. (Source: Forbes) You’ll also find it empowers and engages you too!
If your Vision states your ‘why’, then it’s your mission that states your ‘how’ and ‘what’. You might want your mission statement to cover who your primary customers are, to identify the products and services you produce, and describe the locations in which you operate. At the very least it needs to describe your business’ function, market and competitive advantages. Your Mission Statement is an internal statement. So it doesn’t have to be clever or catchy for customers to remember. It should instead be accurate and something that you and your team can get behind. Here are some examples:
Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.
We work hard every day to make American Express the world's most respected service brand.
The mission of The Walt Disney Company is to be one of the world’s leading producers and providers of entertainment and information. Using our portfolio of brands to differentiate our content, services and consumer products, we seek to develop the most creative, innovative and profitable entertainment experiences and related products in the world.
Now it’s time for you to start work on your Mission Statement (take a good look at your current one) and make sure it answers at least three (but ideally all) of these questions:
- What do we do?
- How do we do it?
- Who do we do it for?
- What value do we deliver?
Some other questions you might answer in your Mission Statement include:
- Why do we serve our clients in the way that we do?
- How do we serve our clients in the way that we do?
- Why are we in this industry?
- Why did we start this business?
- What image of our business do we want to convey?
When writing your mission statement, use vibrant and dynamic words that inspire action. Use strong verbs and avoid adverbs. Keep your mission statement fairly short and make sure that it feels really good when you read it and say it. It captures, in a few succinct sentences, the essence of your business’ goals and the philosophies underlying them. It signals what your business is all about to your customers, employees, suppliers and the community. Your mission also needs to be a goal that has a measurable action. For example, if your mission states you will have the ‘happiest customers’ then you should be able to measure that, and set benchmarks to see whether you actually achieve it. Once you have a Mission Statement you are happy with (and that delivers on the above), you should share it with your team (or friends/family if you’re currently working on your own) who will hold you accountable to it and display it on a wall. You should remind yourself of it every day and live the values that it speaks to. With an inspiring vision and an empowering mission, you’re nearly ready to start work. But first you need to define your position.
Put yourself in your potential customers’ shoes for a moment, and ask “Why should I choose this product/service over all other options?” Can you answer it? Differentiation is one of the most strategic activities that you can engage in as a company. You can have the most amazing vision and mission in the world but, if your customers can’t differentiate you and your offer from the rest of the market, you’ll only ever go so far.
uncovering your unique selling point (USP)
No matter how similar your product or service is, or how competitive your industry is, there must be something that makes your offering unique (and hopefully, the best). Even if your product is much the same as your competitors, what can you say that sets you apart? Maybe you deliver it faster, maybe your guarantee is better, perhaps you have more flexible payment options, perhaps your service is superior? Any of these will differentiate you in the eyes of a potential customer. To do this of course you’ll need to get a clear idea of who your competitors are, and what they are offering. Make a list of yourself and your competitors, then columns for four or five areas that are key to your industry (value, service, support, etc). Rank all your competitors and yourself for each of these. Hopefully there will be one or more attributes where your offering ranks more highly than the competition, and this is where your USP can be defined. So now it’s time to craft it into a short, concise statement. One that can be easily understood by your customers. One that you could easily communicate to them. And most importantly, one that you and your customers will believe. This will likely be your company's slogan! Here are some famous examples:
We're number two. We try harder.
The milk chocolate melts in your mouth, not in your hand.
Designed for Driving Pleasure.
It Gives You Wings.
Your Unique Selling Point (USP) needs to clearly articulate the benefits of your product/service to your consumers. It needs to offer them something that a competitor’s product can’t or doesn’t already offer them. And it needs to be compelling enough to the customer, to switch them over to you. Once you have formalised your USP – own it. Believe it. Communicate it to your customers via your website, advertising campaigns, and marketing material. Ensure that all aspects of your business reflect your USP – including service, sales process, even the atmosphere or look of your store (if appropriate). Stand out from the crowd. Advertise what makes you special, and encourage customers to switch to you.
You should now have three bold statements, as well as a diagram, that define your Vision, Mission and Position.
Don’t be shy about any of them, make them a mantra that you do business by!