How to boil down vision and mission into an overview statement for your new business

December 05, 2015

At this point in your idea-to-launch journey you probably think you have a solid elevator pitch, but you'll be surprised what happens when you attempt to put that in writing.

For the sake of you, your team, and your early advisors (which I'll talk about more in an upcoming post, subscribe to my newsletter for updates) — especially when it comes to a foundation for building your product — it's a good idea to boil down your vision and mission into a single paragraph and include, in broad strokes, your main features. This is critical to keep everyone on the same page as you move forward.

Vision

Pause for a moment and really think about why you are doing what you are doing. What do you believe in?

Next, consider if you could wave a magic wand and acquire all possible customers and make them 100% happy, what would that world look like? Think as big as possible (e.g. take cues from the non-profit community). Here are some examples:

Oxfam: A just world without poverty

Feeding America: A hunger-free America

Human Rights Campaign: Equality for everyone

National Multiple Sclerosis Society: A World Free of MS

Alzheimer's Association: Our vision is a world without Alzheimer's

Habitat for Humanity: A world where everyone has a decent place to live.

Oceana seeks to make our oceans as rich, healthy and abundant as they once were.

And even in the for-profit world, for example:

Disney — To make people happy.

Microsoft — At Microsoft, our mission and values are to help people and businesses throughout the world realize their full potential.

Avon — To be the company that best understands and satisfies the product, service and self-fulfillment needs of women — globally.

You get the idea. Your vision statement touches on the core “why” behind what you are doing and keeps everyone excited. It gets you out of bed in the morning.

Your first draft will change within the first few weeks (or days/hours, probably), but get something down and we'll work to get it into your overview statement below.

Mission

Contrasted to the vision statement (i.e. what you see the world in the future being), your mission statement says more on how to get there.

If you're familiar with Simon Sinek's work (e.g. Start With Why), you'll see where I'm going with these comparisons (why-how-what approach vs. the more common what-how-why). Specifically:

Again this is best taught via examples, so let's use the same companies as above and examine their mission statements.

Oxfam: To create lasting solutions to poverty, hunger, and social injustice.

Feeding America: To feed America's hungry through a nationwide network of member food banks and engage our country in the fight to end hunger.

Human Rights Campaign is America's largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality.

That is, Oxfam's vision is “A just world without poverty”, and the way to get there — the “how” — is via creating lasting solutions. Feeding America's vision is “a hunger-free America”, and their way to get there includes a national network of food banks. Human Rights Campaign believes in equality for everyone, and is working toward that cause by speaking up for the LGBT community.

Here's the specific example for Disney:

“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.”

That's their “how” behind their vision “to make people happy”.

Overview Statement

Now, for our purposes here, as we work through the operational framework I'm writing about for building and launching a web product, we want to put together the vision and mission with a quick fly-by of the major features we're planning and call it good for now.

The reason why this is so important is to help align your stakeholders during the product development process (feature sets, mood-/color boards, UX, specific UIs, etc…).

Now, let's say we're building a B2B SaaS application to help make meetings more efficient. Here's an example of what the overview statement could be:

We believe that meetings — at least those with the intent to get stuff done — should be more efficient. Too often meetings are disorganized and have agenda items that could be discussed over email and/or do not result in specific action items owned by specific people. Therefore, to solve this problem we're going to build an app that coordinates users, meetings, agenda items, and action items.

Simple; three sentences that follow the Why, How, What approach.

You can see how the vision of the company can be something like a world full of efficient meetings. The mission would then have something to do with creating meeting efficiency via preparation, optimization, and stakeholder ownership. You get the idea.

Thus, armed with our overview statement, we now have a foundation to build your product. That is, it's time to start getting specific about user stories, a UI spec, flow charts, visual identity, logo, etc… which I'll write about in future posts in this series.

Author's note: this post is part of a series of articles outlining an operational framework for building and launching web products. Feel free to subscribe to my newsletter and I'll let you know when I publish new content. Thanks!

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