We hear the words purpose, vision and mission everyday, but what do they really mean and how are they different from each other? It is easy to puzzle over these questions for hours. Large companies will pay consultants tens of thousands of dollars to help them craft elegant statements to adorn their walls and motivate their employees. Many times these become so overlaid with business jargon that they end up not saying much at all. As a small business, choosing the right words and applying them to your business can serve the organization by defining leadership roles, unifying efforts, setting departmental and company-wide goals, better serving customers and encouraging and motivating employees. However, the larger purpose of defining these words and applying their meaning is to illuminate your focused strategy and ensure that everyone that comes in contact with your company has a clear understanding of what your organization is abut and what they can rely on you for. A few well crafted sentences can save a tremendous amount of time in the long run, by becoming crystal clear on the answer to – What are we here for?
First you must be able to see your vision. Companies like many things in our universe start as nothing but an idea in someone’s mind and then turn into a physical reality. In order to get others actively working towards creating that physical reality, they must be able to see the vision; therefore, you must be able to convey it. A business’s vision is a desired future. It can help to guide all who accept and understand it. A shared vision can be a great tool for building a sense of belonging and community. A vision is not a CEO’s desire to make a billion dollars. While a CEO’s ideas are important to the future of the company, the management team and other players’ are equally as important because they relate to personal commitment to the business. If employees don’t believe in a company they are less likely to give their best effort. The old adage, ‘You are only as strong as your weakest link’ can be very true. The questions you need to ask in order to frame your vision are, “What value do we offer the market?" and “How are we going to offer it in a unique way?" Unlike a company’s goals but similar to its mission, a vision does not have a deadline. It can evolve with the company and can be vague or exact to have impact and meaning. A company’s vision is how it sees itself fitting into the marketplace at large. Think of your vision as your “I have a dream speech" for your business.
Next we define the mission and the purpose. Sometimes the mission and the purpose are the same thing, and other times it is worth separating them. A company’s Mission Statement defines why your organization exists; the purpose gets into what it hopes to achieve in the future and how they fit into the greater good of society and the world. Your mission answers the question “What are we here to do?" It should be well defined, so it can guide your business’ planned actions.
A company’s purpose answers the question, “Why do our mission and vision matter?" That can include giving back to employees, management and shareholders. Some company’s say their purpose is to serve all related parties from workers to clients in the best way possible. Others are in existence solely to make money. There is no right or wrong purpose. There is only what you decide your organization is meant to do. The dictionary says that a purpose is “an anticipated outcome that is intended or that guides your planned actions. " This anticipated outcome can be spiritual, practical or comical. It can be health or environmentally conscious or convenience oriented. It is how ever you see your organization changing the world, in whatever small or big way you intend to.
For example, the mission of a bicycle part manufacturing company could be to make the highest quality bicycle parts that allow customers to maximize the usable life of their bike. Or it could be to be the largest bike part manufacturer in the world or to be the brand of choice for cost conscious customers or to be the trusted vendor of the largest athletic chain stores. Their purpose may be to make solid, safe parts to improve bike safety, or to make a community or an entire planet healthier by encouraging outdoor bike riding as a form of exercise, or to encourage people to use bikes as transportation rather than cars an reduce pollution. You can see how these different missions and purposes would guide a company to operate in different ways.
When Mark Walker decided to re-brand his business J M Walker Group with a mind for building a solid, valuable entity for the future, that he could pass on to his children one day, he wanted to make sure he built on a strong foundation. He started by defining his vision, mission and purpose with the following:
Vision (What this business means to me): To empower companies and individuals rise to their highest potential through high quality training content and inspiring delivery.
Mission (What we are here to accomplish): To be a premiere provider of training to large and mid-size companies in the Southeast. We help businesses grow value and profits by training their people to become exceptional in selling, serving, communicating and managing time, with clients, customers and their daily contacts. We get excited when people tell us that they feel like they are now part of something bigger than themselves, and see great value in what they do to serve their customers, clients, or patients.
Purpose (What my business means to the world): The purpose of J M Walker Group is to leave a legacy of earning an excellent living, using and sharing our gifts and talents to help businesses and individuals succeed. We desire to bring a positive view of God to our marketplace and to reflect His special love for people in all that we do.
Once you get the right vision, mission and purpose on paper, you can then move on to setting meaningful goals to move the business forward in those directions.
It is important for any organization to spend time figuring out what their purpose, vision and mission are so that all parties involve to understand them implicitly. This insures that everyone is moving in the same direction, which is critically important for being able to grow quickly. Taking the necessary time to assess these three words is critical because a company should be a machine with many differentiated parts, but only one mind. For more information on how you can improve your business, visit www.flourishingbusiness.com .
Elizabeth W. Gordon, founder and President of The Flourishing Business, LLC, is a visionary leader who has a passion for helping others achieve their entrepreneurial dreams and enjoy more of the best in life. With a vast and diverse background in many business arenas, Elizabeth regularly has the opportunity to share her business acumen with clients, large and small. She currently serves on the Board of Directors of the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO), Atlanta and the Board of Directors of the American Association of University Women (AAUW) Atlanta. She is an Accredited Executive Associate of the Institute for Independent Business (IIB) and a certified Life Coach.