As the leader of a startup or small business, you pour everything you have into building your business. It’s a full-time job and then some. A passion project. A labor of love. But, to truly succeed you’ll need others. Whether it’s advisors, engineers, customers, or investors, you cannot do this alone. You need to be able to get others as excited as you are about the possibilities, the opportunity…the future.
Simon Sinek made popular the notion of purpose in his 2009 book and TED Talk titled Start With Why. In it he suggests that the most successful leaders begin with WHY, or purpose, rather than what (product) or how (process). In the TED Talk, Sinek suggests that making money is not the purpose of a business, but rather the outcome. Focusing on your business’s purpose helps you create a much more compelling, inspiring reason why others should get on board with your idea.
Purpose, in the form of a vision statement, clearly and succinctly articulates how the world is a better place because your company is in it. Changing the world may sound lofty for a small business, or even crazy for an entrepreneur just starting out. But think of your vision as a proxy for your ultimate value proposition; if you can articulate the positive impact you will have on your customers’ world, then you know you are doing something that matters. And something that matters to customers creates passion among collaborators, employees, investors, and buyers. A compelling vision is aspirational and inspirational.
Here are a few examples of vision statements for for-profit and not-for-profit organizations with which you may be familiar:
“An Apple computer on every desk in the world.”
“A better everyday life for the many people.”
Association for Creative Industries
“A passionate creator in every home in the world.”
If you were working at Apple, IKEA, or AFCI, the few words above would provide the fundamental guidance you need to make trade-off decisions in your work. That’s the power of a clear vision.
You’ll notice that each of these describe the world that will exist when the organization succeeds. Each paints a compelling picture of a desirable future. It doesn’t say what the organization is going to do to make their vision a reality –that is captured in a mission statement –but rather the positive outcome of their work.
A strong vision statement is attractive. It attracts talent, passion, investment, and excitement. It becomes a reason for others to get involved in your business. It also serves as an important guidepost when making decisions that shape the direction of your company. When you need to focus investment of time and resources, remember your vision and ask, “Which of these paths will move us more quickly toward achieving our vision?” There are only two ways to move an organization more quickly forward; either apply more resources or do fewer things. Your vision helps you do the right things to stay focused on the future and make decisions today that will help move you toward that future more quickly.
Your vision statement also serves another purpose. It helps form the backbone of your marketing strategy. When you can articulate your vision, you understand the ultimate value proposition (VP) for your customers. How does your product or service benefit customers by making their lives better? That’s your most compelling marketing message: Simon Sinek’s WHY. Understanding the VP for your business, product, or service allows you to identify which customer segments value that benefit the most. Those customers are your core target audience, the ones most likely to pay money to receive the benefits conferred by your product or service. That is where to focus your marketing and sales efforts for the fastest and most profitable returns.
As a small business owner, creating a vision statement may not seem like the most pressing thing on your to-do list. However, attracting collaborators and customers are two of the most important things you can do to grow your organization. Understanding your purpose and articulating it in a clear and concise vision statement is a mechanism for providing the direction and language you need to tell the story of your business and inspire others to see the future you envision. And that’s something every small business owner and entrepreneur needs to do to succeed.