Companies that don’t have a clear mission and vision statements are losing out on many potential benefits.
Read this article to find more about these two statements, which one is more important, and learn the key differences between them.
To make this a bit more fun, I listed and analyzed the mission and vision statements of 10 global brands to give you some concrete examples.
What is a mission statement?
A mission statement should convey the reason why your company exists, what problem it solves, and for whom.
Mission statements tend to sound formal, but, in reality, they’re very down-to-earth, operations-based, and rooted in the “now.”
As companies get bigger and more people get involved, everyday tasks get that much more challenging.
Companies use a mission statement to keep employees on the same page and focused on what’s most important to move the needle in the right direction.
Another important quality of well-crafted mission statements is that they have the power to inspire loyalty among employees and confidence among customers.
In my opinion, to get the most out of your mission statement is by making it blindly consumer-centric and easy to understand.
For more information, check out my article dedicated entirely to mission statements.
What is a vision statement?
If a mission statement is a plan on how to win the battle, a vision statement is a plan on how to win the war.
In other words, a vision statement represents what your company aspires to be, where it’s going, and what it desires to achieve in the future.
The time-frame is entirely up to you.
It can be 5 years, 50 years, or anything in between.
It’s perfectly OK to be idealistic and dare to dream when creating a vision statement.
A good vision statement should give you the goose bumps.
It should move and inspire those who work for the company.
In the moments when the mission gets hard, your vision statement can put the extra wind in your sails.
What are the key differences?
Even though mission and vision statements go hand-in-hand, they’re not the same nor do they have the same purpose.
Perhaps the most noticeable difference between them is the fact that mission statements tend to be present-oriented and vision statements are more future-oriented.
In other words, mission statements are deeply rooted in the “now” and vision statements talk about the future of the company.
Because of this quality of vision statements, they’re typically much more open-ended than mission statements.
In your mission statement, you’re more or less constrained by what you can do for your customers right now.
At the same time, you can take your vision statement in whichever direction you want.
The next key difference has to do with customers.
Mission statements are much more likely to be customer-centric than vision statements, even though focusing on the customer is not something vision statements should not or do not do.
Remember, there are no rules, only guidelines at best.
To gather insights on mission statements, I analyzed all of the Fortune 500 company mission statements.
I found that 182 of the companies, or 36%, mention the words “customer” or “customers” at least once in their mission statement.
The word “people” (which basically translates to customers in this context) is mentioned 76 times, or in 15% of the mission statements.
This brings the total number of Fortune 500 companies that directly mention customers in their mission statements to 258 or just over 51%.
Vision statements, on the other hand, tend to focus more on the company itself, employees, company culture, etc.
There’s one more difference between these two statements but it’s rather subjective so take it with a grain of salt.
For all the differences mentioned above, I feel like it’s a lot harder to craft a great vision statement than a great mission statement.
A compelling vision statement should be grand because it needs to inspire, but not so grand that it loses any connection with reality and becomes meaningless.
You’re forced to walk a thin line between what’s possible with years or even decades of hard work, dedication, and good decisions, and what’s not possible “in a million years,” so to speak.
Walk the line well and you’ll inspire anyone who reads your vision statement.
Fall off the edge, and it’ll become meaningless.
I’d love to know your opinion on this one so feel free to let me know in the comments if you think I’m wrong.
What comes first, mission or vision statement?
This is a debated topic with differing opinions and one that I could avoid getting into, but that’s just not in my nature so I’ll give you my two cents.
Please take the following for what it is – just an opinion.
Even though you should make an effort to craft both statements for your business, a mission statement is a slightly bigger priority, in my opinion.
Especially for new businesses that have to focus on what they can do for their customers this very moment.
Of course, it’s very important to have a vision for your business too.
The reason why I give a slight preference to mission statements perhaps lies in my operations-oriented way of thinking.
I’m much more obsesses with how much value I can provide right now than what I envision doing in the future.
Do you need both of these statements?
Let’s put it this way, you’re certainly much better off having both.
Crafting both statements means you considered both the present and the future of your business and have a clear picture of both in your mind.
Having one statement and not the other would leave you that much more vulnerable.
You would also miss out on many potential benefits.
Mission and vision-driven businesses inspire customer trust and loyalty, as well as attract and retain compatible employees.
Don’t forget that top-caliber employees oftentimes have many options to choose from and they often go for companies they feel are compatible with their views.
Not having mission or vision statements, or both is one less opportunity for your business to connect with these top of the crop employees.
Mission and vision statements of 10 global companies and organizations
Mission: To bringing the best user experience to its customers through its innovative hardware, software, and services.
Vision: We believe that we are on the face of the earth to make great products and that’s not changing.
Analysis: With its mission statement, Apple makes it known that they understand the pains of using poorly designed, non-user-friendly or obsolete products and services and promises their customers something better.
Apple is confident they can deliver the superior experience right now with a hint of a commitment to continue doing so in the future too.
Apple’s vision statement is different from the mission statement in that it explicitly expresses the purpose of their company which they plan on upholding in perpetuum.
This vision statement feels more like a calling and is meant to inspire employees and build trust with customers.
Mission: To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world.
Vision: To do everything possible to expand human potential.
Analysis: To be honest, I’m not the biggest fan of Nike’s mission statement.
In my opinion, Nike’s mission statement panders to their customers a tiny bit, calling all of them “athletes.”
Let’s be real, not everyone who wears Nike apparel is an athlete.
And I don’t believe for a second that athletes are what drives the most business for Nike to justify speaking directly to them in the company mission statement.
The mission statement itself is present-oriented while the vision statement is future-oriented.
I like Nike’s vision statement a lot more.
It feels inspiring, noble, and very customer-centric.
Mission: To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.
Vision: To provide access to the world’s information in one click.
Analysis: There isn’t a huge difference between Google’s mission and vision statements.
Both are extremely consumer-centric in their commitment to providing as much value as possible through their products and services.
Mission: To serve consumers through online and physical stores and focus on selection, price, and convenience.
Vision: To be Earth’s most customer-centric company, where customers can find and discover anything they might want to buy online.
Analysis: Amazon is a customer-centric company and that’s obvious looking at both of these statements.
Amazon’s mission statement is present-oriented and talks about the biggest problems they can solve for their customers right now.
Their vision statement is future-oriented and it attempts to rally the employees by giving everyone a goal of being the best at something on the entire planet.
By that ‘something’ being a “customer-centric company,” Amazon is at the same time attempting to score some points with the customers too.
Mission: To inspire and nurture the human spirit — one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.
Vision: To treat people like family, and they will be loyal and give their all.
Analysis: Starbucks is being customer-centric in both of these statements.
The use of words like “neighborhood” and “family,” Starbucks demonstrates the company’s intention of rooting themselves deep into the communities they’re present in.
We can observe the typical time-related difference between these two statements, one is present-oriented and the other is future-oriented.
Another important difference is that Starbucks also includes their own company in their vision statement.
The word “people” represents both the employees and customers at the same time, which is a neat little trick.
Mission: To accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.
Vision: To create the most compelling car company of the 21st century by driving the world’s transition to electric vehicles.
Analysis: There’s a strong sense of Tesla’s self-mandate when it comes to environmental issues in both of these statements.
The mission statement is present-oriented because it talks about the transition to sustainable energy, which is what’s going on right now, and it’s also consumer-centric because we will undoubtedly all benefit once the transition is completed.
By doing everything in the company’s power to accelerate this transition, Tesla sends a customer-centric message.
The vision statement is different in the fact that it mentions the company and its future-oriented goals which are meant to rally and inspire, while at the same time reinforcing the commitment to solving environmental issues.
Mission: To save people money so they can live better.
Vision: Be the destination for customers to save money, no matter how they want to shop.
Walmart’s mission and vision statements are customer-centric and they highlight the company’s commitment to providing value to their customers.
The second part of the vision statement is future-oriented and reveals the company’s goals, which is the only difference between these two statements.
Both statements are to-the-point and concise, which I can appreciate.
Mission: To empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.
Vision: To help people and businesses throughout the world realize their full potential.
Analysis: These two statements are almost the same.
The only real difference are the last two words of each of these statements.
To “achieve more” is more of a short-term goal as opposed to realizing your “full potential” which is something that’s likely going to take a lot longer
I like the fact that both of these statements are extremely customer-centric.
Mission: To entertain, inform and inspire people around the globe through the power of unparalleled storytelling, reflecting the iconic brands, creative minds and innovative technologies that make ours the world’s premier entertainment company.
Vision: To be one of the world’s leading producers and providers of entertainment and information.
Analysis: Disney’s mission statement is all over the place.
Not because it’s long but because it feels like Disney kept stitching together more and more buzzwords as they branched out and acquired more companies over the years.
I’m not crazy about their mission statement for one more reason which is an ever-so-slight hint of narcissism.
Disney’s vision statement is much more succinct and focused, however.
The main difference between these two statements is, you’ve guessed it, the time frame.
Mission: To refresh the world. To inspire moments of optimism and happiness. To create value and make a difference.
Vision: Our vision is to craft the brands and choice of drinks that people love, to refresh them in body & spirit. And done in ways that create a more sustainable business and better shared future that makes a difference in people’s lives, communities and our planet.
Analysis: Besides the usual time frame difference and the fact that the vision statement mentions the company alongside the customers, these two statements are very similar.
Coca Cola does not stray far from the fact that they’re a beverages-first company and their core products are soft drinks.
Their mission statement is more uplifting, while the vision statement has some idealistic notions.
Mission: As explorers, pioneers, and innovators, we boldly expand frontiers in air and space to inspire and serve America and to benefit the quality of life on Earth.
Vision: We reach for new heights and reveal the unknown for the benefit of humankind.
Analysis: These two statements are essentially the same, apart from the timeline and the fact that NASA decided to tell us more about themselves in the mission statement instead of doing that in the vision statement, like so many other companies and organizations.
Both of the statements highlight the fact that NASA is expanding humankind’s knowledge and developing technologies that benefit us all.
I can’t call that “customer-centric” since NASA doesn’t have customers as such, but it’s essentially the same thing.
Hopefully, you’re a step closer to creating a clear and concise mission and vision statement for your business.
Keep in mind that you can always change and adjust them as your business or your understanding of it evolves.
What the best mission or vision statement you’ve ever heard, by the way?