What’s the difference between companies that go under and those that last for years? In my opinion, it’s whether or not they have a vision. Many times, we can confuse vision with simply having a mission statement, but this isn’t the case at all.

A mission statement is simply a statement that describes your company’s operational objectives. It helps you vet actions by helping you determine whether or not they’re aligned with these established objectives. A vision, on the other hand, is a clearly identified picture of what you want your company to be known for doing or being.

For example, a mission statement might say that your company wants to do X in a certain timespan, while a vision statement will provide a guiding theme for your company. In 2020, it’s important to develop a vision for your company that goes beyond operational goals and also establishes a guiding theme for your brand.

Ask the right questions

Reflection is a critical skill for all leaders. While we can get bogged down in the operations and the daily grind of our business, it’s important to make time for thinking about your company’s future. Here are three questions to ask as you reflect on your company’s direction:

1. Where is my company headed?
Assessing the current direction of your company is a necessary first step in changing it. Extrapolating your company’s future from current events and actions taken will help you gain a clearer picture of how to change your direction, if necessary.

2. Is this the direction I want for my company?
Taking stock of the values you and your team share is the next step. What are the core beliefs that drive your company’s daily operations? If your company’s current trajectory doesn’t match up with it, look into ways you can adjust your future to better align with these values and beliefs.

3. What changes can I make to switch or improve our alignment?
The final question is all about action. Reflecting on the misalignment of your business with future goals without giving yourself action items will just frustrate you. As you ask this question, try to nail down concrete steps you can take to begin to work toward the future you described in answering the previous question.

Create a vision statement

It’s not enough to just think about your company’s vision: you need to write it down. Even if it looks horribly unorganized or is just a scrawl on the back of a napkin, getting it outside of your head is critical to making it happen in the real world.

If you’re struggling to come up with a vision statement, check out this list of 51 mission statements from brands such as Toyota and Nike. You’ll notice that they’re not just “do this X by X date”, but instead they incorporate guiding themes for every action and decision the company may make, now and in the future. It’s important to make sure you blend elements of a mission statement into your vision statement. It will help you avoid ambiguity and vagueness and set a clear direction for your company to align and aspire to.

Review & revise as needed

Change is constant, as they say. As your industry and the world changes, your company will undoubtedly need to reassess and adjust its direction to remain relevant. Schedule a time, whether it’s a year or a couple of years, to review your company’s vision statement with your staff and adjust it so your company is always working toward a viable future. This will help you remain on track toward a future of relevance, not one of outdatedness.

Editor’s note: This article was originally published in the Fresno Business Journal.

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