Do you have a clear vision of what it is that you want from your business or organisation? If you’re a Christian run business is it inspired by the Bible? Your vision statement for your business is one of the most important statements you can write. It is your hope and the reason for going into business in the first place. It’s why you put in all that time, commitment and energy. If your business is your calling then you’ll want to align your vision statement with biblical values. It’s also the thing that will keep you going when you face some of the big challenges of growing your business. Your vision statement is your reminder of why you’re doing what you’re doing.
Why having a vision statement is so powerful
I believe having a vision is so powerful. Here’s an example you’ll know it straight away, not from the realm of business but of politics. Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream speech has surely got to be among the greatest speeches of the 20th Century. Reading the whole text is beautiful in how it references scripture and the history of the United States. It’s a speech for its time and for all time. Why is it so compelling? Because it’s more than a political speech, it’s a vision for society. It conjures up for us another world different to our own, yet possible if we work to make the dream of racial equality a reality.
MLK had instilled a vision among his supporters that spread beyond them to the whole country. His speech reached people who weren’t directly involved in the civil rights struggle but whose conscience was awakened to support it and there was progress as a result. The Civil Rights act was passed a year later in 1964, a significant step to the dream being fulfilled.
It’s the power of a vision.
Something similar can work for your business, the difference being that you want to clarify the vision into a statement. Though it has to be done right. Do it right and it’s awesome. Do it wrong and it’ll fall flat on its face, demotivating your staff and maybe even you. People can pick when words don’t match reality, when a vision is not authentic.
Why a vision statement is a must have for your business
So why is a vision statement so important? A vision statement is an overall aspiration your business has to change the way something is done for the better. This could be as simple as aspiring to provide a better product or service or to reach out and improve the lives of your customers or clients. It may include a benefit that is not just commercial or functional. Often the best vision statements speak to basic human needs and desires; happiness, fulfillment, simplicity to name a few.
Your vision statement, if followed, will push your business to reach its fullest potential and fulfill those needs effectively. That is its real power, the power to guide direction, behaviour, and motivation. A great example for me is the vision statement from the charity World Vision
For every child, life in all its fullness; Our prayer for every heart, the will to make it so.
It’s a wonderful vision, it reaches outwards and toward the future but also speaks inwards to the organisation, its staff, and their motivation.
What does the Bible have to say about having a vision for your business?
The Bible is full of visions from many different people in the Old and New Testaments. Lots of these visions are supernatural and some are dreams. Each of them is a special message from God revealing himself or his purpose. But the kind of vision we’re looking at is a little different, it’s a desire to change something about the world that honours God.
A wonderful example of this kind of vision is the story of Nehemiah and rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem. Nehemiah was a governor of Jerusalem who helped to rebuild the city after the Babylonian exile. His effective leadership and diplomatic skills ensured the restoration of Judah. There’s so much in this little book to learn from but I’m struck by what I consider to be an early example (if not the first) of a vision statement in history. It’s this;
‘Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace’. Nehemiah 2:17
The walls were more than just bricks and mortar. They were fortifications and a marker to allow a people to rebuild their lives, prosper and regain their identity as people of God and no longer be ‘in disgrace’. It was a massive project and a tremendous vision that was fulfilled.
Nehemiah, while being in a position of influence in the Persian king’s court, was also deeply conscious of Israel’s history, it’s covenant and his place in God’s plans. It’s what inspired his return to help his people.
When it comes to you writing your vision statement, ask yourself where you see your life’s direction, where you think God has placed you for his purpose and what good do you want to see done. Just in the same way that Nehemiah did these things and how he dedicated his life.
As Christians, we should also frame our work and vision within the call to see God’s Kingdom come on earth as in heaven and how we might serve Christ in what we do. There is no distinction between church work or business. We are to serve him in all we do and for many, that is running a business.
Pray and listen to your inspiration
Nehemiah, upon hearing of the state of Jerusalem was deeply troubled and it drove him to pray and seek God intensely. The rest of his life and purpose flowed from this prayer and focus.
Like Nehemiah, pray through your purpose. Listen to what motivates you as there’s every likelihood it was placed there for a reason.
Also like Nehemiah, use the contacts you have. Nehemiah had a great ally in the king of the time but you will have support in so many other ways. Get their input, share your vision with those you trust and who love you and want you to succeed. They may help to shape your vision or to point out something special about yourself that you’ve even missed!
When you have it, work with it and see if the vision still excites you over time. Keep praying and seeing what doors may open as a result.
It’s also important to remember that great visions aren’t always about what’s in it for you. It’s often far more about how others can benefit. Nehemiah didn’t do it for selfish motives, his motivation was only to help and serve his people. He was honoured and prospered (despite setbacks) because of that.
A vision for your business or organisation that’s Bible inspired should also be easily carried by others and have a life of its own, outside of you.
Here are some more pointers to guide you to getting the best vision statement for your business or organisation –
Your vision statement needs to motivate
Motivation really matters. It’s like the oil in the car engine, it keeps everything moving forward. As the business owner, you will carry the primary motivation but that’s not enough. If you’re going to grow you’ll need to bring in support (employed or otherwise) to fulfill the vision. Those persons need to be motivated too. They must share your vision. If not, you’ve got a mismatch and energy will be focused in different directions which are not healthy for you or the business.
That’s why a vision statement is a really helpful measure of whether someone you’re working with will be a good fit for the organisation. If you recruit with your vision and values as a check, then it’s a sound step to getting good people.
A bad vision statement will not attract the right people or motivate them. Would you feel inspired to work for an organisation with a vision like this?
Our vision is to effectively engage with our key clients and stakeholders through knowledge exchange tools that enable empowerment and long-term sustainability.
Aaarrggh! What drivel. I admit I made it up but let’s fact it, it’s not unlike a whole bunch of corporate speak that’s as bland as a stale biscuit.
To motivate, speak human and be genuine, please. Simple really. I worry when some organisations just can’t seem to do it. What does that say about them?
A vision statement has a purpose & a place
The best vision statements evoke a place or destination to look towards. If everyone really believes in getting to that ‘place’ then it will keep them focused and driven to do it. It will also help with important decision making around mission and strategy because fulfilling the vision is why you’re working in the organisation at all.
A world where everyone has a decent place to live is Habitat for Humanity’s vision statement and is a prime example of bringing to mind a motivating end goal.
Your vision statement will also support the purpose of your company or organisation. We’ll look at finding purpose in another blog but here’s an example of what that looks like.
One of the most successful companies of the early 20th Century was Ford Motor Company. The founder Henry Ford’s purpose was to produce cars that his workers could afford to buy. The company’s vision statement was as also their purpose, which was;
‘Produce an affordable automobile.’ Henry Ford.
We shouldn’t underestimate what a production and technological challenge that was for its time. A generation later we’re all beneficiaries of that simple vision and purpose that Henry Ford I’m sure would be amazed at.
Your vision statement should paint a picture
A really effective vision statement should paint a picture because it will help you and your employees to imagine the world quite different from our own. It serves to reinforce that future success is really dependent on them working to realise this new possibility for the world.
Like Henry Ford, that’s why it really pays to think big. When drafting your statement, imagine the difference your business will make in the lives of others. Then start to put it into words without even structuring a sentence. The kind of words that pop out from a little creative imagining could spark something very special to getting the right vision statement for you.
Don’t forget to add some passion and emotion too. It’s what will make your statement sound authentic and human. Wikipedia’s vision statement is a nice example of painting a picture and providing this kind of inspiration.
Imagine a world in which every single person is given free access to the sum of all human knowledge.
A vision statement should be specific
To balance the big picture ambition of a vision statement it should also be specific. When the big dream is visualised and tied down to something grounded and specific, that’s when the vision statement is at it’s strongest.
There are good reasons to do this as generic vision statements can be too open to interpretation and misunderstanding. A former vision statement for Microsoft is a good example of the power of being specific:
A computer on every desk in every home running Microsoft software.
At the time, this was a visionary statement, that motivated and inspired the organisation yet at the same time it was very concrete and specific. It conjures up a powerful image, ‘a computer on every desk.’ We can imagine PCs everywhere and lo and behold, they actually are.
A vision statement needs to be clear and concise
Your vision statement should be a short sentence or very concise paragraph. Can you keep it to twenty words maximum? Other vision statements that run into several sentences can sometimes look overdone and over complicated. The shorter the better. Of course, your vision statement should ‘fit’ your organisation and not be missing anything essential to its purpose and direction. My own preference is for a single line statement. All the most effective vision statements I’ve seen are this length.
Remember a vision statement is not a mission statement
Lastly, it’s good to emphasise that a vision statement is different from a mission. The two are often confused and conflated. To put it simply, vision is aspirational, the mission is actionable. A vision is future, a mission is present-focused.
In my next blog, we’ll look at how your mission statement can help to focus on what you need to do in the business or organisation, right now, to fulfill your vision.
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Jeremy © Not Only Sundays, January 2017.
Scripture quoted from the NIV translation.
images sourced on www.pixabay.com image under a creative commons licence CC.