Why you need a Vision Statement
By: Mike Ferguson
In “Business Plans For Dummies”, the authors state a company’s Vision Statement is “a precise set of words that announces to the world what your company hopes to make of itself.” The definition goes on but that sentence is the essence of it.
In the “One Page Business Plan” the author, Jim Horan, says “a well written vision statement answers the question: What is being built?... in three sentences or less.”
In “Write Your Business Plan”, a lengthy and fairly detailed book put together by the folks at Entrepreneur Magazine asks whether or not you should even have a vision statement. They answer their own question by saying that if you have a good one, there is no reason not to share it. Wow, that’s helpful.
Another popular book on an Amazon search, and in my personal library of business plan books, doesn’t even mention a Vision Statement. Hmmm, that’s weird.
Here’s my take: a vision statement is essential. Or to put it another way, having a vision is essential! What do you want your company to be when it grows up? As entrepreneurs, whether you are here for the very first time to fulfill a long time goal or because your old company thought they were better off without you, we are all dreamers. We have something wired into our DNA that brings us to a place in our minds where we see ourselves leading successful, growing companies and successful lives. Its like that old very basic interview question – where do you see yourself in 5 years? If you don’t have an idea of what you want your company to become how will you know if you are succeeding? How will you even make decisions for the future of your new enterprise?
So how do you write a great vision statement? What should be in it? That’s a loaded question because it needs to contain a lot of information while at the same time be a fairly short statement. It should address these areas:
Where will you be in 2 -5 years?
What will your gross sales be?
How many people will you employ?
What geographic areas will you serve and will it expand?
What is your product(s) and will you expand the line? (Keep in mind that your service is also your product. More on this later.)
Who is in your target market and will it expand?
Here is the reason I love a great Vision Statement; when I ask what is your vision for your new company and I get an answer that tells me they are thinking smart and big and long term, I get very excited. You know who else gets very excited? Investors. Yes, the money guys will look at the books before anything but if the owner doesn’t articulate what their company is capable of then it is a pretty hard sell to get them to want to make an investment. Don’t be outrageous or ridiculous. Don’t say you plan to put American Airlines out of business in 5 years with your 2 floatplanes taking fly fisherman on day trips to great little spots in the Bahamas. Don’t be shy about it either. If your plan for your startup is to grow sales by a whopping 5% over the next 3 years you will have an equally hard time finding outside investors.
What did I mean by “your service is also your product”? It’s simple; a product is easier to sell than a service. A product has more clarity than a service. My business is a consulting business, which naturally makes you think of a service, but my product is great business plans that help a new entrepreneurs build successful businesses.
My Vision Statement for my company:
Grow Top Dog Consulting into a $500,000 firm in the next 3 years that serves new entrepreneurs wherever they may live with one-on-one consulting to create great business plans and the action steps necessary to get started. Continue to provide ongoing support to all our clients until they are completely satisfied and on a path that leads to success. To create an online community of entrepreneurs who offer tips and contacts and other insight to the struggling newbies.
So Many Business Ideas, So Little Time.
Writing a great mission statement can mean the difference between success and failure!
By: Mike Ferguson
According to Wikipedia: “A mission statement is a statement which is used as a way of communicating the purpose of the organization.”
You’ll find lots of advice out there on how to write a mission statement for your company. Most of it is pretty good and you will likely find a common theme amongst all the various iterations of what constitutes a good, or better yet – great, mission statement.
The theory is simple and straightforward; a great mission statement will describe exactly why your company exists.
What is your product or service?
What problem are you going to solve?
What is your implied value proposition, i.e., why would someone buy from you?
What is your target market?
The tricky but important task is to say all that in just a sentence or two. When someone asks, “So, what does your company do?” you can answer immediately and with tremendous confidence. And it should take only about 10 to 15 seconds. Here’s a good suggestion: while you are forming your mission statement record yourself saying it. Keep working on it until it sounds right and you are comfortable saying it to your spouse, your friends, a potential investor, or a room full of a few hundred people who came to hear your presentation. When you get to that point, it’s ready.
I suggest you take your mission statement seriously and spend an appropriate amount of time on crafting it. Think about it a lot. It will help you and guide you in the good times and the challenging times. It should be inspiring and when you say it out loud it should stir something inside you – passion.
By the way, here is our mission statement: “We help new entrepreneurs clarify their business plan and layout their best path to success. We eliminate as much startup risk as possible and put the odds in their favor.”
I’m sure there are people who would find fault with it but for us here at Top Dog Business Plans we rely on that statement every day. It’s on our wall when we walk in to work. For me it says that our only reason for being in business is to help other people realize their dreams of starting a new and successful company, of being in business for themselves, of being the Top Dog in their organization.
We know many people will start a new business and fail. Failing is expected. Failing is common. But nobody starts their business thinking it will fail. One way to put the odds in your favor is to know exactly why your business exists, be able to clearly define your product or service, state which problem you are solving, articulate your value proposition, and identify your target market. Going through the serious process of writing a mission statement will give you a head start and greatly increase your chance of success.
Good luck and may the force be with you.
by: Mike Ferguson
I recently searched "Business Plan Book" on Amazon and received over 500 hits. When I added "Entrepreneurship" + "New Business Enterprises" + "Small Business and Entrepreneurship" + "Systems and Planning" + "Home Based" the hits jumped to over 7,000. Keep in mind that was just books. A Google search for "Business Plans" resulted in 38,000,000 hits and "Business Plan Advice" had 16,000,000. Each search took a fraction of a second. Wow, I thought, maybe I'm in the wrong business!
I was reminded of when I first decided to make a career out of this work and open my own small consulting firm to help others achieve their dream of starting a successful business of their own. I thought I knew what I was doing and honestly, my experience definitely suggested that I did. But holy cow, that is a lot of advice. So, I did what most people in my shoes would do - I bought a ton of books and read a ton of pages. I did a ton of Google searches and read a ton of advice. The good news is that most of it is really good work. The bad news is if you are really trying to turn an idea into a business there is no way you want to go read tens of thousands of pages of business plan advice from people who don't know you or your unique situation.
But here's the thing... your idea and your situation and the plan that will give you and your business the best chance of success is going to be unique. How would you even know your style or which template will work best. My advice is to keep it simple. In the military there is a plan for every conceivable battle situation but as soon as the fighting starts those plans are adjusted for the what is happening in the field in real time. Businesses can be very similar. In the same way a battlefield situation needs to analyzed and all the variables accounted for a business needs to analyze and adjust for higher or lower prices, changes in weather, competition, technology, revenue swings, etc.
Your business plan needs to be simple and straightforward and your vision, mission, strategy and objectives need to be clearly stated but also designed to adapt and accommodate for the aberrations that occur in real life.