Mission, Vision, and Values

Lately, I have been working on a new startup. As part of the startup process, I wanted to explain to potential funders what we stand for. It’s easy to create a proforma budget assuming $1M in revenue a year. It’s also easy to create one based on $10M a year. But neither of those really tell why someone should talk to you. To explain what you plan to do with your funding, you need a strategic plan.

A lot of the strategic plan is predicated on already having funding. More funding, or earlier funding, allows you to increase program scope, and that’s magnificent. But this project isn’t there yet. I need to clear the first hurdle and one section of a strategic plan is, for any reasonable purpose, independent of funding level. That is the mission, vision, and values statements. These elements have been the subject much mockery for decades, but they really can define an organization in a meaningful way. And they are really are independent, but understanding why requires understanding what they are.

I teach this as a part of my financial management course, but there’s some distance between what people imagine these statements to be and what they are. A lot of people get confused by mission and vision statements. I have seen mission statements that are clearly vision statements and vice versa. I’ve seen organizations that combined them into one. And I’ve seen organizations that only had one of them. Both are necessary to define an organization and they really are different from each other.

But they are important. They are so important, I saw a mission, vision, and values put on a plaque and hung in a waiting room, this week. That tells a lot, not just about how important the statements but also the business’s commitment to them. And searching online makes it easy to find examples for companies and organizations big and small.

This is the first of a week-long series focusing on the mission, vision, and values statements for any organization.

Image by Kyle Van Horn / Flickr.