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Define Your Vision: One Big Idea

August 13, 2015

Every organization, large or small, needs a guiding light – a ‘North Star’ that defines your vision and the collective purpose. A clear vision documents your ‘why,’ providing inspiration and clarity. In this episode, Bill details the core components of a strong vision statement and demonstrates the value of vision in long-term brand building. If you enjoyed our podcast, please subscribe and leave us a rating!

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Welcome one and all, this is Real-World Branding and I’m Bill Gullan, your host and the President of Finch Brands. We are a premier boutique branding agency and we’re very excited to have you with us. As noted, in weeks between the interviews that we have with business and brand builders, I like to do something that we call One Big Idea, which is to focus for a few minutes on a really important topic or a singular topic that relates to the world of branding and of building brands and businesses. Often that has some relevance to some recent conversations that we may have had with the newsmakers that we feature on the show.

This week the concept is, the topic is Vision. Every interview that we’ve had, and probably will have, spent a little bit of time at least talking about Vision. Vision is a large concept and a big term, we’re going to focus on Vision statements today. You often hear about Vision and Mission statements as companions that are used to distill the essence, potential, and focus of companies and that’s true. In a future One Big Idea I will talk a little bit more about Mission but our focus today is on crafting a really powerful Vision statement that is used to inform and inspire the people around you, whether they be colleagues in your business or whether they be folks on the outside, prospective customers, partners etc.

Important is the distinction between Vision and Mission in the way in which they work together or fit together. Vision is designed to be future focused. It’s designed to be a statement of potential and a statement that enables you day in and day out to focus on the core values and elements that drive a business to achieve its full potential. So Vision is about defining an ambition for a business or an ambition for how a business or an organization will have impact on the world and in the lives of its customers and partners.

In some ways you can consider it as a North Star. It’s a guiding principle or set of principles that no matter how the rhythm or pace of life at work, how fast it can become, your North Star your Vision always reorients you and helps you make sure that you’re spending every day, and making every decision, with the best possible future and potential in mind. So this ambition, this North Star, helps you guide the big bets that you make. It is your Vision, often, that helps you determine, not ‘well should I do display advertising or should I maybe think about radio’, it’s not that granular. But it is a guiding light when it comes to the major initiatives that will drive the business forward and making those big bets and assessing priorities.

It is designed to inform, but importantly to inspire. It is a big idea, typically a grand idea, which through the sheer force of its bigness and its audacity serves to inspire, motivate, and focus those around you. By definition the Vision is future focused rather than present focused and its long term. Some days it may feel like you’re galloping towards the achievement of your Vision, and other days it may feel like you’re standing on the side of the road looking for a map, but it is a big idea that has a future in mind.

Some characteristics of really effective Vision statements are clarity, obviously, and sometimes being succinct is important to being clear. It is purpose driven, it isn’t just about, for example the financial performance that one desires from a company or its growth rate. It is about purposes, it is about the why, it is inspirational, and as noted, it is ambitious by definition. Every business wants to aim big, shoot for the stars, the Vision is a place to do that and it is also obviously relevant to the business that one is in – the focus of how the company grows and what the impacts, benefits, and outcomes are of that company growth.

A couple of examples of really effective Vision statements from leading brands across the world and they are different in some ways, but the things I just mentioned are that which they have in common. So if you look at Virgin for example, ‘To embrace the human spirit and let it fly.’ That’s the Vision of a Virgin Atlantic, it’s not about on time arrivals, and it’s not about anything other than the wind beneath the wings of such an airline.

If you look at Nike it’s Mission is, ‘To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world’ and there is a mark next to athlete, an asterisk that refers you to the bottom of the page which it says, ‘if you have a body you are an athlete.’ So a big thought as to why Nike exists, which is that inspiration and innovation for every athlete in the world, again not just about making shoes and building stores etc. Under Armour is, ‘To empower athletes everywhere.’ IKEA is, ‘To create a better everyday life for the many people,’ which is Swedish or Danish but the translation is the ‘Better everyday life for the majority of people.’ So IKEA is not in the business of selling and making furniture, its about making lives better and helping folks, regular folks, live a better life.

Disney is simply, ‘To make people happy’ and Amazon, which gets a little bit more specific and technical, sounds a little bit more like business speak is ‘To be the Earth’s most customer-centric company; to build a place where people can come to find and discover anything they might want to buy online.’

So these are different flavors of different Vision statements that all have in common this inspiration and this ambition – the fact that these are big sweeping ideas, that are future focused and that are long term. So those are examples, and one in particular Vision that is worth a look, is LinkedIn’s, that is particularly powerful. I think, as we at Finch have been going through a process of thinking about Vision ourselves, as well as coaching the team about how to think about it for clients, the LinkedIn Vision is really powerful. That’s a strong core idea, which is ‘To create economic opportunity for every member of the global workforce.’

It is notable that this Vision is not about creating a website where people can come and post their resumes and get jobs, or anything that may be more specific to the Mission of LinkedIn or to the actual execution of the business at LinkedIn. But again LinkedIn’s Vision is ‘to create economic opportunity for every member of the global workforce.’ That is how they see the why and the purpose on which LinkedIn operates and what LinkedIn does. That is the right kind of big and future focused idea that will help them as they think about those big bets in terms of product development, building out the site, building ancillary lines of businesses to complement the core LinkedIn business social media site and business that they have today.

So will stop for now. That’s a quick one, hopefully of value to those who think about how to build businesses and brands. Vision is essential to this and having Vision and Mission statements that are well crafted that come from the heart, that are relevant to the business, that are shared and reinforce both with internal colleagues as well as with external partners and customers.

Often a strong and well executed Vision is an attribute of a purpose driven and ultimately large and successful business. However be it small, medium or large, everyone has dreams when they enter into business building and as they drive through what it takes to build businesses day in and day out. Whatever the anticipated size, the Vision and the Vision statement is an indispensable tool for making things happen and keeping one oriented to why one is doing what one is doing. One Big Idea for this week is about Vision. This is the Real-World Branding podcast. Signing off from the Cradle of Liberty, have a wonderful day and week.

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