Creating a company takes more than an idea. It demands a vision. And visions are more difficult to sell than products. Because a good vision isn’t easily attainable but still remains worth reaching for.

Great visions are grounded by the practical pragmatism of what it takes to reach a destination which is often located somewhere over the horizon … unseeable but imaginable.

Visions should be lofty and grounded.

Simple yet reflective of a complex world.

Pragmatic & practical yet not the status quo.

A combination of pragmatism and possibilities.


This is about having a vision, vision statements and thinking of a ‘place to go’ and a place to aim for in business.

Let me state upfront.

I think quite a lot of business activity – is desperate to prove the efficacy of what it itself does. To me this answers, generally speaking, the question of why so many businesses are buying into the overall Purpose bullshit and ‘start with the why’ silliness. The proving efficacy’ issue has garbled the entire discussion between the purpose of business, Purpose in business and whether “Vision” has a role in this new world. To be clear. I believe business has focused on efficiency, growth and squeezing margins out of the ‘least’ to such an extent that not only has value decreased in the marketplace but people – inside a business and outside – are questioning the actual value a business offers <this ‘questioning’ bleeds into a discussion of what the purpose – not Purpose – of business actually is>. As a consequence of that fairly abhorrent misguided activity, I think the pursuit of something better has become increasingly important to an increasing amount of people. There beget the seeds of “Purpose’. And while I began this longish paragraph with ‘desperate to prove efficacy’ let me say this is also true of Purpose. Richard Shotton, in The Choice Factory, does a spectacular job of dismantling any ‘value of Purpose’ evidence discussed in Stengel’s famous book “Grow.” Once again, to be clear, I love the discussion of Purpose but it should be done not to prove efficacy of a business, but rather to prove the business wants to benefit people. And before I move on, I should say that I believe the ‘purpose’ of every business is “to benefit people”.


I am an admitted vision guy (not Purpose) and, in particular, a ‘hope vision’ type guy.

The vision statements I write and the visions I gravitate to almost always have some ‘bigness’ to them, always strive for aspirations and attempt to offer a sense of hope — as in hope for something better in what we offer, maybe make things better in Life, certainly give people hope for something better.

This can be small hope <if I make nuts & bolts my hope is everlasting strength … of something else>.

This can be big hope <if I am remaking how everyday healthcare is conducted my hope is enabling people to live a better, fuller, Life>.

Specificity. Be bold in vision, but not broad in intent. What I mean by that is business is in the business of doing business – create something of value, sell something that has value. I cannot think of any business that shouldn’t desire to offer something that benefits people and, in doing so, it benefits the world, i.e., making it better as a consequence.

Visions should be actionable, not just feel good. Your people SHOULD feel good about it, but they should also know how that gets imbued in what they actually do. It should permeate not just attitudes, but behaviors. Why? Because then the Vision has meaning and the work THEY do becomes more meaningful. I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that is organizational value.


Let me get the practical ‘what is a vision statement’ crap out of the way first.

To be clear. A vision statement shouldn’t be confused with a mission statement.

  • Mission statements are present-based statements and reflective of your external existence. A mission statement answers the question “why does my business exist?”

  • Vision statements are future-based and internally focused. A vision statement answers the question “who do I see myself as in a bigger picture <and where do I see my business in this bigger picture?”

A well crafted vision statement should communicate the company’s goals in a single sentence, uhm, or a few concise paragraphs, uhm, or in a tightly knit manifesto. Yeah. No formula. Just make it inspirational with specific intent.  … excepting it should inspire. Make it stretch the imagination as well as offer some construct for direction and culture. A good vision statement will help inform direction and set priorities while challenging employees to intrinsically grow INTO the vision. Lastly, develop a good vision and I promise you a good strategy will follow <note: strategy never leads to a vision>.

Now. The problem is that some vision statements consist of one vague statement which, frankly, anyone could say. Some are too long, unstructured and wandering reflecting not only a management’s lack of understanding of what a company really does, but also reflects a lack of understanding for meaningful aspirational direction. There is something called the Golden Bull award “for excellence in gobbledygook” for which many visions could be nominated. Let me unequivocally state I would rather have no vision then a bad vision.


Creating something that whispers ‘be dynamic beyond your purpose’ in everyone’s ear can become one of a company’s cornerstones.

This is a fairly important discussion because according to a Harvard Business Review study up to 70% of employees do not understand their company’s purpose & strategy <that is a bad thing>. It’s bad mostly because failure to understand your company’s position typically leads to poor decision making <that’s the practical side> and leads to thinking commodity-like thoughts about your company <that’s the ‘value’ side> and, finally, doesn’t lead to any ‘wow, I am part of something big & purposeful & meaningful’ <that’s the aspirational side>.

Anyway. I like a business aiming for something in the future. Shit. I like aiming for something in the future. I like an organization that feels like it is doing something more than making something or providing some service. I like that the people making and doing the business stuff actually feels like they are doing something more than just making and doing business stuff. I like that a vision aims for some “what”: as in what could be & what do we want to happen. I like a vision that is so big that it is compelling, not only to everyone else, but to me. I like no matter how big that vision gets it is still very specific in outlining who you are as an organization.

Now. That last point may sound obvious but, this may sound crazy, but I have seen dozens upon dozens of companies who have not taken the time to define themselves … or … define themselves so broadly it is meaningless … or … the worst … create a bunch of beautiful words and then behave in a completely different way. I would be remiss if I didn’t point out many “Culture” people point to this as ‘unauthentic’ or something that suggests a business is a fucking hypocrite. They are right.


Here is what I know.

Your vision is your dream. It is your company’s north star. And while its primary objective is to inspire and create a shared sense of purpose <not Purpose> throughout the company inevitably it sets the direction for new products, company culture, future decisions, hiring, incentives, and, well, everything.

It should be, well, dynamic beyond your own purpose so that you, as an individual, can fulfill your Purpose.

Anyway. I will end with where I began:

Creating a great company takes more than an idea. It demands a vision. And visions are more difficult to sell than products.

Because a good vision isn’t easily attainable but still remains worth reaching for.

Visions are difficult mostly because they are difficult to ‘sell.’

Sell to yourself as something practical and worthwhile <because Life has a nasty habit of suggesting there are more important things to focus on> as well as sell to others <because people have a nasty habit of being scared of big things>.

I would suggest to truly be happy in business, you should demand the business have a vision and encourage you to attempt to fulfill an individual Purpose toward that vision.

I would also suggest stop trying to ‘sell’ anything when it comes to a vision. Shit. Do you think the night sits down every day wondering “how the hell am I gonna sell all those people own there that this star is the one that points North?” Direction & vision feels right. It doesn’t need selling. And maybe I end there because it sure as shit sounds like a bunch of people are suggesting you need to ‘sell Purpose’ and that is absurd. Almost as absurd as a business not embracing a Vision.

Written by Bruce