Strong Fundamentals

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Craft your company vision

Nic Brisbourne

Managing Partner @ Forward Partners

Investors love it when companies have a clear and compelling vision. It makes it easy to get excited by where the company is going and picture it as a big business. Our partner company Live Better With has a good one:

To make day-to-day life better for the 230m+ people living with a long-term illness

It works because it’s meaningful and aspirational. Customers are drawn to the business and know what to expect when they get there. Employees are happy to dedicate part of their life to making the vision a reality and have a true north to guide their day to day decision making.

Key takeaways

  • A strong vision helps with marketing, recruitment, morale and alignment;
  • A good vision statement is meaningful and aspirational;
  • Vision statements are enduring dreams for the long term, mission statements are more specific and for the shorter term.

At the time of writing Live Better With was nine months old as a business, but the power of their vision is already clear. They have built up a community of over 15,000 people on Facebook, have an NPS score of 98*, high repeat custom rates, strong charity partnerships and an easier ride recruiting talent than many other companies. All because people connect emotionally with the vision – they want to help people with long-term illnesses.

At it’s core a vision is a statement of purpose with an aspirational goal. Microsoft’s famous “A computer on every desk and in every home; all running Microsoft software.” is a good example. It’s easy to understand, highly aspirational, a little bit controversial and is a clear true north for employees to drive towards.

A few other things to think about: make the vision future focused, directional, vivid, inspiring and authentic.

Vision statements are a dream for the long term and they should be enduring. Live Better With will be helping make day-to-day life better for people with long term illnesses for many years to come. Mission statements by contrast should be about the next 1-2 years and be specific enough to form the basis for company objectives. Many people use the terms vision and mission somewhat interchangeably, but being clear about the distinction helps companies differentiate between the dream and current realities and crystallise the vision in a strategy for the short to medium term.

To make it simple, thing “Why = Vision” and “What  = Mission”.

LinkedIn does this well. Their vision is to:

Create economic opportunity for every member of the global workforce

And their mission is to realise part of the vision by:

Connect the world’s professionals to make them more productive and successful

Finally, it’s critical that the vision is authentic. It must chime with the company’s products and culture and everyone working in the business should know and buy into the dream. Empty vision statements that are written after the fact by the c-suite and received by staff with a cynical nod add nothing and can be corrosive to company culture.

In our experience the best company visions are an articulation of the company’s purpose and are there when the company is founded. They may not have been wordsmithed into a compelling sentence, but they are in the heads of the founding team and the sentiment is regularly communicated. It’s never too early to put it in writing though and in any event that should be done by the time a company gets to around 50 employees and the founder stops knowing everybody personally.

*Live Better With has had 152 responses to their NPS question of which 149 were promoters and 3 were passives giving a score of 98.

Useful links:

Nic Brisbourne

Managing Partner @ Forward Partners

Nic is Managing Partner at Forward Partners. He has 15 years experience in the venture capital industry and prior to founding Forward Partners in June 2013, was a Partner at leading venture capital firm DFJ Esprit. He has worked and invested in London and Silicon Valley, leading over 25 investments and enjoying a number of successful exits including (acquired by AOL for $125m) and Zeus Technology (acquired by Riverbed for $140m).

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