How to build a company vision: developing the ‘why’, ‘what’ and ‘how’ of your business

What’s your company’s formal, long-term vision?

If you don’t know – you’re not alone! According to our 2020 SME Guide to Success survey of 1,000 small businesses, you’ll be among the 50% of respondents whose company lacks one.

But perhaps it’s time to consider changing that. Our statistics show that the most successful companies we polled in our research are far more likely to have a formal, long-term vision in place (66%). While, of the worst-performing businesses, only 37% had one.

Bastien Hibon, co-founder of brand agency Brand Cornac, recently led a webinar for Allica Bank outlining how small and medium-sized businesses can begin to formulate their long-term vision. We’ll briefly outline this in this article, or you can watch the full presentation – packed full with examples and resources – below.


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What is a company vision?

A company’s vision defines you. It is your sense of purpose as a business and why you exist. It can distinguish you from competitors, and can be just as important as what you sell. For many companies, their brand vision is their reason for being chosen by their customers.

It also helps with employee engagement and be something everyone in the business, regardless of their role, is working towards.

But it doesn’t matter how good your vision is if people don’t understand it. That’s why it has to be articulated clearly and concisely, and be made accountable.

Steps to build your company vision

To build an effective formal, long-term vision, Bastien outlined three key steps/ questions you need to ask yourself.

1. Define your company’s ‘why’.

How would you identify and express your business’s sense of purpose? This isn’t quite the same as answering why you set up your businesses, or what your business does. And it certainly isn’t “to make money.”

Instead, think about “why will my service/product make my customer’s lives better”. Or “what is it that is getting every employee out of bed in the morning?” Your company’s sense of purpose will set you apart from other businesses that sell the same thing.

Of course, a lot of this will be closely connected to your brand. So, if you already have a developed brand, some of this work might have been done before. However, to properly draw out your brand purpose and be able to effectively articulate it, Bastien recommends building out a ‘brand model’. Watch Bastien’s full webinar for a template and some examples on how to do this.

2. Outline your company objectives – the ‘what are we going to do’

For a company vision to be of any value, it needs to be made accountable. To do so, you should develop OKRs (objective key results) in line with them to define what you’re going to do, and how you’re going to do it.

The first part of these – the O for ‘objectives’ – is the what. It sets the direction for your business. Again, here Bastien explains that a brand model is a really useful tool for helping you identify these objectives. And, when doing putting these down on paper, he says to make sure your objectives are:

  • specific and time-bound
  • aggressive yet realistic
  • measurable and verifiable (this can be done through the ‘key results’, which we’re coming to next)

3. ‘How’ are you going to get there?

The key results outline how you are going to achieve your objectives. These are quantifiable targets that your business will try to achieve in order to meet your objectives. Bastien points to the brand model once again as a way of whittling them down, however says your key results should always be:

  • significant
  • concrete
  • action-orientated
  • inspirational

Good OKRs will cascade down the organisation. In other words, there should be a clear thread linking company-wide OKRs with those of each department, team and even individual. It helps staff to identify with your company, and in particular, understand how their role contributes to the success of the wider business.

Watch the full webinar for some examples.

How to implement your company vision

Once you have defined and articulated your company vision, it needs to be rolled out across the business internally and externally.

For starters, Bastien advises businesses to reinforce the company vision by tying it to team and individual goals. Next, whether that’s in the office, in emails, or on your website, make sure your vision is always visible to staff and customers at every touchpoint.

Finally, the best way to show the world what your business stands for, is to live it. Share success stories that realise your company’s vision so that employees and customers can see the real difference your company makes.

After all, if your business doesn't have a vision, you'll never be able to achieve it.

We hope you found this overview of how to build a formal, long-term vision useful. For more insight, examples and a full Q&A, watch the full webinar – 'Why your business should have a vision. And how to make one' – by Bastion Hibon here.


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