Vision, mission, and strategy: the basis for success

Looking to start a business, launch a new product, or successfully navigate a big change? A clear vision, mission, and strategy will get you off to a well-prepared start and maximise your chances of success. After all, you will have a good idea of what you want to achieve, what you stand for, and what you are about to do. Look at how other companies did it and follow the rules.

A vision, mission, and strategy focus your business activities. They help you decide what you should and should not do. This will also motivate your employees, as they will know what is expected of them and what they can expect of the company. Besides, businesses with a clear identity and mission also provide clarity to their customers. Finally, they will also help you navigate choppy waters, such as social crises. Read below to find out how to come up with a vision, mission, and strategy.

Vision: what do you want to achieve?

To find your vision, look ahead into the distant future and describe your dream scenario. What would your business look like in an ideal world and what is most important to you? When describing your vision, think about the following topics.

Economic or social vision

A vision has several parts. On the one hand, you have your economic goals. A bicycle dealer, for instance, may want to become the biggest seller of electric bicycles in a certain region.

Corporate social responsibility can also be part of your vision. The same bicycle dealer may want to contribute to a 100% sustainable bicycle industry. Alternatively, they may care deeply about health and want to encourage all Dutch people to get more exercise by taking the bike more often. Finally, you can also have social goals, like providing affordable bicycles for people with low incomes.

Some questions you can ask yourself to create your vision:

  • What does my ideal world look like?
    Your goal should be big and you should forget about restrictions. What about a world without any packaging whatsoever?

  • When would I consider myself successful?
    Be as specific as possible, using percentages or numbers. By doing so, you give yourself a target, like: “100% organic, future-proof agriculture.” (De Bolster).

Some examples of successful companies and organisations with a clear vision:

  • Bringing inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world. (Nike)

  • A future in peace for all children of war. (War Child)

  • 100% slave-free chocolate. (Tony's Chocolonely)

Keep your vision current

Regularly review your vision to check that it is in line with the times. In 1961, US president Kennedy’s vision was as follows: “We will put a man on the moon before this decade is out.” Today, we would say: “We will put a person on the moon before this decade is out.”

In 1943, IBM CEO Watson shared the following vision: “Globally, I think there is a market for five computers.” Just a few years later, this had turned into: “A few years from now, every employee will have a computer on their desk."

Prevent copyright infringement

Being inspired by the vision of another company is fine. “But”, says Maarten Koolen, founder of branding agency Intellectueel Eigendom, “watch out for copyright infringement. In the wake of successful sustainable clothing brand Patagonia, many clothing companies were inspired to green their production cycle. And that was fine, provided they did not copy Patagonia’s vision or mission on their own website. Even with minor modifications, you may be committing copyright infringement. You use something created by another organisation for your own company.”

Mission: what do you stand for?

A mission statement says who you are and what you do. Whereas a vision is mainly outward-looking and focuses on the future, your mission is about the organisation itself. With a mission statement, you explain how your business contributes to fulfilling your vision. When describing your mission, think about the following topics.

Motivation for staff and customers

A mission lets you motivate employees and draw in customers. People who identify with your core values are more loyal and are more likely to apply for a job with your company, or purchase products or services from you. Always share your vision and mission on your website, in vacancies, and on social media.
A good mission will also help you think of new business activities and make choices. Do you want to reduce your environmental impact and is quality key in your vision? Then you probably should not offer rock-bottom prices or the fastest possible shipping.

Questions to help you figure out your mission:

  • What is the added value of my company?

  • What makes my company unique?

  • What problems does my company solve and for whom?
    Example: a company that only sells second-hand bicycles or recycles bicycle parts contributes to a sustainable bicycle industry.

  • What motivates me?
    This could be the climate crisis, inflation, public health figures, or just a dream to make people happier.

  • What are my core values (in Dutch)?
    Your core values could be: quirky, customer-oriented, and fun.

Examples of (famous) missions:

  • “Fostering successful organic agriculture by providing excellent varietals, high-quality seeds and good advice." (De Bolster)

  • “Inspiring people to ride their bikes more often with affordable bikes and fast service.” (Vestingfiets)

  • “Empowering people with disabilities who love life with an adapted clothing line.” (So Yes)

  • “Making 100% slave-free the norm in chocolate.” (Tony's Chocolonely)

  • “Anything for a smile” (Coolblue)

  • “Accelerating the global transition to renewable energy” (Tesla)

  • “Making the everyday affordable and the extraordinary attainable” (Albert Heijn)

Prevent deception

A mission is not a marketing trick used to mislead customers. So do not make promises you cannot keep. “If you have a car company, do not tout your commitment to 'green driving' in your mission statement if you cannot back it up”, Koolen explains. Exaggerating your sustainability efforts to cultivate a green image is known as greenwashing and is punishable by hefty fines.

Ownership of your vision and mission 

You cannot have intellectual property rights on your vision or mission, but you can own the IP of your brand name, logo, and slogan. “Registering your trademark makes it easier to take action against parties infringing on your trademarks”, says Koolen. “If their brand name or logo is identical or similar to yours and they offer the same products or services, they are unfairly benefiting from your organisation’s reputation. Suppose I start selling meat substitutes as the Vegetarian Butcher Shop. That would be a clear infringement on the intellectual property of “The Vegetarian Butcher.”

“That is why organisations with a very clear vision, idea, or mission trademark their brand. After all, they want consumers to automatically link that vision, idea, or mission to the organisation that originally came up with it. If you want to buy slave-free chocolate, Tony’s Chocolonely will probably be the first name that comes to mind.

Strategy: what are you going to do?

Once you have a clear vision and mission, decide how you will achieve them. Think about how many resources and people, and how much time you will need. That is your strategy. There are several models and plans that can help you create a strategy. Here are some examples.

  • The Business Model Canvas is a great tool for regularly reviewing your business strategy, the market, and your customers. This lets you respond to changes in the market more quickly.

  • A SWOT analysis, short for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, provides quick insight into opportunities and threats for your company. 

  • With a competitor analysis, you lists your company's strengths and weaknesses compared to your competitors. This will tell you how you can stand out: pricing, quality, location, service, or sustainability. 

  • After completing all these steps, it is time to make a marketing plan.