March 14, 2023

How to Set Your Startup’s Mission & Vision

How to Set Your Startup’s Mission & Vision

How to Set Your Startup’s Mission & Vision

Jake Dluhy-Smith

CEO, Co-Founder

What sets successful startups apart from the rest? It's not just their product or service – it's the clarity and conviction behind their mission and vision.

At the core of every startup is a purpose that sparked its inception. Whether it's improving an existing solution or capitalizing on a new opportunity, startup founders are presented with a blank canvas to define their purpose. To effectively communicate this purpose to employees, investors, partners, and customers, a mission and vision statement is a powerful instrument for founders to inspire and unite key stakeholders.

At OAK'S LAB, we work with early-stage startups of varying maturity levels. We understand the critical importance of defining clear and concise vision and mission statements from the outset. That's why our product development methodology, the OAK’S LAB WAY, prioritizes this as one of the first activities for our teams to focus on. By doing so, we're able to ensure we build a product that aligns with the startup's purpose and drives us toward success.

What are Mission & Vision Statements? 

While the terms "mission" and "vision" are closely connected, they are actually two distinct concepts. The mission statement outlines the present purpose of the startup, defining what the startup currently does and for whom. On the other hand, the vision statement is a more forward-thinking statement that describes the future aspirations of the startup, outlining what the business wants to achieve in the long run.

Mission: What you aim to do right now as a business
Vision: What you aim to become in the future if you achieve your mission

The Importance of a Mission & Vision

Crafting clear and inspiring mission and vision statements is crucial for startups and can even become a competitive advantage. It provides an opportunity for founders to clearly define their startup's purpose and communicate their vision of the future. When done right, the mission and vision statements can excite potential investors, attract top talent, and most importantly, align the entire team around a shared purpose. It serves as a unifying force that guides the startup’s decisions and actions, helping everyone work together towards a common goal.

How to Set Powerful Mission & Vision Statements

Creating a powerful mission statement isn’t easy. I’ve personally gone through the exercise myself with OAK’S LAB, and it’s a real challenge to distill a big business idea down to two sentences while keeping it inspiring. I’m sharing a few tips from my experience to guide founders as they go through this process themselves, as well as some examples of the mission and vision statements of other companies to get inspired and hopefully help you create something exceptional. 

  1. Involve your leadership team. Including your leadership team in the creation of your mission and vision statements can have numerous benefits such as ensuring that everyone is aligned and invested in the process. Their unique perspectives can also help improve the quality of the statements. The best way to involve leadership is to bring them together and answer a set of questions together which can help serve as the foundation for the first draft. 
OAK'S LAB executives

Some questions you can answer together:

  • What do we do? 
  • Why does it matter?
  • How does our product or service make a difference?
  • Who is our target customer? 
  • What are our main strengths?
  • What is our key differentiator?
  • What are the most ambitious goals we want to achieve? 
  • What impact do we want to have on the rest of the world? 
  1. Tie it back to your product or service. Your mission and vision statements should be tied to your product or service. Your mission statement should outline what your business offers, and your vision statement should describe what your startup or the world will look like in the future if your product or service is executed with excellence.
  1. Keep it concise.To ensure that your mission and vision statements are memorable and impactful, aim to keep them short and simple. A sentence for each is ideal with a maximum of 10-20 words each. The goal is to have everyone on your team know them by heart.


Connecting the Mission & Vision to the Product

Defining powerful mission and vision statements is only the first step. The real challenge lies in making sure that they guide the team on a daily basis. One effective way to achieve this is to connect them to the development of the product. At OAK’S LAB, we encourage our teams to create a Product Vision Board in collaboration with the startup founder.

The Product Vision Board is a tool that breaks down the startup's product into key areas that guide the team throughout the product development lifecycle. It draws inspiration from the startup's mission and vision and captures important details such as the target audience, user needs, key product features, and business goals. This tool is particularly useful during the early stages of a startup as it ensures everyone is aligned on its purpose, audience, and goals.

To create an effective Product Vision Board, we recommend answering the following:

  • Product Vision: What is the motivation for creating the product, and what positive change should it bring about?
  • Target Group: Which market or market segment does the product address, and who are the target customers and users?
  • Needs: What problem does the product solve, and what benefit does it provide?
  • Product: What is the product? What makes it stand out, and is it feasible to develop?
  • Business Goals: How will the product benefit the company, and what are the business goals?
  • Competitors: Who are the main competitors, and what are their strengths and weaknesses?
  • Revenue Streams: How can the product be monetized to generate revenues?
  • Cost Factors: What are the main cost factors to develop, market, sell, and service the product?
  • Channels: How will the product be marketed and sold, and do the channels exist today?
  • Values: What are the values that the startup stands for, and how do they impact the business?

By connecting the mission and vision to the development of the product, teams can ensure that they are working towards a common purpose and that their efforts are aligned with the startup's goals.

Final Thoughts

One of the first activities our empowered product development teams work on is ensuring that the startup founder has a sound mission and vision statement in place. The exercise is challenging, but if done well, it can unite everyone in the startup and serve as twin north stars to follow throughout the startup’s journey. 

In our next article about the OAK’S LAB WAY, we will be sharing how to create effective business and product goals that are aligned with the mission and vision statement. Stay tuned.

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