The Accomplished Solopreneur

Issue 24.03

Saturday, January 20, 2024

Image courtesy of DALL-E via ChatGPT

Vision & Mission: The ultimate guide for Solopreneurs

There was a time when a “Vision and Mission Statement” was one of the things every business had to have. And proudly display.

It doesn’t seem that important today — and for good reasons:

  • Most people got it wrong
  • Most vision and mission statements suck.

But I still believe that a clear and compelling vision and mission is useful - here’s why, and how you can craft something that will motivate and guide you.

The meaning of words

As I said above, most people got “vision” and “mission” wrong.

Vision and mission - how not to use them

I’ve seen too many “vision” statements that say something like:

We want to be the preeminent supplier of widgets in the world.

Sucky, right? All it says is you want to be big - perhaps useful for the owners or shareholders (though mostly not), but not useful or inspiring for anyone else.

The sad fact is that statement is not a vision. Martin Luther King had a vision (more accurately, a dream). He envisioned something in the future, and that vision (dream) inspired thousands across decades.

Similarly, here’s an equally sucky mission statement:

Be the best in the eyes of our customers, employees and shareholders.

Who doesn’t want to be? Again, a meaningless statement that just about everyone will look at, shrug and move on.

What they really mean

Here are some more practical (and accurate) definitions of the two words:

  • Vision: A forward-looking statement of a better world.
  • Mission: What you are going to do to realize that vision.

Let me show you how this works with an example.

My vision and mission

Here’s what I remind myself of every week:

  • My vision is of a world where more solopreneurs are successful - and still have a life.
  • My mission is to build simple and smart systems, tools and frameworks that will help them get there.

Here’s how this works.

A vision of a better world

In my case, my vision was born from my own frustrations building a solopreneur business. I struggled with all the same things all other solopreneurs do.

And this is just plain wrong.

I’ve gotten through those struggles, and I know from first-hand experience that there are better ways to solve the problems than just struggle through them.

So in the “bad old world” solopreneurs struggle too much. In the “brave new world” more of us are successful.

This “vision” is compelling (at least to me) because I am righting a wrong.

Hence my vision of a better world.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it…

There’s no easier way to think of a mission statement than in the famous words of the Mission: Impossible television series (1966 to 1973) and more recent movies. It is just so simple and clear, and the words “should you choose to accept it” makes it clear that you have a choice – accept it or not.

The two statements work together:

  • Your vision is of a better world.
  • Your mission is what you’re going to do to make it real.

It really is that simple.

How to craft your own vision and mission statement

Here’s a very simple, but effective, method to craft your own vision and mission statements.

Your vision

When you think about what you do, it boils down to helping people get out of a place where something is wrong.

It doesn’t matter what you do – fundamentally, you’re helping people get to a better place.

For example, if you develop websites for solopreneurs, the “bad thing” is that too many solopreneur websites don’t do the owner justice, or deliver the leads and clients they deserve.

This is wrong, and you know you can fix it.

So to craft your own vision statement:

  • Think of the thing that is wrong that you want to (and can) fix.
  • Imagine a world where that wrong no longer exists.

Then phrase it as follows:

I have a vision of a world where [ideal clients] [have problem solved].

To follow on from the website developer example above:

I have a vision of a world where solopreneurs have websites that rock.

Keep it simple.

Your mission

Now you know which wrong you’re going to fix, you give yourself a mission.

But there’s a trick to it.

There are many ways to solve just about any problem. In my case, I could have chosen to become a political activist and persuade the government to invest more in educating and supporting solopreneurs. If that was my expertise, and my passion, I could have chosen that route. Or any one of a dozen other ways to realize my vision.

So you have to choose something that works for you:

Your mission should be based on what you’re good at and like doing – and you know will work to realize your vision.

My passion is systems, creating order from chaos, and using technology to do that. So my personal approach to this problem (of solopreneurs not being successful) is based on my passion.

Your mission should be based on your passion and expertise as well. Here’s how to phrase it:

My mission is to [do / build / create these things] that will [help ideal clients get to better world].

And to complete the website developer example above:

  • I have a vision of a world where solopreneurs have websites that rock.
  • My mission is to create killer websites for solopreneurs.

Again, keep it simple.

So what?

You can build a business without a vision and mission statement. And that’s fine – you don’t really need it. But:

If you’ve been on the solopreneur journey for any amount of time, you know you can lose sight of why you’re doing it, and motivation to keep going.

So I have a vision and mission statement. I look at it every week when I review my business.

I recommend you craft one for yourself to keep you on track, focused on the long-term goal, and why you’re really doing this.

What do you do with it?

I don’t recommend you put your vision and mission statement anywhere public. You can – there’s nothing wrong with it, but your vision and mission is a personal thing and (most of the time) your clients don’t care.

My vision and mission shows up in different forms in different places. My mission is part of my LinkedIn profile. My vision shows up on my website and articles (again, in different forms).

Most importantly, I read my vision and mission statement each week when I do my business review. It motivates me to keep going - and focus on what’s important.

At the very least, have that vision and mission statement for yourself. And if you can’t come up with something compelling, don’t worry — it’s not critical.

Where’s the detail?

You will notice there’s a lot of detail missing from especially the Mission statement. What about all the other things like marketing, and sales?

You don’t need them in your mission statement. Your mission (should you choose to accept it) doesn’t need more detail than what you need to do to make your vision reality.

Keep it simple. Leave the details for later.

Hope that helps.