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Business leaders often mix up WHY they are in business (The Vision) with HOW they are doing it (The Mission) and vice versa.  It is essential to establish and understand WHY you are in business and then to develop a model of HOW you will deliver that vision.  At a high level, your business model is your mission.  Some organisations go to a lot of trouble to formulate a mission statement. 

In MSF – Medecins Sans Frontiers, the Mission is easy to understand:  “Our medical teams act fast to save people’s lives in conflict zones, natural disasters, and epidemics. We go where we are needed most”


Most of us work in organisations that are not having a dramatic impact.  For this reason, it can be hard to communicate with passion about our business.  Culturally in Ireland in particular, it does not come naturally to us to be forthright and confident about what we are looking to achieve, never mind HOW we are doing it.

If we have been doing something special and our business is going where we want it to go, we need to understand HOW we are doing it.  Or, if we are implementing a new plan, we need to be clear on HOW we are going to do it.  Before we start thinking about resources, we need to consider the activity we undertake or the knowhow we have that we will utilise in our plan.  To bring in some jargon, this is often called our USP (unique selling point) or our Value Proposition. 

Very often, we say we will get there by being the best at what we do, or the fastest or with the most functionality etc. but these measures don’t get to the heart of HOW we are doing it.  In most cases there are many factors which contribute to make it work for us.  We need to look at what we do and understand the components that make it work.  Then we can focus on HOW we do it and what the key elements of success might be.  This will be different in all businesses, but it will include a lot of the following:

  • Where are we positioned in the market: Price – are we premium, low end or in the middle.  How important are our customers. Are we opening a market and is there a market!
  • Level of service / quality of product: where are we on the spectrum, does it fit with Price.  Do we have something unique or novel. 
  • Type of employer: how do we treat the team, do we invest in them, what are the working hours, what are the benefits – this analysis will indicate the type of Culture we have in our business
  • Investment in technology/facilities etc.: how important is this for our business.  Is it our business!
  • Location: local, national, international – does this need to change

It is important to be very honest with yourself when you look at your own business and document what goes on. You may need outside help to conclude on HOW you do it and if changes need to be made.  When you find out HOW you are doing it, this is the point where you need to reflect and consult at length to conclude on those items that will form the foundation to achieve your vision.  We can deliver on our vision by identifying the things that we do best or differently and focusing on these elements.

With this information to hand we are now in a position to develop our plan.  This will focus on some very specific things that make up HOW we do business.  To give you a sense of the Mission statements of a few well known brands I have outlined them below:

Apple: bringing the best user experience to its customers through its innovative hardware, software, and services

Google: Our company mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.

Patagonia, the outdoor clothing and gear company’s mission statement is: “Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.” 

VW Group’s mission is expressed as the company’s goal: “The Group’s goal is to offer attractive, safe and environmentally sound vehicles which can compete in an increasingly tough market and set world standards in their respective class.”

The Vision Statement and Mission Statement are often confused and/or combined even by very large corporations and for this reason I strongly recommend that you avoid trying to boil it down to one statement. Instead focus on how you are doing it differently.  Then you are ready to have a plan.  We might go as far as to call it a Strategy. 


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