Why vision statements matter

Vision statements matter.  Sometimes we get too focused on the daily bump and grind, the next product release, and forget about the big picture and what we are trying to accomplish (see an earlier post on Vision).  Trust me, the word vision became a dirty word during the bubble as many companies were long on vision and short on execution.  I am not advocating that we return to that environment, but I am strongly saying that companies do need a vision and that it can help them with their execution.

I went out to dinner a couple weeks ago with a few key executives at a portfolio company and as we started talking about future product direction, it seemed that we all had different ideas of where the company should go.  Seeing some confusion I tried to get us focused back on the basics when I asked the team what our vision was.  The first pitch was great and so were the others but unfortunately they were all different.  It is really hard to drive future product direction when your key executives can't agree on what the company should be when it grows up.  In addition, it is quite difficult to get your employees on the same page without a simple, succinct vision.  Furthermore, it is hard to build word of mouth marketing without boiling down who you are and what you do in a memorable and short manner.  Yes, it can be challenging to distill everything you are doing into a short pitch but great companies are able to do this.  So let's look at a few companies in the highly competitive video space that have managed to stand out from the crowd (other than YouTube) and break down their vision statements and taglines:

1. Metacafe: Metacafe is one of the world's largest online video broadcasters with a global audience of 16 million unique visitors (comScore Media Metrix) watching over 400 million videos each month.  Using our VideoRankā„¢ technology, Metacafe is the only site that mines the collective wisdom of its audience to filter and surface the most entertaining videos, making it the best place to both watch and distribute high quality video content.

Tagline: Serving the world's best videos

(its saying I'm a pretty big player and it gives you the best videos,not just every video - secret sauce is its VideoRank technology)

2. Revver: Revver is a video-sharing platform built the way the internet really works. We support the free and unlimited sharing of media. Our unique technology tracks and monetizes videos as they spread virally across the web, so no matter where your creativity travels, you benefit.

Tagline: What if creativity could pay the rent?

(sounds a little techie-video sharing platform the way the internet works? the differentiation is in the fact you get paid-the vision sounds like it is more focused on the publisher than the consumer, secret sauce is its platform to pay creators)

So they are both video sharing sites but each has its unique spin to help its employees and users spread the word in a simple way.  In addition, I am sure that their respective vision statements helps guide their future product direction.  Revver probably asks itself, does my next release help me further strengthen my advantage as the best platform to get publishers paid.  Metacafe probably is constantly working to improve its community based voting and algorithms.

The trick is to make your vision broad enough to allow you to grow into it, yet be differentiated, and obviously simple to remember.  You want all of your employees when they are talking on the phone with customers or friends or even at cocktail parties to give a simple description of what your company does and how it does it.  You want the next degree of relationships to be able to explain just as easily as your employees - this is how great buzz builds.  You want your key product guys asking themselves how does this next release help our company continue to deliver against our vision.  So remember before launching into a variety of different directions, think long and hard about where you want the company to go and how to distill that vision into an understandable and simple pitch to help get the message out.  Take the simple litmus test at your next management meeting to see if you are all rowing in the same boat or different ones.  Doing this does not guarantee success but definitely helps get you and your team moving in the right and more importantly the SAME direction.

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This post was written by who has written 358 posts on BeyondVC.

7 Responses to “Why vision statements matter”

  1. Clifford T. Boro Feb 5, 2007 at 12:40 am #

    Ed: This is a very good post. My partners and I recently closed a venture financing for a project that we’d been incubating for a year. After the financing closed, a new Board member visited with us — and asked each team member (with me, as CEO, going first) to give a 60-second vision statement/elevator pitch on what we we’re doing. It was embarrassing — we were all on different pages! Even though we are a close-knit and small team, it was truly astonishing how we each had a different description of our core mission and vision. Thankfully — we used this process as an early wake-up call and rallying cry. It took several weeks of intense debate, but we finally reached a common vision that everyone is truly passionate about. Thanks again for raising this topic. The old adage still holds true — “the main thing is to keep the main thing, the main thing”. It’s astonishing how hard it is for a startup team to agree on what the main this is.

  2. Brandon Wirtz Feb 9, 2007 at 2:10 am #

    I think something so many companies and investors miss is when their vision statements no longer match what they are actually selling. YouTube may have had the Vision of UGC, but in reality was in the bussiness of pirated or “liberated” content.

    Google missed this and I think it will cost them in the long run. Revver and MetaCafe need to watch what they are doing or they could end up in a similar boat.

  3. Lynne Wardell Feb 12, 2007 at 6:41 pm #

    Glad to see more and more emphasis on the value of a vision statement. For those organizations challenged with executing against identified opportunities, a vision or better yet a purpose statement can help filter out the noise to achieve incredible focus. The process is a short and simple process (however painful) of defining an organizations purpose (desired human impact) in five words or less without using the word AND. In my experience over the past 18 years, most are very doubtful of a) getting a vision/purpose down to five words or less and b) its power. If done right, the statement is so powerful it not only helps define what you should but also what you should not do. It also allows for unlimited growth. Most organizations I have been privileged to work with suffer more from too much opportunity, not too little. They are overloaded trying to push too much through the pipeline and end up with not enough value based work (work that enhances their competitive advantage) being completed. A strong vision or purpose statement is an important beginning to filtering out the noise and building confidence and consensus internally that the organization is doing it right. I have personally used purpose statements in tenuous situations like post merger activity in call centers, the reorging of groups into one new organization with a new focus and the building of my own practice. It can be a powerful tool if you believe in it and use it. I really enjoy when others understand and attempt to share the value in a vision statement so thank you for this post.

  4. Nabeel Feb 27, 2007 at 5:57 pm #

    I wish I had come across this a couple days ago, I was just blogging on the importance of vision:

    link to nabeel.typepad.com

    I’ll be sure to link back, this is a great topic that needs more attention.

  5. Jennifer McLean Mar 1, 2007 at 3:47 am #

    Thank God a VC has vision :) I was very pleased to read this post and also noticed another one about leveraging industry trends. To me these are terribly important strategic practices and are often missed. This is the guidance most startups need most (and usually execute least). Thanks for the insight I hope a bunch of C-level managers are reading this.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Anonymous - Feb 7, 2007

    Why vision statements matter

    Vision statements matter. Sometimes we get too focused on the daily bump and grind, the next product release, and forget about the big picture and what we are trying to accomplish.

  2. new dog old trick - Feb 11, 2007

    Why vision statements matter

    Link: BeyondVC: Why vision statements matter. A good post by Ed Sim about the importance of a shared vision in a start-up. I am a big proponent of creating a broadly shared vision for a company (start-up or otherwise). I

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