Understanding Mission, Vision, and Values

vision mission valuesYou’ve probably seen various descriptions for these three words. I suspect they’re some of the most overused terms in business, but also the least understood. Worse, although they’re the subject of much discussion, even when they are articulated, they are rarely used as the guiding principles they’re meant to be and even more rarely lived within a business’s day-to-day culture. So, let’s start from scratch. Below are my definitions of “mission,” “vision,” and “values,” followed by information and exercises on how to use them to run what I call an Intentional Business. These are the core concepts to clarify before you go any further. In other words, get the edges and corners of your puzzle in place and square before you try to figure out the rest of your entrepreneurial puzzle.

Mission usually answers the questions, Why are we here? and What do we stand for? Building from the answers to those questions, Vision is the future that will exist if you succeed in your mission. Values are the beliefs at the core of your business that act as a compass to guide behavior and decisions for everyone in the company. Let’s delve into each of these pieces in a little more depth.


Successfully defining and pursuing your vision requires that you first understand the intention or purpose of your business. In other words: Why are you in business at all? What problem are you solving? What will be better or different as a result of your business being successful? In terms used by Dave Logan, author of Tribal Leadership: Leveraging Natural Groups to Build a Thriving Organization, what is your “Noble Cause?” Without a clear and compelling purpose, your business might survive, it might even be successful, but your progress will be accidental. Just think how hard it would be to build a car if you didn’t know what the pile of parts was supposed to do when you were done. What are the odds you would build a functioning machine? So, as you read further, take some time to think hard about your mission. Ask yourself: if my business didn’t exist, what would be missing in the world? What problem would not be solved? Who would not be served?


Growing out of a clear and intentional mission, your vision is not just a statement on the wall; it’s the future everyone in your company is working toward. If your business were to succeed beyond your wildest expectations in its first year, what would that look like? What would years two and three look like?


Vision questions are important, and, in some ways, they are the fun ones to ponder because they require you to imagine your company’s success. However, before you can clearly define either your mission or your vision, you have to answer the most important question of all: what are your values? As the leader, what do you stand for? What are your core values? What principles was your company founded on? What are the intolerables in your business? There are no right or wrong answers to these questions because your values belong to you.

Excerpted from my book, “Putting Together the Entrepreneurial Puzzle: The Ten Pieces Every Business Needs to Succeed.” Available here on Amazon.