#5: Vision and mission statements

It's great if you have them, but don't try too hard.


It always made me a bit uncomfortable whenever someones asked about my company vision and mission.
We never really written these statements down, yet I heard multiple times that this is one the first things founders should do. 

Well, is it?

Vision and mission are almost never final

I came to realize that a company's vision and mission statements are often temporary and iterative - these things change over time because companies change over time.

Daniel Gross, the founder of Pioneer and former YC partner, in The Knowledge Project podcast episode, mentions Facebook as an example of such changes:

Mark Zuckerberg in 2005 said his goal is to be a really good directory at Harvard and maybe other few universities. What happened, of course, is quite funny, Mark incentive obviously was the product growth, and he suddenly needs to reverse engineer to a much more compelling narrative(…)


It depends on the type of business

However, It's important to understand that some companies and startups inherently have their mission and vision in place since day one, because they were founded to solve a particular problem. 

For instance, if your startup is a mobile meditation app, your mission is probably to foster mental health, and it's doesn't require extra effort to "come up with something".

On the other hand, the owner of a local barbershop hasn't probably been brainstorming his effusive business vision in order to put it down on a paper and tell people he is going to change the world. And that's perfectly fine.

In my opinion, it's better to start without any manifesto than taking the extra effort to create something bland and superficial.

Facebook again

Official mission and vision statements may also evolve due to external events.

Let's bring Facebook in again and see how its mission changed from

to give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected.

to

to give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together.

due to the Cambridge Analytica data scandal.

Summary

Company mission and vision statements really come into play when there's a demand for hiring large teams, fundraising, or rapidly scaling up.

Although it's great to have them from the beginning, I think one should never waste precious time trying to come up with these statements for their own sake, especially given that these are rarely final. 

There lots of other essential things to do as a founder.


Thanks for reading Issue #5!


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