If a client asks a member of your team what your firm’s vision is, would they be able to answer the question? More importantly, would you?
Despite a common misconception across many accounting firms, you don’t have to be a big-name corporation or consumer brand to have a stated and documented vision for your company.
If you haven’t made it a priority to create one (or fine-tune your current vision statement), here are some tips to help you get started.
Simply put, your vision should clearly communicate your ultimate dream and where you aspire your firm to be in the next 5-10 years. It should provide direction to those bigger-picture questions, like:
Do you want to grow and scale across an array of client services?
Do you want to focus on a niche or specific business industry?
Do you want to be a thought-leader and influence the wider accounting industry?
Your vision should be a broad but powerful declaration of where you see your firm heading.
While the best practice vision statement is short and concise, there is a fair amount of work needed to get there. But the payoff may be bigger than you think. It will help keep your business priorities, goals, and values aligned.
Leadership expert and best-selling author, Simon Sinek has dedicated his professional career to helping leaders define their why. Simon’s TED talks inspire leaders worldwide to connect the dots between their vision and their organization.
Documenting your vision is the first step in establishing your firm’s brand, which also includes your mission statement, your goals, values and the culture of your firm.
The importance of creating a brand is often overlooked and misunderstood. Your brand is not just a logo or tagline. It’s how you show up at every touchpoint—from your internal workplace culture to external perceptions that impact how you attract new talent and clients.
Leading accounting firm owners understand the importance of defining their firm's why. Their vision, mission and values will often be consistently communicated and referenced by management, team members and even clients.
You can start this process on your own, but it’s ideal to engage members of your executive team or key stakeholders. Depending on the size of your firm, your marketing leader will typically partner with you to drive this process.
Here are a few ideas to get started creating your vision statement:
1. Set aside the time and be patient.
Your vision statement is much more than just words on paper. Bring an open mind to focus on that initial drive and passion that led you where you are today. It should reflect the dream you have in mind for your firm’s future. This is a process, so relax, be creative and have some fun as you get your juices flowing.
2. Start big and broad with an eye to the future.
Expect that you’ll brainstorm multiple drafts of your vision statement over multiple sessions, so remember to take notes. Again, this isn’t just a statement of what your company does. Think about the outcome and impact you want to make, and keep your client at the heart of it all.
Plan to iterate until you can distill it all down to a clear and concise statement as it comes together.
3. Ask for additional input and feedback.
Whether you worked with a small team or chose to create a draft on your own, once you’re happy with your vision statement, share it with colleagues, a few staff members, and even a trusted client to provide their feedback. Is it clear? Does it reflect how they perceive your firm?
There are specific elements to keep in mind when crafting your statement. Here are a few important tips to keep in mind:
1. Be authentic
Stay true to your dream(s) for your firm. This is where words matter. Whether you want to extend beyond your industry or include your culture, incorporate words that are image-generating and uplifting.
Take System Six, for example:
“A world where people are valued, others come first, excellence is delivered, a positive culture is created, life balance and profit are achieved, and joy is a daily occurrence.”
Some other, non-accounting brands that do it well are:
Google: To provide access to the world’s information in one click.
Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream: Making the best ice cream in the nicest way possible.
Nike: To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world.
2. Keep it short and avoid buzzwords
At most, it should be no more than a few sentences. Consider the simplicity of this portion of Jeffreys Henry LLP’s vision:
“...become the UK’s leading tech-enabled accounting firm.”
3. Write it in present tense
While it needs to be forward-thinking, it must inspire and motivate today, not later. A great example is from Intuit®:
“To meet the needs of an increasingly connected world, we are moving aggressively on three fronts to create products and services that are available how, where and when customers want them.”
4. Read it out loud.
Is it clear and concise? Does it sound genuine? If not, keep working at it. Every single staff member at your firm should be able to memorize, embrace and believe it.
5. Stay focused
Don’t confuse it with your mission statement, which serves a different purpose. Your vision should clearly project your firm’s future while your mission focuses on your purpose and how you will get there.
By taking the time to craft the perfect vision statement, you are committing to a crucial investment that will benefit your firm for years to come.
If you find yourself struggling or getting stuck, remember to enlist the help of your close circle—their fresh mindset can help you develop a meaningful vision statement.