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Purpose, Vision, Mission: The Why, What and How of Your Small Business


“It is not enough to stare up the steps, we must step up the stairs.”
Vaclav Havel                                                                                                

Most people accept as common knowledge that all businesses need a purpose, vision and mission statement. But beyond that, there is little agreement on what those statements really are.

In fact, the only thing that most small business owners agree on is that understanding the difference between purpose, vision and mission can be just plain confusing.

Some businesses use their vision and mission statement as their purpose, while others try to boil all three down into one statement.

But doing this kind of mashup really doesn’t give you an accurate picture of your company.

In fact, the difference between these three types of statements is striking. And if you are going to really look at your foundational marketing to determine where your gaps are, you will need to have a clear understanding of each of these areas.

Marketing consultant Brian Sooy explains it like this: When you begin any journey, you should have an inner conversation around these three questions:

  • “Why am I going to a particular destination?”

  • “What will it be like when I arrive?”

  • “How will I get there?”

Purpose = WHY

Your purpose keeps you focused on why your business exists. It’s the reason a customer or client seeks you out. In short, why are you doing what you are doing?

To help you put that purpose into words, you may want to answer such questions as “what is the story behind my brand?” and “what motivates me to do what I am doing?” On top of this, you really need to understand how you are empowering your clients or customers.

The Harvard Business Review suggests that while you are working on writing out your purpose, you may want to find a way to show how you impact the lives of whomever you are trying to serve. By doing that, you’ll inspire your own staff along with your customers.

Vision = WHAT

Your vision is the statement that shows what you want your business to accomplish. Where are you going and what does that look like for your organization?

In the metaphor of a journey, the vision is what you want to find at the end of your journey.

While working on a vision statement, ask yourself: What is your product or service and what value does it offer your customer? Ultimately you should be able to answer the question of what you want your company to be and do for your customers.

A vision statement is usually driven by the CEO or other top executives at the company. That makes sense, as it is the people at the top whose job it is to guide the organization toward a successful goal.

Forbes suggests creating a bright and colorful picture when you are outlining your vision. This allows members of your team to buy into a vision that they can connect to their own contribution to the company success.

Mission = HOW

Once you have defined your purpose and your vision, you need to know just exactly how you are going to get there. That is where the mission statement comes into play.

How will you get to the destination your vision has outlined? How will you fulfill your purpose? What things will empower you to accomplish your vision?

A good mission statement will outline your strategy and the way you will get the results you are aiming for. You’ll need to know and be able to tell the world how you plan on fulfilling your company’s purpose.

Hopefully this helps explain the difference between purpose, vision, and mission. If not, we’ve compiled some pretty straightforward examples of each from companies you are probably familiar with:


  • Purpose: Sharing dreams and creating happiness

  • Vision: To be one of the world’s leading producers and providers of entertainment and information.

  • Mission: The mission of The Walt Disney Company is to entertain, inform and inspire people around the globe through the power of unparalleled storytelling, reflecting the iconic brands, creative minds and innovative technologies that make ours the world’s premier entertainment company.


  • Purpose: Building coolers for the serious outdoor enthusiast rather than for the mass-discount retailers

  • Vision: To treat all its clients to the ideal outdoor experiences that they long for.

  • Mission: Build the cooler we’d use every day if it existed.


  • Purpose: Sustainability should be affordable for the majority, rather than a luxury for the few.

  • Vision: To create a better everyday life for the many people

  • Mission: Our business idea supports this vision by offering a wide range of well-designed, functional home furnishing products at prices so low that as many people as possible will be able to afford them.

Gaps in Your Marketing Foundation?

Building a solid marketing foundation is one of the most important things you can do as a small or midsize business owner. Evaluating your current state is key to understanding how to create a stronger marketing strategy for the future.

If you are interested in finding out how strong your current marketing foundation really is, take our free and quick quiz to get instant results. If you have any questions about where to go next, book a call with us to get you started on your own marketing foundation journey.

Tomato Fish Is An Indianapolis Consulting Company Focused On Helping Small And Midsize Businesses Make Good Strategic Planning Decisions.