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 think that a shared vision is a fundamental platform for creating a great leadership team and great company. I don't particularly care what terminology you use - if you're into Guy Kawasaki's "mantra" instead of mission, that's great, or you can use Collins and Porras's terminology (see below).
It has always bothered me that many executives can't seem to understand the value of good vision and the value of investing energy in defining and maintaining a corporate vision and a supporting corporate culture despite all of the evidence regarding the importance in doing so. I especially like it when supposedly short-term oriented investors like Sim (who is a venture capitalist at Dawntreader Ventures) or Kawasaki (of Garage Ventures) are clearly supportive of making such investments.
A solid vision should includes a purpose, values, and the other things that the classic Collins and Porras paper "Building Your Company's Vision" talks about. Those ideas are embedded in the subsequent Collins and Porras book, "Built to Last" and discussed on Jim Collins website here. Or see Jeff Cornwall's weblog, The Entrepreneurial Mind, for some thoughts about why values should be an integral part of a start-up's vision.
Here are a few of the things that Sim has to say in his post - but please do read the whole thing:
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.