An important aspect of corporate governance and providing clear messaging to stakeholders is the creation of a mission statement and a vision statement. These are two distinct concepts and this article will provide an understanding of the differences when considering a mission statement vs. a vision statement. Mission Statement A mission statement has a more ‘present day’ focus and really describes how a company plans on achieving its objectives. This is really a statement to employees, shareholders, and others with an interest in the organization that clearly articulates what an organization is doing, how it’s going to do it, and ultimately why it’s doing it. For many small businesses this can seem like a trivial item but large organizations spend countless hours, meetings, and dollars considering their mission statement and its significance. Changing a company’s mission statement can be a major undertaking with numerous consultations and even external advisors being hired. For any growing business this should underline the significance of creating an effective mission statement, particularly when it’s not part of the business model (or not possible) for the owner to personally convey the companies mission to everyone. The key questions to answer in a mission statement include: What does the organization do? Who does the organization service (i.e. customers)? What benefit does the organization provide? Vision Statement A vision statement has more to do with the future and really describes what an organization plans or hopes to be in the future. This is more of an inspirational or motivational statement that is meant to drive employees and also clearly demonstrate an organizations goals to stakeholders (customers, investors, etc.). A vision statement shouldn’t really discuss the present state of the organization but more what the organization wants to be and how it wants to be viewed. To be effective the message should be clear, optimistic, and of course realistic. An unrealistic vision statement, i.e. a corner store owner saying that in five years the company will be bigger than Walmart, won’t be motivating or inspirational but end up being comical.The key questions to answer in a mission statement include: Where does the organization want to be in 5 years or 10 years? How do we want to get there? Mission Statement vs. Vision Statement When considering a mission statement vs. a vision statement the key aspect to remember is the current vs. future context. A mission statement is where you are and why you do it, a vision statement is where you are going to be and how you want to get there. While these may seem like soft topics it can be very important to ensure that the mission and vision of an organization or company’s leadership is clearly conveyed to the people who need to know it. Employees, shareholders, and other stakeholders can be provided with quick answers to how an organization views itself and where it plans on being in the future. Conveying this message to them in two well thought out statements can be a very useful communication and governance tool.