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How to develop a meaningful mission and vision statement for your firm

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Here we are in August 2020, and many accountants and tax professionals are just now getting back from their after tax season vacation. Many of us may be overwhelmed by the prospect of completing extended business and personal tax returns, and supporting Paycheck Protection Program forgiveness applications, while balancing a very different home and social life than we ever imagined.

Is this a time for reflection and change? Did we meet and/or surpass staff, client, and our own expectations for business stability and performance these last few months? In our firm, we like to say, “It’s not a problem, it’s an opportunity.” What better time than now to evaluate your current processes, target client profile, and personal, staff, and firm goals? Is it time for a makeover, facelift, or pat on the back?

After our office was destroyed by Hurricane Sandy, we went through the process of creating our vision and mission statements, and incorporated even more cloud-based solutions into our accounting, workflow, and communication processes. The systems we put in place, evaluated, and updated periodically enabled us to fulfill our promises to ourselves and our clients during this most recent challenge, COVID-19 – and those promises are actually our firm’s vision and mission statements.

Start your analysis with the following list of tasks; these will lead you to your vision and mission statements, and also help you clarify your thoughts and goals:

  1. Write down your growth aspirations and opportunities Think about and list where you see your firm in the next three, five, and 10 years. It’s okay to challenge yourself and others to perform beyond their comfort zones.
  2. Create a list detailing what you want your firm, staff, and yourself to accomplish for themselves, respectively, over the same timeframes. The focus here is on values, culture, and goals, which is a slightly different slant than the first question.
  3. Imagine your ideal exit plan and consider what changes need to be made to create a succession plan with continuity of services, staff, and clients.
  4. Focus on operations, processes, and training opportunities that will ensure staff commitment and growth. This will enable your team to meet client expectations and form a deeper, lasting bond. Make sure to detail roles and responsibility for yourself, your team, and your clients.
  5. Learn from seeing what your competitors are doing: emulate, eliminate, and improve.

This is hard work, but I’ve already done your Google homework for you. These powerful future-based statements, meant to inspire, are great examples of vision statements:

  • Disney: Make people happy
  • Intuit®: Powering prosperity
  • Slack: Where work happens
  • Instagram: Capture and share the world’s moments

Vision statement = broad, future-based one-liner

In contrast, the purpose of a mission statement is to briefly express the current purpose and culture of a business. Read through the following list of great examples:

  • Patagonia: Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solution to the environmental crises.
  • American Express: We work hard every day to make American Express the world’s most respected service brand.
  • Warby Parker: To offer designer eyewear at a revolutionary price, while leading the way for socially conscious businesses.

Mission statement = core values, customer experience, purpose

We have seen that successful businesses are driven by a strong vision of where they are heading, with the ability to quickly pivot when disaster strikes. So, what are your next steps? Schedule an office video chat, and make sure each of you have a stack of sticky notes and legal pads, tackle the tasks above, and start writing. Then, share your ideas and ask for feedback. Remember: You can tweak these ideas along the way as your needs change and you see what works.

Your mission and vision statements will be more effective if your staff members are included in the process. They will understand and identify with the ideas and goals. Include staff from different areas of the firm, then make sure you ask for and receive feedback on it from the rest of the firm. This approach helps with the buy-in and alignment process.

Share your own firm’s mission and vision statements by commenting below. Good luck!

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