An Effective Company Vision

I’ve been discussing the topic of company vision with a few founders. These conversations reinforced to me that some founders aren’t clear on what vision means. They talk about how much revenue they’ll generate in five or ten years, what they plan to build, etc. It’s good to be clear on your aims, but that’s not vision. Those responses are too tactical.

I believe the root of why these founders are missing the mark isn’t a lack of ability or intelligence. It’s simpler than that: it’s a terminology mix-up and maybe not enough practice in thinking non-tactically.

Vision is painting a picture of what you think the world could look like. It’s painting a picture of how you want the world to look. It has nothing to do with your company.

Even when the term is defined, I’ve noticed that it’s hard for some founders to understand vision without an example. This week I spent time searching and found what I think is a good example.  

In a talk, Brian Armstrong, CEO and cofounder of Coinbase, detailed not only the company’s thinking behind its vision but also its mission and strategy. Here’s how Brian expressed the company’s vision and mission:

  • Vision: Create more economic freedom for every person and business in the world over the next ten years.
  • Mission: Create an open financial system for the world.

The vision is big. It will materially change the world if it becomes reality. The mission is what Armstrong’s company plans to do to accomplish its vision. I like how Armstrong explains the logic behind each statement, how they differ, and how they support one another.

At the end of the video, Armstrong ties the vision and mission together: “Our vision is to have a billion people in, say, five to ten years accessing an open financial system, through our products, every day. When we’ve done that, we will have materially changed the economic freedom of the world and we will have bent the shape of that curve.”

In a different video, Armstrong clearly explains his vision of the world: “I imagined a world where anybody with a smartphone could have access to sound money and financial services; where every payment could be as fast, cheap, and global as sending an email.”

Coming up with a vision isn’t easy. It requires zooming out and thinking about the future of the world and what’s possible. Hopefully, the example above is useful and helps founders articulate how the world will be transformed if their company achieves its mission.