Recently our marketing team suggested that we should come up with official company mission and vision statements. I've always been a bit skeptical of this. Perhaps it reminds me too much of the TechCrunch Disrupt parody in the HBO series Silicon Valley, where every startup is "making the world a better place" in some vaguely ridiculous way.

On the other hand, in his classic book Good to Great, Jim Collins argues that a compelling vision, clearly articulated, separates great companies from the rest. So, I sat down to give some thought to what our vision statement might be.

To the uninitiated, it might even not be obvious what mission and vision statements are and why they are different. A bit of googling refreshed my memory: a mission statement is about how we approach our work on a daily basis. A vision statement is about the future and what impact we want the company to have over the long term.

I immediately felt an intuitive grasp of what our mission statement should be. We came up with the slogan "engineering exceptional experiences" a few years ago. It's a great encapsulation of what we feel makes Salsita special: our mission is to create world-class web and mobile experiences for our clients.

When I started to think about our vision, though, I got stuck. Aren't I supposed to say that we are somehow changing the world for the better? I think we make really great apps, but that claim would seem a bit rich to me unless we happen to be working on an app to help fight poverty, cure cancer, thwart climate change or similar. We mainly do B2B apps. While they are appreciated by our clients, the idea that we are saving the world seems as comical and spurious as in that Silicon Valley episode.

At the same time, if we formulate a vision closer to the reality of our daily work, it overlaps significantly with our putative mission statement. In that case, why do we need a separate vision statement at all?

My epiphany came as I researched the mission and vision statements of some companies I admire. Tesla, for example, has a laudable mission statement: to accelerate the world's transition to sustainable energy. Its vision, in a way, is more pedestrian: "to create the most compelling car company of the 21st century by driving the world’s transition to electric vehicles." It's not about saving the world. It's about the kind of company they would like to become.

Suddenly I realized: I do have a vision for Salsita, and it fits well into this template of what a corporate vision statement should be. Right now, we take on many types of mobile and app projects, provided they have the right scope, budget and technology stack. I would like over time to replace this technological focus with a business focus that is narrow enough for us to become the best in the world in that area. The first step, of course, is to figure out which types of solutions we want to focus on. The answer should be small enough to allow us to specialize but big enough to let us thrive and grow. Equally important, it must play to the strengths and experience of our team.

Options could be things like:

  • Making slick mobile apps for the financial industry
  • Providing modern back-office systems to healthcare providers
  • Offering real-time map-based user interfaces to logistics and shopping companies
  • Etc.

Obviously the range of possibilities is very broad and we'd want to pick one of these and stick to it. First we need to figure out what we want to focus on and then we need to become a leader in that area.

And that's our vision: "To become a world-beating software development agency by identifying a specific type of software solution for a specific industry vertical where we can focus our software development services and provide clear and demonstrable business value to our clients."

I can't say I've entirely lost my cynicism for these types of high-minded company statements. There is undeniable value, however, in articulating our long-term goals and communicating them in a clear and unambiguous way to our team. We've still got a long way to go, but with the right vision statement, at least we know where we are going.