Chuck the Mission Statement, Paint a Picture

I was talking recently with an entrepreneur about a partnership we’re pursuing (announcement coming shortly!) and asked him why he wanted to build this particular business. He had a passion-filled, eloquent answer that got me out of my seat and yelling I was so excited.

I asked him if he had shared this vision with his team. He replied, “In spurts, it’s all starting to coalesce now.” I suggested he create a Painted Picture (credit to Cameron Herold for that term). It’s a rich picture of what your company looks like in three years. Why you’re doing what you’re doing, what markets you’ll play in and how you got to where you are and how it feels to work in the company.

This is the questionnaire I use and gave to my new partner. 

When you have a clear vision for your business it has a cascading effect. The team understands what opportunities to pursue and what to leave. Think of a VP of Business Development reading your Painted Picture and only creating channel partnerships that open you up to markets you want to go into.

It get’s people moving and excited. After all we’re motivated by emotion and being part of something bigger than ourselves.

What this isn’t is a water downed Mission Statement or Vision Statement the team did seven years ago and promptly forgot about. If you want that, go here

This tool helps the most when the company is post-product/market fit. There’s not a ton of need to go deep on vision when you haven’t fully defined what problem you are solving for your customer.

Moreover, if there is a strong argument that if your company is pursuing a growth through acquisition having a clearly defined Painted Picture can hinder more than help. It blinds you to lucrative opportunities outside of the preconceived notion of what is the “right” investment. William Thorndike’s awesome The Outsiders profiles several CEO’s, like Dick Smith of General Cinema, who didn’t have a grand plan. Smith turned a regional cinema chain into a conglomerate returning 11x better than the S&P for 40 years buying everything from a bottling company to Neiman Marcus. He admits to having no grand plan, just looking for interesting, undervalued assets.

Disagree with the effectiveness of creating a Painted Picture? Think it’s better to involve your team? Let me know in the comments!


Aaron Vidas