April 30th, 2021 | By: Wil Schroter
Communicating a bold vision isn't just about how it's delivered, it's about how it's crafted.
As Founders, we live and die by the quality of our visions. We use it to inspire people to join us, to convince customers to buy from us, and to attract investors to fund our ridiculous ideas. Visions are the lifeblood of what we do, and yet, a lot of us don't really understand how to create them.
The common misconception is that our vision is simply a grand statement we make about the future. While that's partially true, it doesn't really explain what separates a good vision statement from a great one. To create a great one, we have to understand the three underlying mechanics.
Selling a vision is really about framing a problem beautifully. It's hard to feel compelled to get behind a vision if you don't really believe it solves a problem, to begin with, or more importantly, a problem that you personally care about. That's why our visions can't just talk about how we see the world in the future, they need to go out of their way to illustrate what's wrong with it today. We call this the "Problem Statement."
Great Problem Statements have two characteristics — they feel painful and they apply to a hell of a lot of people. For example, if we were to say "Nearly 1 billion people lack access to clean water." We can all instantly identify with what a billion people means, and what not being able drink clean water means. It's a beautiful problem statement. Not every problem statement needs to be quite as dire, it just needs to feel painful enough for the target audience.
Everyone we pitch will have different versions of why the vision appeals to them. When I try to convince my wife to go see an Avengers movie, I'm sold on the action and the story — she just wants to see "that dreamy Chris Hemsworth." My version of how exciting this will be is very different than hers.
But that's what's important. We have to recognize that we can't just isolate our pitch to what matters to us. At Startups.com my vision has been to enable everyone on the planet to become a Founder. But not everyone else here cares about that. They all have their own version of why what we do is important.
Our job as Founders is to get out of our own heads and think about what our audience cares about in our vision. Investors care about returns, customers care about product benefits, and employees care about a career path. Our vision paints a different story for each of these audiences, and we have to customize our pitch each time.
The vision that people buy isn't the mechanics of the vision, it's the outcome. When Steve Jobs went on stage and presented the first iPhone, he didn't ramble on about the technology they invented to make a touch screen replace tactile buttons — he talked about how this device was going to change your life. He built technology, but he sold the outcome of a better life.
Our visions need to paint a beautiful picture of how the world will be different. The greatest vision statements of all time haven't been about the product or the process, but about the outcome. We need to transport our audiences into a future moment that captures their hopes and dreams, and then bring them back to the present just quickly enough to energize their mission to accomplish that goal.
Selling a big vision isn't about having a fancy pitch — it's about crafting that pitch into a vision of the world our audience can't live without. On that note, I'll leave you with one of the greatest visions in history that's so good I cry every time I read it:
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, sons of former slaves and the sons of former slaveowners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today!
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. August 28th, 1963
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Wil Schroter is the Founder + CEO @ Startups.com, a startup platform that includes Bizplan, Clarity, Fundable, Launchrock, and Zirtual. He started his first company at age 19 which grew to over $700 million in billings within 5 years (despite his involvement). After that he launched 8 more companies, the last 3 venture backed, to refine his learning of what not to do. He's a seasoned expert at starting companies and a total amateur at everything else.