When you’re planning a journey of any kind, you always begin with the end in mind. Everything you plan—the route, stops, timeline—stems from you saying, “I want to go to the beach” or wherever you want to be.
Think of your firm’s vision statement as the “destination” for your journey of starting an RIA. It’s all about identifying where you want to go.
But before we get into developing your vision statement, it’s important to know what a vision statement is and what it is not.
A vision statement is:
A single driving point that everyone in your firm rallies around. It should answer one question: Where are we going? (We’ll go into more detail and share a few examples later.)
A vision statement is NOT:
A mission statement
Your firm’s mission statement should be externally focused—meaning it’s something that you show to clients and maybe even use on your website. Vision statements are typically internal statements that help drive your team and help them understand where you’re going. Your mission statement is about the why behind your firm. It should explain why your firm exists.
A list of goals
Some firms use their vision statement as a place to list out all of their goals. Don’t get me wrong—goals are important. But that’s not what your vision statement is for. A vision statement is more like a single high-level goal for your entire firm than it is a collection of all of your revenue goals, growth goals, client goals, etc.
An action plan
Again, your vision statement answers the where question (“where are we going?”)—it does not address the how. Like I said above, your RIA’s vision statement should be a high-level goal. Of course, you will need an action plan that explains how you will accomplish your vision, but your vision statement is not the place for that.
Now that we’ve established what it is and is not, let’s look at some basic guidelines as you work toward crafting your vision statement.
1. Answer this Question: Where Do You Want to Go?
Crafting your vision statement is that rare opportunity to step back from the day-to-day and think about the big picture of your firm. It’s something a lot of advisors think about in the months leading up to when they launch their RIA, but then they get so busy with the daily routine of maintaining client relationships, putting out fires and managing their office that they never think about it again.
So take the time to think about it: Where do you want your firm to go? It’s a big question, I know, but it’s worth thinking carefully about your answer.
If you’re like most advisors, your answer is probably something like “$1 billion AUM.” That’s an understandable (and common) goal.
But consider this: Firms with client-centric vision statements see an annual growth rate of more than 13%, while firms with revenue-centric statements have a growth rate of less than 6%.
Don’t get me wrong—that doesn’t mean your vision statement shouldn’t be focused on growth, you’ll just want to frame it in terms of clients rather than dollars./
A few examples of client-centric vision statements:
- Our vision is to serve 50% more clients than we did last year.
- Our vision is to grow our number of clients working in the medical field.
- Our vision is to become the number one financial planner for families in the metro area.
2. Keep it Short
Your vision statement is like a rallying cry for your entire team, so it needs to be easy for them to remember. The shorter you can get it the better—under 20 words is perfect.
This goes back to my earlier point about a vision statement not being an action plan. If your vision statement is about growing your business and it includes “…by reaching new audiences through digital ads and cold calling,” then you’re turning it into an action plan.
The action plan is incredibly important, but it doesn’t belong in the vision statement. The vision statement is about direction, the action plan is about strategy. Leave strategy out of it for now.
3. Get Specific
Our vision is to grow our firm.
Our vision is to be the best financial planning firm in the Midwest.
Our vision is to increase our revenue.
Those are all fine visions, but there’s no way to know when you’ve accomplished any of them. How much do you want to grow? What defines the “best” firm in the Midwest? How quickly do you want to increase your revenue.
While a vision statement is not merely a goal, you can still apply the SMART metric to it. Make sure your vision is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-sensitive. Your team will be far more motivated when their vision statement is something they can know they’re working toward rather than simply a vague motivational statement.
4. Make it Fit Your Firm
Your vision statement is part of your firm’s core documents, along with items like your mission statement, company values and other items.
When you craft your vision statement, compare it with your other core documents. When taken together, do they tell a collective story? On top of that, do they tell the story of a firm you are proud to be a part of? If not, consider how you everything can fit together better.
Our team of industry veterans has helped hundreds of RIAs turn their vision into a reality. Schedule a consultation today.