Your vision statement sucks.
Sorry to be the one to break it to you, but it does. Your vision statement blows. The good news is you’re not alone. According to a recent survey 98.8 percent of all accounting firms’ vision statements suck.* It should comfort you, however, that each of the Big 4 firms’ vision statements also suck.
Ernst & Young’s vision statement is, “Quality in everything we do.” That sucks. McDonalds could say, “Quality in everything we do.” Low quality, but it still works. Presumably EY would argue that—although it is not explicit in their vision statement—they mean “the highest quality in everything we do.” Oh. Now I get it. EY turds are all 12.5 cm long, weigh 112 grams, and smell like fresh-baked macaroons because apparently there’s quality in everything they do.
KPMG’s vision statement is “Cutting through complexity.” Apparently they’re the CliffsNotes of accounting firms. You know what else cuts through complexity? A lobotomy. KPMG, the lobotomy of the Big 4. Maybe they should have just said, “Numbers are hard. Have a cookie.”
PwC says, “Delivering value, with you, every day.” That’s right. After you sign the engagement letter, you’ll never have a day off because you’ll be too busy delivering value with PwC.
Deloitte’s vision is to “serve our clients and help them solve their toughest problems.” Who knew that an accounting firm would be able to help me lose my muffin top? Because right now that’s my toughest problem.
Here’s more bad news. Your vision statement has no choice but to suck. Perfectly crafted vision statements are a myth, just like unicorns, leprechauns, and the Government Accountability Office. In Simon Sinek’s uber-repetitive book Start with Why, he says, “The part of the brain that controls our feelings has no capacity for language.” Why you do what you do—your vision—is all about feelings, not logic. Vision statements are more poetry than prose. This is another reason why I hate them. The majority of CPAs are logicians. We’re Vulcans. Don’t read me Emily Dickinson’s “She Sweeps with Many-Colored Brooms.” Just say, “Sunsets are pretty.”
Simon Sinek posits that your best loyal customers don’t buy your “what”; they buy your “why.” Two of Stephen Covey’s seven habits are “Begin with the End in Mind” and “Put First Things First.” In Good to Great one of the three circles of Jim Collins’ hedgehog principle is the understanding of what you are deeply passionate about. So, let’s sum up. You can only attract and retain the best customers and employees if you can clearly communicate your “why.” But it is impossible for the part of our brain that houses our “why” to communicate at all. Certain failure. Sweet.
So what do you do? You talk about it all the time with whoever will listen and give you honest feedback (and won’t get sick of listening to this “why” crap over and over again). Marcus Buckingham, the author of Go Put Your Strengths to Work, suggests that you keep a record of every activity that makes you feel as though you are working from the center of your strengths. Those moments will give you insight into your strengths, and your strengths will give you insight into your why.
For Sinek, the proper order of business is WHY-HOW-WHAT. However, your “why” already exists. You need to discover it and communicate it. A close analysis of the feelings behind what you’re currently doing can point you upstream to your “why.”
Challenge yourself to find a new way to restate your “why” every day. Developing your vision statement is a lot like writing a standup comedy bit. It might seem perfect in your head, but if no one responds to it, it sucks. Rethink it and rewrite it. Repeat as many times as necessary. If no one ever laughs, then stick to your day job.
Getting this part of your business right is far too important for procrastination or deferral. Without your vision—without your “why”—you’ll never enter the Promised Land, personally or professionally. Refining your “why” will be one of your toughest problems. Either wrestle with it tenaciously, or get Deloitte to do it.
*The survey had a standard error of 1.2 percent.