Why do you exist? No, not as a person (although I suspect that may be linked), but as a business. I have been in the business world for some thirty years and in that time, I have witnessed many changes; strategic, environmental, technical, ethical and possibly too many more to think of. That is the world of business, it never stands still and as we are discovering, technology is only speeding up the process. The business environment of the 21st century has never been more ambiguous, uncertain and challenging, it is my belief that this will only increase in intensity as time goes on.
However, for me, one thing has never changed, and it is one of the key factors in differentiating yourself in the fog of business, that thing is purpose. It has an even smaller companion word, why, which I see being used in increasing frequency. It can be frustrating sometimes to hear peoples ‘why’ expressed as “giving great customer service” or “being the best at what we offer”, I am sure you have all heard these why’s. These statements are not why’s, they are the minimal value any business should offer.
Why is so much more than a generic goal statement, it is at the very core of your business, it is the driving force behind everything you think, do and stand for. Your why is the contextual journey that has led you to where you are now, it is made up of everything you have experienced before and how you have joined the dots to bring your business into existence. This may be as simple as supplying an item which has a niche market customer base, perhaps springing out of a hobby or passion for something. It may also be a service which changes lives daily, driven by social injustice or a personal experience.
I have been fortunate to spend the last three years in the third sector, especially as the Norfolk chair of the third sector network, Ella Forums in 2017/18. This has allowed me to further my research into purpose, engagement and motivation within business leadership/management and operational teams. In respect of purpose, charities and social enterprises have always been far ahead of any other sector when it comes to why, they are born through purpose and many of them spend their entire life achieving incredible and life changing feats, mostly with very limited resources.
That does not mean that it should not apply to a commercial business, in fact, it is my belief that it is just as relevant. The why question guides everything. It sits at the heart of your business, it speaks to those you work with, it communicates with your customers and creates synergy. Once you have a clear understanding of why you do what you do, everything must align with it and become the driving force for your decision-making process. Oh, by the way, not everyone is going to be aligned with what you believe, that is ok! It is far less frustrating, more cost-effective and less time consuming to attract people to you through your why, than to persuade them through manipulation.
Indeed, it may be hard to see how you can attract great people to work with you or build a customer base if they don’t understand your company’s purpose, and that can only begin if you understand your own why!
Start by asking yourself; why do we exist, what value do we offer those we work with and our customers and how are we uniquely positioned to provide that value?