It suddenly feels very existentialist, eh?
I’ve been involved in several business ventures over the past 10 years. In the early days, they mostly revolved around the dance industry, something I knew well. I thought it could be fun figuring out how I might build businesses to make a difference in entertainment, as well as being able to pay the rent…the Holy Grail right? Most of them didn’t work out the way I’d hoped…or, I lost interest — for various reasons — but looking back, I can see now it was ultimately because I didn’t have a definitive Why?
I didn’t have a clear purpose.
I’ve learned that business longevity is directly correlated to Purpose — and by “purpose” I mean being able to identify why you are in business, and why should anyone (especially your customers) care? What problems are you solving and what makes you happy in doing it?
Essentially there are two purposes to identify: your personal purpose followed by your business purpose.
So, why are YOU doing this?
This needs to be an honest conversation (either with yourself or an associate, or a friend, a cat, hell, even a wall) to define why you’re willing to get out of bed in the morning.
To make money!
If the first answer that pops into your head is “to make money”, this is completely valid. A business needs to make money to carry out its primary activities, even if you’re a non-profit organisation. I think wanting financial independence is a brilliant reason to start a business and if any path can allow you to achieve it, entrepreneurship can.
That being said, any time I’ve done something simply for money alone, it definitely hasn’t panned out so well, so ideally you want your business purpose to go beyond making money.
To be the master of my own time!
Perhaps you might want to achieve a better work life balance. Working for yourself means you can have the flexibility to work whenever and wherever you want — setting your own priorities to allow more time with your family, more time to yourself, more time doing stuff you like.
Again though, I’ve attempted to switch off a few times whilst running my business DoodleDirect, and it seems I can’t go a day without a call or an email dragging me back. I’m still learning how to do the “time off” thing…it’s a process. Plus, it’s your business, you’ll be compelled to be available, contactable and on point 24/7. It’s important though to remember, self-care and delegation!
Still, at least as an entrepreneur it’s your choice to work during your annual vacation, rather than a passive-aggressive email from a manager who drives you nuts!
To be released from the tyranny of management!
Talking of frustrating management, you might be working in a role in which you’re confident you can do your boss’s job, only better and without the stress. Maybe you’re tired of the back and forth, the office politics, or hitting your head on the glass ceiling — if you’re setting up a business you remove these elements.
A friend and colleague took the decision to leave a senior position to start a marketing agency because the organisation’s principles and ethics directly conflicted with her own,
“It just became soul-destroying, not just witnessing but being complicit in, the way they treated staff, the customers and even the integrity of the products. I realised it was too big and too engrained a culture for me to change, I could either lose my mind trying or strike out on my own.”
As a business owner, any success the business achieves is directly down to you, and you’ll also reap the rewards. The risk, along with the amount of time and effort you dedicate to the business will be incredible, but when it all pays off there’s also an incredible amount of pride, motivation and of course, a healthy bottom line!
To do something meaningful!
You might have a story to tell — especially if your business has a connection with your family or a hobby you’ve been involved in for some time. It feels great to do something you love every day. Some days you might not love it as much as other days, but ultimately you wake up excited to be working on something you’re happy to be devoted to. Feeling philanthropic? Your purpose might be to do something good, and since you’re the business owner you determine where your profits go. You can sponsor charitable or non-profit activities, give back to your local community or create opportunities for those coming through in similar industries.
To be in total control!
Your purpose might be your job security — okay, this is difficult when the bleak statistic “9 out of 10 start-up businesses fail” is being bandied around. But in all honesty, you’re calling the shots so there’s no chance of being fired/laid off, so you’re secure from that perspective. All you need to do is keep your head above the water — not always easy to keep on paddling but your purpose will keep you going.
To be THE BOSS!
Are you looking for recognition? Do you like having the title of “CEO” and enjoy using it in your job description when asked at networking events or parties? Personally, I’m not fond of it and usually choose “founder” as my job title, besides, being a CEO is not all it’s cracked up to be, at least not in the first 3 years anyway. In fact, it’s pretty painful, but that’s another post…but for you it might be just what you need to motivate yourself to do great things. With a big title comes big responsibility and it might be what drives you on to ultimate success.
Maybe you’re trying to change the world? I’ll be honest, none of my ideas thus far have been world-changing so I can’t speak on this much. There’s a lot of stories of how famous brands started in sheds and on dining room tables with minimal investment, and it’s great to know that entrepreneurship is generally a level playing field where anyone could be the next Elon Musk.
Anyway, back to our original question — why are you doing THIS?
Finding your Why? from a business perspective begins with your purpose from a personal perspective:
1. Why did you start your business?
2. What are your core values (guiding principles that dictate your actions)?
3. What do you want to come to mind when people think of your business?
The King of motivating people to find their Why? in business is Mr. Simon Sinek — I can thoroughly recommend his TED talk on how great leaders inspire action:
A few more discovery questions you might want to ask yourself are:
4. What underlying client problem does your business seek to solve?
5. Why is your product/service the answer and why is it worth paying for?
6. Why are you better than your competitors at doing what you do?
7. Why should your customers choose you?
8. Why are you willing to go further than anyone else to make your business work?
9. What drives you to push harder and win, even when everything that can go wrong does go wrong?
10. What are your ultimate goals with the business?
11. What’s the definition of success? (you’re allowed to dream big here).
12. Where do you see your business in 3, 5 or 10 years time? Yep, it’s that recurring “pull an answer out of thin air but that’s perfectly fine” question…soooo, answer it.
This may seem like a helluva lot, but the likelihood is, you already know all the answers — you’ve just never had to articulate them so precisely before.
Once you’ve determined your purpose after answering all these question — you ask yourself: does this all fit with what really matters most? Does it align with what you honestly believe? If not, rethink it and tweak until it does.
Identify and Communicate your Purpose
Then, when you’ve nailed a purpose you’re happy with, make sure everyone working with or within your business knows and understands it.
With a clear purpose your business communications become engaging, transparent and ultimately, more effective. Having a purpose enables strategy, and strategy facilitates growth and development.
There’s an exchange in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland book that, when paraphrased, says
“If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.”
I couldn’t agree with this statement more. Life’s way too short and the business world is way to unforgiving to simply wander around aimlessly — and that would also be an expensive jaunt.
Know where you’re going, and march confidently forward to your destination…that’s why you’re here. That’s your purpose.