There is one important piece of work that needs your focus. It’s the prelude to all business breakthroughs. The ultra successful know this already. They’ve done the hard work. And they are reaping the rewards.
Avoid this upfront work and you doom your business to spin its wheels month after month. You will spend your next team meeting rehashing the last one. Decisions won’t stick. You will be in a rut. Team members will question your leadership.
Until you can answer any one of the following questions without pause, your business is dead in the water.
“What is our purpose as a company?”
“Why do we exist as a company beyond making money?”
“Why us? Why now?”
Can you do it? Can you answer right here, right now, without pausing to think? Can every member of your team?
If you can’t, you are not alone. In my experience working with Founder CEOs for over 10 years, less than half can do it. When it comes to their teams, the number drops to 10%.
Without a clear purpose, you are missing the critical emotional connection. It’s this connection that separates the winners from those stuck in the mud.
Take the time to do this important work. Without it, you will hit a painful wall in your growth. Your dream will elude you.
Here are the 5 steps to define your purpose.
1) Select your purpose-defining team — Who will you include in the purpose journey? If your company is less than 30 people, include everyone in the process. Emphasize how their voice is important. Clarify that, as the founder, you will be the final decision maker. This is an inclusive but not a democratic process. Choose a small group of 4–6 trusted advisors from inside and outside the company to help you craft the purpose. Make sure these are people who will push back and challenge you.
2) Answer these five questions:
Question 1: What do you collectively love to do? What’s the common passion that has brought the influencers in your company together?
Question 2: Who are you serving? Who benefits the most from your work?
Question 3: What want or need are you filling for these people?
Question 4: What core competency are you leveraging in helping those people? Your competency will fall into one of four categories:
Connecting: Bringing people together through direct links or likeminded communities
Problem-solving: Providing a solution for a specific problem faced by people
Educating: Sharing knowledge, information and expertise
Process Improvement: Developing systems that deliver consistent and sustained results
Question 5: What change or transformation will people experience as a result of what you give them?
3) Draft your purpose — You will find your purpose in the answer to question 5. Successful companies exist to serve a genuine need that improves the collective human experience. It goes beyond the intellectual and connects at a deep emotional level.
4) Test your purpose — Purpose statements are notoriously vague. They try to resonate with everyone, everywhere. A good purpose statement closes doors. It defines a specific direction and creates defined boundaries. “We head east, not north, west or south.”
Give it a test drive. Challenge your working group to run through 10–20 different scenarios with you. If almost everything gets included as part of your purpose, it’s too broad. Tighten it up. You can always modify it later as your company grows. Lastly, make sure it excites you. If you aren’t super pumped about the company purpose, no one else will be either.
5) Commit — Put a stake in the ground. This IS your purpose. Don’t question it. Live it. Be ready to answer the question “What is our purpose as a company?” before people ask.
Give it a try. I’d love to hear your success stories. If you hit some bumps, contact me and I’ll share more tips to get things on track.
I blog to help Founder CEOs on their journey from kitchen table to 200 employees. Be the first to receive new articles by signing up for my newsletter here.