In a prior article I talked about the Four Ps of any business: Purpose, Planning, People, and Processes. In the next few articles I’ll dive deeper into what’s involved in the Purpose component of the business. Today’s focus is on why a clear and compelling purpose is so important for your business. In other words, what is the purpose of purpose?
Articulating the purpose of your business usually involves some combination of vision, purpose, and values statements. In future articles I’ll discuss the specifics of each of these in turn. But before you spend the time and energy (and oftentimes mental gymnastics) articulating and clarifying your vision, purpose, and values, it’s important to know why it’s so important to do so. What’s in it for you and your business?
In my view there are four main reasons why figuring out the purpose of your business through vision, purpose, and values statements is so important.
1. It forces YOU to figure out what you do and why you do it.
It sounds kind of silly to suggest that a business owner may not know what the business does and why it does it. But people get into business for all sorts of reasons—sometimes by design, sometimes by default. Sometimes they back into it and before they know it they are so overrun by the daily to dos of running the business that they never really get crystal clear on the what and the why of it all. This brings to mind the famous business parable about drills and holes. People don’t buy drills because they want a drill; they buy drills because they want holes. So if you’re in the business of selling, maybe you need to shift your thinking as to what exactly you are selling to your customers; what it is your customers want from you.
That said, for the most part, people generally have a decent idea of what their business does. But very few have crystal clarity on why they do it. What’s the point of it all? Why does the business exist? What difference does it hope to make in the community, industry, or even the whole world? When you have a clear sense of the purpose of your business, it helps drive you through the inevitable obstacles and challenges what present themselves along your way. The more compelling your purpose, the more resolve you will have to meet and rise above those challenges.
2. It lets everyone on YOUR TEAM know what you do and why you do it.
People want to have a purpose. The people working in your business want to have a purpose. They want to have a sense of a bigger picture. They want to be able to connect their role in the business to the overall purpose of the business. Without it they can feel disconnected, unimportant, unmotivated. A team member who has a clear picture of the big picture will be more driven to help the business achieve its purpose. That is good for the team member and that is good for the business.
3. It allows YOUR CUSTOMERS to connect with you.
Consumers want to know who they are dealing with, and what they stand for. Your business isn’t going to appeal to everyone, and your stated vision, mission, and values – your purpose – allow people to decide whether they want to engage with what you have to offer. If your customer identifies with your purpose, believes in it, connects with it, they are likely to want to be part of your business’ journey, and that means buying your goods and services rather than your competitor’s.
4. It gives you and saves you ENERGY.
A clear and compelling purpose for your business should energize you. When you think about your purpose it should compel you to action. It should get your heart to beat just a little bit faster every time you think about it.
And it also saves you energy on a daily basis, because of a concept called values-based decision-making. Each day you and your team are faced with countless decisions, and making decisions takes energy. Small decisions, big decisions—they all take some energy to make, often times a lot of energy. But when you have a clear purpose, every decision you make can be run through the filter of these three questions:
- Will this move us closer to our vision?
- Is this consistent with (or does this further our) purpose?
- Will this align with our core values?
It is amazing how many decisions can be made swiftly (or not have to be made at all) because the answer to these questions is No. So you don’t have to spend another ounce of energy thinking or, in many cases, agonizing about them. Your purpose gives you the compass to focus on what is important, and let go of all the rest. Or, as Stphen Covey famously put it, it allows you to keep the main thing the main thing.
If you actively employ values-based decision-making in your business, you’ll be amazed at how much energy you save that you can allocate to really moving your business forward, toward its purpose. So while it may seem like it takes a ton of time and energy to figure out your purpose and to go through the process of creating vision, purpose and values statements, if you do it right the process will both energize you AND save you a ton of energy in the long run.