Why do you do what you do?
Your knee-jerk reaction is probably “to make money”. That’s okay – the function of every business is to make money. But we are not asking what your function is, we are asking why you chose to go about making money the way that you do.
Or to put it another way, what is your higher purpose? Most people think of questions like this as being highly personal, spiritual, or even esoteric. But have you ever stopped to consider what finding your purpose can mean for your business and your career?
Efforts and courage are not enough without purpose and direction.John F. Kennedy
Probably the single most important thing you can ever do for your business is figure out what your purpose is. Find your “why” or as it’s also called, your “compass”, your “lighthouse” or your “true North”.
When you define the purpose for your (company’s) existence it acts as the lighthouse that guides every other business decision you make. From brand identity to product development, from tone of voice to campaign. Every fork that you come to along the road is decided by your company’s Lighthouse statement, and your customers will love you for it.
The thing that businesses often forget is that the people who buy your products are exactly that – people. They choose brands and products for reasons that are personal. They buy brands that appeal to their core values and make them feel good about themselves.
You can have the best product on the market, and the biggest marketing budget, but if you don’t know what the purpose of your company is, you won’t sell.
People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.Simon Sinek
Simon Sinek, author of “Start with Why”, sums it all up pretty neatly here. People buy into brands that demonstrate a strong purpose over and above brands that are technically brilliant. Their belief in the brand’s purpose effects not only their purchasing habits, If the consumer shares the brand’s greater purpose it will affect their performance.
Take for example the case of Nike golf putters. Notre Dame University conducted an experiment with two groups of equally skilled golfers. Both groups were given Nike prototype putters, but only one group’s putters were branded with the Nike Logo. At the end of the experiment the group who knew they were using a high-performance brand performed 20% better than those using unbranded (but exactly the same) putters. What this means is that by focusing on the “why” – to bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete, and if you have a body you’re an athlete – Nike has conveyed a powerful message: If you use this product, you will perform better. The reason consumers believe this has nothing to do with Nike’s product specifications and everything to do with what they stand for.
Their purpose speaks.
Their public focus is on what you are trying to achieve, not on the specifications of their product, not the methods used to create it – but on why they created it in the first place. And you know what? People love them. People trust the brand, because of what they stand for. Needless to say they do offer a quality product, too.
Their Lighthouse statement is the guiding factor in everything that their brand does, every product developed, every client interaction. People don’t buy what they do, they buy why they do it.
You must be aspirational to be inspirational
Your “Why” or “Lighthouse” or “true North” doesn’t have to be achievable.
Take a look at Disney. Their “purpose” is to bring happiness to everyone. Now you might think “not possible”, “It can’t be done” and maybe it can’t, but that is beside the point. What matters is that their true North is Aspirational and Inspirational, and it guides them in every aspect of how they conduct their business – right down to the people they hire to sweep the floors. Every person who works at Disney is a “Cast member”. They are all in character, they are all there to make people happy.
Your WHY must be aspirational and inspirational. It should inspire your employees, your customers and you. If it doesn’t then you need to take a serious look at what your purpose as a company is.
It’s not too late to find your purpose
Don’t be afraid to start this exercise, even if you have a long-established company. You may be surprised by what your industry has to offer in terms of inspiration and innovation. We have worked with several clients who thought it was too late to implement the Lighthouse ideology, or they thought their purpose was something very different to how they were being perceived in the market. Once we helped them pinpoint their true purpose it was easy to see where and how they needed to align their methods and communication, both internally and externally.
This process is essential not only to your company, but to you as a person. You have to know why you are acting before you can act. You have to know what your purpose is before you can know how to achieve it.
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Once you have defined your purpose anything is possible.
Originally published in South African Franchise Warehouse magazine – December 2016