Hunting down your business purpose

To understand what your business purpose is and how you can use it to be more effective in your enterprise start with some of the words used to describe the ideas behind a business.

First there is your vision statement. This outlines your dream of how the business will be in the future. Vision statements are broad, general ways to describe the biggest dream that you have for the business and never have a time frame.

Then your mission statement explains what the business will do to achieve the vision. It goes into the ways that you will solve the customer’s problem and often starts with “by” or “through”.

Your values are a list of the important ways that your business wants to interact with customers and the world and should, I believe, be developed into value statements as this article explains the incredible role your business values play .

So that leaves your business purpose statement which explains why your business does what it does.

Sounds easy enough but actually sitting and hunting down your business purpose can be quite tricky – until you follow these steps of course.

What business are you really in?

This is the first detail that you need to get right and it confuses a lot of people. What if you have a garden and lawnmowing business – that’s the business you are in right? Well no, when you focus on your real business it’s about the pain point or reason that the customers want you to do the work. They may be too busy or too lazy but they don’t want their lawns and gardens looking scruffy. So you would actually be in the outdoor beauty business or something similar.

The way you make your customers happy is by mowing and weeding and trimming but they don’t care about that – the are interested in the finished beautiful result. I know one business owner who says “I don’t mow grass – I manicure a lawn.” Now that’s really understanding the why of his business. And it makes it easy to identify his ideal customers – people who want a manicured lawn not cut grass but don’t want to do it for themselves.

As Theodore Levitt said “people don’t want to buy a 1/4” drill bit – they want a 1/4” hole”. But actually they want that hole to solve some problem in their life and the drill bit is the method of solving it. So again it is easy to let those people who want 1/4” holes know that you have a solution for them.

That’s why a restaurant isn’t in the hospitality business but are in the celebration, romance, stress-busting or entertaining the family business. How they do it is by providing the right atmosphere and food in their restaurant space.

So whatever your business does or makes when it comes to defining your business purpose you need to begin with the customer pain point or pleasure point that you are fixing or fulfilling.

I am not in the business coaching business – I am in the small business success business. My customers don’t want to buy the how they want to buy the result. And your customers are the same.

Take some time now to think about what business you are actually in and write it down in a few words.

Why do you want to be in this business?

This is another of those questions that seem easy but are actually quite tricky. Lots of businesses start because the founder knows how to do something really well, they already do it for someone else and they decide they would prefer to work for themselves. There’s nothing wrong with that.

It does leave the customer out of the equation though. Take barbers for example. They used to be incredibly old-fashioned. Hardly anyone went to them. Many men got their hair cut at a hairdressers. But trends changed, men started wanting much more interesting styles, they wanted their beards groomed. Now there was a whole new market wanting their own place to get their hair cut.

Barber shops sprang up everywhere specialising in men’s haircuts and grooming. And people who didn’t want to be hairdressers colouring and blow-drying hair suddenly had opportunities to do what they really wanted – to be barbers.

Is there a reason why you really want to be in business? What solution can you offer to the customers to solve a problem? What is your “barber” opportunity?

Maybe you’re an electrician who wants to help businesses waste less power by offering a regular audit of lighting and heating to make sure they are as efficient as possible. Notice that what you want to do comes first – then the solution answers what you want to achieve in the business. Again, your customers will be easy to describe – businesses that want to waste less power. It doesn’t matter if it’s to save money or to save the planet they will still be potential customers.

What is it that you want to achieve with your business? Are you on the road to actually achieving that? What else could you be doing if you were to focus on your purpose rather than your work?

Your business purpose needs a purpose statement

There is nothing that helps you stay on track better than having important ideas written in black and white (or any other colour which suits your brand).

That’s what a purpose statement will do – make sure that your important purpose is recognised and sitting front and centre.

Of course it needs to reflect why you are in this business as well as what the real business is. It also needs to be in plain language – that’s so it’s easy to remember and easy to share with staff and customers. And to help with the easy to remember try to keep it short and sweet.

It also needs to be tangible – in other words – not some statement full of words without anything concrete to really describe your business. When you write it anyone who reads it should be able to understand exactly what you mean without needing to check with you.

Adding some emotion into it so it inspires or excites you is also a great idea. Don’t go overboard (unless that’s exactly your personality) but you also don’t want a bland, “so what” kind of statement. It doesn’t need to be about changing the world but it should be worth reading.

So what are some examples from other businesses? Here’s a few from well-known companies.

To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete* in the world.  (*If you have a body, you are an athlete.)                                                                                         Nike

To inspire and nurture the humanspirit – one person, one cup and one neighbourhood at a time.                                                                                                                        Starbucks

To be Earth’s most customer-centric company, where customers can find and discover anything they might want to buy online, and endeavours to offer its customers the lowest possible prices.                                                                                            Amazon

Uber is evolving the way the world moves. By seamlessly connecting riders to drivers through our apps, we make cities more accessible, opening up more possibilities for riders and more business for drivers.                                                                 Uber

To help people manage risk and recover from the hardship of unexpected loss      IAG

All of them are in plain language but use emotive or visual words such as nurture, inspiration, seamlessly and hardship.

Now it’s time to go ahead and write down the first draft of yours. You can change it as many or as few times as you like. There are no rules – it just needs to work for you.

So what do you do with it now?

Once you have hunted down your business purpose and developed a purpose statement it’s time to put it to work with the other statements I mentioned earlier.

Every time you need to make a business decision about your products or services you can refer back to your statements to make sure you are not moving away from what really matters to you in this business.

You should also use it to improve your marketing by targeting your business’ ideal customers and talking to them about “why” instead of “how” you can solve their problem. (Remember the lawn mowing and the electrician).

If your marketing is based around your business purpose it will be a lot more interesting to those potential customers who you are trying to connect with.

It will also help you to direct your staff as to why processes are done in a certain way in your business and what the results are that the business is trying to achieve. (Our purpose is to save power for businesses or to manicure the lawn).

And it makes measuring the right things much easier because, for example, the electrician can show a business how much they can save every month and they will be able to check this on their bills.

If you look back to the big business examples I included earlier you will see that they are mostly easy to measure – perhaps by getting feedback from customers via a survey.

A well written purpose statement can become your business “elevator pitch” and you can use it anytime you meet someone who asks what your business does. You see, they don’t really want to know how your business works – they want to know what problem you solve which is explained in your purpose statement.

So what are you waiting for?

There’s no more time to muck around you need to be taking action

  • Write down what business you are really in
  • Write down what you really want to achieve with your business
  • Bring these together in a tangible, clearly written statement

Now that you have hunted down your business purpose it’s time to start spreading the word and using it to make great decisions. And that’s more action you can take right now.

© Robyn Forryan 2021

The Biz Coach NZ

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