"People don't buy what you do, they buy why you do it," says Simon Sinek in his now famous TED Talk.
Have you discovered your "why"? Or are you still working to perfect your "what"? If you're like most businesses, you're working hard every day to keep your customers happy, increase your sales, and, wherever possible, keep your employees motivated. But once you've discovered your path towards success, something strange happens along the way: You sense something missing.
You may have a mission statement and a strong feeling that you know why you're in business, but does that reason truly give you a "True North"? That is, does it guide you toward where you want to end up? If your mission and purpose is predicated on a "what," then what you find is a crisis in which you struggle to make the hard decisions. Simply put, you feel lost.
That's because most companies do NOT, in fact, have a True North. Missions such as "Creating shareholder value" or "To be a fast growth company" or "Delivering a great product or service" may give you a benchmark, but these are not true missions--they do not give you our your team a sense of purpose.
Why Your True North Matters
People spend more time at work than they do with their families and loved ones. Once you have enough money to survive and take care of your (financial) obligations, it's natural to seek a sense of purpose and meaning. Why are we here? What are we doing to make the world a better place? In short, why do we matter as a business? If you struggle to answer these questions, you're not alone. Most businesses never get past their basic value proposition to potential customers. But if you sit (uncomfortably) with these questions, the answers will come. And when they bubble up to the surface, you will find a renewed sense of purpose; one that your entire team can rally behind and feel good about.
Blake Mycoskie, in his book, Start Something That Matters, says it best: "Find your story." For Blake, it was the simple idea that for every pair of shoes that Toms Shoes sold, another pair would be given to children in need. More than 10 million pairs of shoes have been given away so far, and there's no end in sight. The story is the thing that has been driving his growth and his success. To hear Blake tell it, the reason that starting something that matters, well...matters, is because it's the easiest way to attract others to join in your cause. Why should anyone care if your business succeeds or fails? Unfortunately, for most businesses, the harsh reality is that there really isn't a good reason (outside of your employees wanting to keep their jobs).
That's why your mission and purpose have to be bigger than you, bigger than your employees, bigger than your company. Your mission and your purpose must galvanize others to join in and care about your success, because what you're doing matters--not just to your employees, but to the world at large. When you find your "why"--your reason for being--you will discover a renewed sense of purpose and shared responsibility to evangelize what you're doing. Your customers will tell your story for you, because what you're doing truly matters to them. This is where true word of mouth marketing comes from: a sense of belonging, a sense of purpose, and a sense that we're all in this together.
And that is the truth. We are, in fact, all in this together. Business isn't the zero sum game we've been led to believe. Instead, we are all working to build a better future, together. I think that the best thing social media has given us is a visual representation of how we're all connected--be it on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, or another community. The power of having a clearly defined mission and purpose is that we can easily find and attract others who share our passions, our purpose, and our mission. That collaboration is unbeatable.
So I urge you to take the time to think about what your True North is and get back to the root of why you started (or joined) your company in the first place. Clearly define your mission and purpose (making the "why" something that truly matters) and you will attract what you need to realize your vision. Very few people care how much money you make. But many people can and will care about how much you give back and why you have set out to positively change the world.