When a business is just getting started, small business leaders have a clear and compelling purpose for their business. Their dreams and hopes of fulfilling customer dreams are vivid and recurring. But after a while, the colors can get blurred and the vivid purpose that the company started with turns into a transaction.
"We exist to make life easier for our clients."
Ouch. That's a mighty bland purpose statement.
If you haven't visited your purpose in a while (or ever), it's worth the effort to go back and work through it. Grab your favorite beverage, a notebook, and pen. This will take some time and effort, but you'll reap the benefits for years if you get it right.
The good news is this: you can add clarity and infuse energy by answering these five questions.
Question 1: What difference are you making in the world?
If it takes a few ethereal, abstract answers to get the answers flowing, that's okay. But that's not the final answer. It needs to be practical, tangible and something that is beneficial to others.
Question 2: What problem are you solving?
This answer can be bring exceptional clarity to your purpose. It might be tempting to skim over this because it feels so "obvious." It's not. Find answers and state them in a way that anyone unfamiliar with your business can understand.
Question 3: If your company ceased to exist, would it be missed?
At the heart of this question is the relationship a business has with its clients. While most small business leaders give lip service to strong customer service, the heart of the client-business relationship is not a deep sense of connection that ties the relationship together. More likely, it's a high switching cost, or location proximity, or lack of competition. In other words, if your company disappeared, it wouldn't be missed at all.
Question 4: When your best customers tell others about your company, what do they say?
Jot down the first three things that come to mind. Now pause and ask, "Really?" if your statements are overtly rosy, make sure you're being honest with yourself. (Remember, you're the easiest person to fool.) What if the statements are overtly dark? Well, now you know what to focus on to improve.
Question 5: What do you do better than anyone else in the marketplace?
Here's a chance to brag about yourself. And you SHOULD! Make it realistic, of course, but no false humility here. And if you're struggling to come up with some good answers, look at the answers you have for Question 4. Your customers chose you for a reason, and if it happened once it can happen again and again.
Once you've filled a page or more with these answers, read through your answers again.
Now answer the ultimate question: why does your business exist? Write it down.
Every word in the statements needs to be there on purpose and have specific meaning. Eliminate fluff and filler words. This is your clear purpose statement.
With a clear purpose statement, every operation in the company can be evaluated to determine if it is fulfilling the purpose. There's tremendous value to be gained from that exercise.
We at Armour Martin recently went through this exercise and it took several hours. And yes, it was an extremely valuable use of time. It has provided us with a clear understanding of what we desire to do. Our clear purpose statement has helped us eliminate some projects and move faster on others. Yes, it takes time; yes it's worth every minute.
Armour Martin Consulting LLC provides premium online content to help business leaders grow confidently in their business and see results in 90 days.
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