The Most Important Question Your Business Has To Answer

applemottoWhy do you do what you do?  If you think like a lot of the business owners in my area, then you either think this question is a waste of your time or you would answer by saying, “to make money.”  While it is true that you must make a profit in order to stay in business, (unless you are the government) it is a very dangerous path to walk down if your reason for existence is solely to make money.  I love to watch a show called “Shark Tank,” and on this show there is an investor named Kevin O’Leary that always says he only cares about the dollars.  What he fails to realize is that successful businesses are never held together purely through cash flow.  (Maybe that is why his mortgage company just went out of business.)

Businesses MUST be clear with their customers and their own employees in telling them why they are there.  Without this, your employees will quickly lose interest and purpose, and your business will become a commodity to your customers.  You will begin to compete on price, and everything will spiral downward until you come to a crashing end.


Leaders Answer The Why

There is a difference between motivating people and inspiring them to action.  Employees will be motivated for a short time by external factors such as a bonus or a vacation, but these are not lasting and will not push your employees to go the extra mile for you and your business.  For those who are inspired, the motivation to act is deeply personal. They are less likely to be swayed by incentives. Those who are inspired are willing to pay a premium or endure inconvenience, even personal suffering. Those who are able to inspire will create a following of people -supporters, voters, customers, workers – who act for the good of the whole not because they have to, but because they want to.


The Golden Circle

simonSimon Sinek came up with the idea of a “golden circle.” In this circle, it explains the three questions that every business has to answer: what, how, and why.  Many businesses that we encounter are able to answer the first question: what does your business do?  If you cannot sufficiently answer this question as a business owner or even an employee of a business, then there are some serious red flags that are waving all over the place.  What you do contains your everyday commitments, your actual work, and the reason that you show up every morning.  This is the easy question to answer.

When we get to the next question, people start to exit the train with solid answers for how they do what they do.  To some extent, this will still include the day to day operations, but it goes a little farther than this.  To know how you do business, you must first know what you believe to be the pain points and important deliverables that you are sending to your customers.  Once you have an idea of what the answers to those questions are, you must find an efficient way to execute on the answers that you just finished finding—and this becomes your “how.” If you are a business owner and you are sitting at your desk and thinking that you have the “how” down, you are on the right track.

Next comes the elusive third element for most businesses: the why.  Think about the day that you first started your business, or the first day that you started working for one.  Why did you decide to start a restaurant, a construction company, or an online retail store?  Maybe it was because you saw the dollar signs, or you loved your product, or a relative or friend handed you it.  Whatever the reason was, it has probably been long since forgotten.  Today you may be worrying about bills, getting back with that customer, or finding time to fire that employee.  The point is, businesses tend to get lost in the busyness of life, and in the process they lose their identity, their purpose, their why.  Too many business owners get so busy and so stressed that they sit back and ask themselves “what the heck am I doing, and why the heck am I doing it?!”  The mission that takes over the company becomes “we are here to pass time, get stressed, and make enough money to cover some of our bills.” I hope that you can see the issues that a company will face without a why behind it.  What motivations do your employees have to come to work every day, and on time for that matter?  What is your selling point to customers, and why are they going to buy from you? In Simon’s presentation, he asserts that customers don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.  So, you have no choice but to decide what your why is for the benefit of your employees, your customers, and most importantly…you.

Is there a solution to all of this madness?  Can you truly know why you are doing what you are doing?  Yes, and it is a surprisingly simple answer.  (Notice that I said simple, not easy.)   If you are a business owner, my challenge to you is to sit down where you are at right now and write out WHY you do what you do.  I will give you an example while you think about this so that you can start to formulate something for your own business.


Finding The “Why” In X Crane Company

craneI am currently working with a residential crane company.  This business is the number one residential crane business in its region, and it is well respected by most of its customers.  I sat down with the business owner, and he began to tell me that he needed help creating systems for his business.  He also told me that he needed to find a way to fix some issues that he had been having with a few of his employees.  “They come in late, they grumble to customers, and they are careless with the equipment,” he said.  What I told him next was, “we have to start with finding out why you are in this business, and what your purpose is.”  So we hammered out some thoughts over a period of an hour, and we came up with this:

“X Crane Company exists to be the indisputable go-to crane company for every residential construction company in our area.  We are here to give fast, safe, reliable, and affordable service to every person that calls on us for his or her crane needs.”

This is simple, but it gives direction for everyone involved in the business.  You see, it has nothing to do with the sentence itself, but it has everything to do with the attitude and mindset behind it. If this business owner goes out and instills this into his employees, they have a greater sense of purpose in believing that they play an important role in creating and maintaining “THE BEST crane company in the area.”  They also know that they are called to be fast, safe, reliable, and affordable for their customers, and the customers will come to expect this.

So now you are probably thinking, “this is easier said than done,” and that is true.  The business owner in the example cannot simply walk up to his employees, tell them his “why” for the company, and expect them to live it out.  He has to live it out first on a daily basis by treating his company, and his employees, like they are the number one crane business around.  This takes time, energy and resources, but in the end it will produce an abundance of better days to come.



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