First Things First: What is the Purpose of your business?

big question purpose of business

The Big Question of Small Business

Purpose and the accidental small business owner

big question purpose of business

I’m often asked what the secret of small business is. I was recently asked this question by a new internet support service for micro and home based businesses called Brazzlebox . I told them there’s only one thing to get right and that is be able to answer the Big Question of Small Business, What’s the Purpose of your business?

It’s actually a really interesting question, and one that few business owners stop to think about before they get their business underway. I’ve also written about the Big Question here on Medium.com and in other pages on my website here as well as in this podcast for example. To be honest, I think that most business are started more or less by accident.

Of course there are startup entrepreneurs who plan the development of the next widget, they take a shared office space in some kind of incubator and plan to sell their widget to Facebook for 25 trazillion dollars one day, but I believe that those business owners are in a tiny minority.

The small business owners I meet everywhere (and the ones I support) start their business when an ever increasing level of frustration with their  job or career to date simply overflows the bucket and they decide to take control of their life in their own hand.

And when that moment arrives they run around doing the practical logistical things; bank accounts, business names, email addresses, business cards… the basics, but the really important questions are not usually addressed until much later, sometimes never.

Strategic Direction

The really important questions that we should all attempt to answer right from the word go are the questions about the strategic direction of the business, the Goals (short, medium and long term) and the biggest question of all:

Why does your business exists; What’s it on this earth for, and why would anybody care?

Purpose of small business Big Question Mission business card exchangeWhenever I am at a networking function talking to business owners I always ask them what is special, or different about their business, why I would want to do business with them and how I could refer business to them. It’s actually surprising how difficult most business owners find it to a give a clear answer to those questions. Mostly people try and tell me that they have a Great product (Our widget comes in 23 different colours) and they give Great customer service (We re smaller than the competition so we care more about our customers) and their prices are Great too (we’re really efficient and run a tight ship and we have few overheads and we’re committed to “adding value”).

These days I have hardened up a bit so I don’t feel the pain so much anymore and mostly I remain polite and nod with interest and make engaged noises, but deep down I think to myself: “Oh Please… not another one!”

D’OH

Of course you have a great product with a great price and great customer service, “D’OH” as Homer Simpson would say… I don’t think I’ve ever talked to a business owner who told me their product was average, their prices were average and they kind of looked after their customers in an average manner either. The competition has those three covered as well as you do (otherwise they wouldn’t be your competition in the first place) and your potential customers assume you will deliver them those three as a minimum, otherwise they wouldn’t be talking to you.

You have to find what sets you apart, what makes you different, because if you don’t, your customers only have one way to decide who they’ll use and that is by comparing your price and competing on price is a dog’s game, it might work for Walmart and Ikea but few others.

So… Why does your business exist, what’s it on this earth for, and why would anybody care about that?

  • I have a client who is an architect, he defined the purpose of his business as “Architecture that Inspires”
  • I have a client who owns a gym and he defined the purpose of his business as: “To build the finest resistance training community in the world”
  • I have a client who has a video production business and the Purpose of his business is: “It’s a joy to work with us”

Being remembered

When I meet someone at a networking function and I ask them what’s special about their business and they give me a powerful short statement like that, I sit up and take note and I’ll remember them and I will be able to introduce them to potential clients.

Also when your business rests on such a strong statement, it suddenly makes everything so much easier:

  • It’s suddenly easy to make decisions about which jobs to bid for and which opportunities to say No to
  • It’s suddenly clear which employees to hire
  • It’s suddenly clear what prices you should be charging
  • etc etc

Finding the Purpose of your business and being able to express it with complete clarity is absolutely the biggest step you can take to building a sustainable, fun and rewarding business.

Masterminds

masterminds As it happens I have run many webinars on this exact topic. Here is a link to a recording of a recent Small Business Masterminds on Purpose

So I hear you ask: “Ok smartie pants, what’s the Purpose of your own business then?”, and I am so glad you asked, because this is what I get out of bed for every morning:

To help family business owners feel great about themselves and about their business by making Business Fun again

How do you like them apples?… Does that work for you?

I thought so….

Check out the Masterminds webinar and I’ll help you take the first steps to discovering your own Purpose (with a capital “P)… You’ll never look back… I promise you.

Further reading

For more resources, and reading on strategies for growing your business follow this link to the first of the 7 Big Questions that all small business owners want answered

For more information about to how to step out of overwhelm, get unstuck and start having Fun in Business again, click here

Here are some other insights on the Big Question of Business and the Purpose of Business:

Would you like to download my free 12 Question Cheat-sheet to help you find your next Coach? Click here.

Business Journeys, Sarah Regan

Business Journeys, Sarah Regan Little Flowers

Allow time for the good stuff
Interview with Sarah Regan, founder of Little Flowers (http://littleflowers.com.au) in Sydney.
Sarah talks about the curve balls and the changes in direction she had to work through during the time she worked with me and how where she is now is a totally different place than she imagined herself when she started the business 3 years previously.
Business journeys are interviews and stories of business owners about what it’s like to be going on big journeys of change with Roland Hanekroot from New Perspectives Business Coaching and Mentoring

 

Journeys, Goals, Ships and Ancient Secrets Podcast

skydiving

Why I Don’t Believe in Goal-Setting

harbourChange and the safety of the harbour

You can also listen to the podcast speech version of this article here:

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At some stage in your life as a business owner, I imagine you would have been told by a business adviser or guru of some kind, that to get ahead in business you must set Goals, right? Of course you have, it is one of the foundations of the personal and business development world. Most gurus and coaches will tell you so.

But I don’t. I don’t believe in Goal setting anymore, at least not in the way we normally think of goals.

This is what I believe about Goals:

Goal-setting is about setting a course on a Journey of Change; Goals are never about actual places to get to.

You see, I work with people who want change in their business and their life. Change is a topic I am passionate about.

Of course, most of us want change at different stages in our lives, but most of us would actually prefer to go shopping for change. We’d much prefer if we could just hand over some cash to someone and simply buy a new business and a new life.

Slick programs

We buy the fancy slick business development programs from the fancy slick marketing companies that promise to change our businesses and our lives. $10,000; $20,000; $50,000; Who cares? It’s cheap at any price if it buys you a new business and a new life.

But here’s my issue with that approach to change:

“If you want something you’ve never had before… You’ve got to be someone you’ve never been before”

That means that you personally have to change before anything else can ever change.

And so… If you want your business and your life to be something different, you can not go out and buy it, any more than you can go out and buy a new “YOU”. You have to go and find a new “You”

And the only place to find a new “You” is on a Journey. Journeys are where we change ourselves and create change around us in the process

And Goals are really important on the journeys of change, but only to help us set the direction on our journey.

A new client

A new client told me the other day that he’d lost his enthusiasm in his business. Some years ago he’d set himself a Goal to pay off his home, but the day after he paid it off, he found that life just continued.

So he thought he should make his next Goal to buy an investment property. And the day after paying it off, he found that life just continued. And so my client wondered: What Next?

I think it was Robert Johnson, the poet, who said when asked about life: “All I know about life is 3 words: It Goes On

Life does just “Go On”, that’s the Journey and that’s the adventure; the Journey is where you’ll find the new “You” and where you create the Change.

Skydiving and ships

skydiving It’s a bit like skydiving. Skydiving is not about getting to the ground. It’s about the journey from the plane to the ground. When you get on the ground, it’s all over, it’s all a memory.

Memories are fun but they don’t change you. “You” are changed on the way down.

(Unless your parachute doesn’t open of course. In which case you will experience radical personal transformation right at the point of landing)

Boom boom…

I’m an old romantic at heart and I always like to think about ships, harbours and ocean voyages. You can be nice and safe on a ship in the harbour, but change won’t ever happen in the safety of the harbour. Nothing will happen until you push off, out of the safety of the harbour. Until you get out onto the ocean, set a course and start rowing for the horizon.

Compass Course

And that, incidentally is where Goals come in. Your Goal is your compass course: You’re heading East North East, until you come upon a reef and then you adjust your course to continue the voyage.

Will it get uncomfortable out on the ocean?

Of course it does, from time to time.

I’ve actually been on a few ocean voyages myself and it always gets uncomfortable and it always gets a little scary and there is always something unexpected that happens. And when it does you have to adjust your course to be able to continue the journey.

Sniff the change

And the journey must always continue if we want to be excited, nourished and rewarded by our careers, our businesses, our relationships, and our lives. Sadly though, we often feel stuck in our life, because we spend too much of it in the harbour.

We might poke our nose out the Heads every now and then on a sunny, calm sunday morning. It feels exciting out the Heads and we get a sniff of what’s out there and we can see the horizon and we imagine what it might be like to keep going, but most of the time we just turn back after lunch.

We live too much of our lives in the safety of the harbour, and change is mostly something we dream about.

It doesn’t have to be like that though.

There is a simple trick that will make it so much easier for you to push off and so much easier for you to stay the course.

Ancient secret

It’s an ancient secret, lost in the mists of time and it’s called: Asking for help.

Find someone you trust and who has your best interest at heart and ask them to help you to get out there and stay out there.

Not because you need help to push off or to row; you can to do that perfectly well yourself.

You want someone beside you:

  • Who can help you set a powerful course.
  • Who can recognise the danger signs, the building storms, the submerged reefs… adjust the course and keep the ship safe.
  • Who will make sure you don’t row around in circles and that you don’t row back to shore.
  • Who can tell you when to row and row hard and when to let the wind push you for a while.

rowing (By the way: Those are the most important roles I perform for my clients every day as a business coach, but a trusted friend, or mentor can step into the same role for you as well.)

And then, what’s at the end of the journey? Will you achieve your Goals?

Remember: The Goal is just a direction, the next harbour is just another stage in the journey and nothing will change in that harbour either.

It Goes On … It’s really important to recognise that… It Goes On… It doesn’t arrive in a nice package, with a price tag and shiny wrapping. You can not buy it.

Push off

So if you’d like your life to be different than it has been until now:

Sit down with someone you trust and explore with him or her if you are ready to get out there and if they’re prepared to come on the adventure with you….

And then

Push off from the shore, get out onto the ocean set a course and start rowing.

And above all

DO

NOT

COME

BACK.

There is no other way… I promise you

Oh… and  don’t forget…be sure to offer to help someone else on their journey too, of course.

Old Fashioned Marketing in the Digital Age: Podcast with Scott Forrest

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Marketing in 2015… The More things change, the more… Really?

What has and what hasn’t changed about marketing in the digital age

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The podcast of the Small Business Masterminds Foundation Webinar on Marketing in 2015. I am joined by Scott Forrest from Motive Marketing to help us get to the bottom of what we really need to know to market our businesses effectively in the days of Social media, SEO, Pay Per Click and Cost Per Lead.

Small business Masterminds Foundation webinars are held every second Thursday… for Free… Go to this link to register for the next one now.

The Purpose of Business Podcast

boy with megaphone

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Tell the world:  We’re on a Crusade! boy with megaphone

The podcast of the Small Business Masterminds Foundation Webinar on the Purpose of your business (with a capital “P”)

Small business Masterminds Foundation webinars are held every second Thursday… for Free… Go to this link to register for the next one now.

The Work-Life Balance myth for Small Business Owners

work life balance
work life balance myth
“By all means, put your life into your business but don’t let your business take over your life!”

I often hear people carry on about creating work-life balance. You probably do as well. Actually I reckon you’ve told yourself a few times that you should create more work-life balance, haven’t you? But work-life-balance is a myth for most people, especially for business owners.

It’s a nice concept. All ideas about life that revolve around balance are attractive and sensible.

Absolutely. Except for one thing:

For small business owners, your business is your life. So how do you go about creating a balance between two things that are largely one and the same?

Work-Life Balance is a Silly Idea for Small Business Owners

Ask any small business owner in the midst of getting his or her business off the ground and to a sustainable state, and they’ll tell you they virtually never switch off, they’re really never not at work. There is always a part of their brain that’s on the go:

  • I wonder what would happen if I bought that second vehicle?
  • Am I going to get enough money in this month to pay everyone?
  • I wonder if changing the headline on my website will have a positive impact on my Google ranking?
  • Where am I going to find my next new employee?
  • I think there’s an opportunity to offer my products to aged care facilities… How can I best approach that market?
  • We’re out of toilet paper in the office… Don’t forget to pick some up tomorrow on the way in.

It never stops… does it?

Conventioanl Wisdoms Are Not Going to Work for You

work-life balance The conventional idea of work-life balance is actually a nonsense for most small business owners. You can’t close the door behind you at 5.30, go home and switch off. Your office might be at home anyway, or you need to catch up with some admin after the kids have been put to bed.

That’s how it is in small business. Your business is such an important part of you that somehow separating it from your “life” and creating a balance between the two is simply impossible.

But at the same time it has been proven time and time again that everyone needs to switch off, everyone needs to sleep 7 to 8 hrs on average and everyone needs to have social and personal connections with others and that’s before we talk about kids and family, hobbies, sport or health.

How do you manage that as a small business owner so that you don’t burn out, become unhealthy and forget your kid’s names and birthdays (and they yours?)

I believe it starts by acknowledging that life as a small business owner is not the same as life as an employee. It won’t ever be and conventional wisdoms about work-life balance are simply not going to work for you. No point beating yourself up about it, no point telling yourself you “should” go home at 6 and not take the laptop. If you don’t finish that quote tonight you’ll miss the deadline and then the whole thing comes to a screaming halt… Tonight you’ll just have to get back to it as soon as the kids are in bed and if it takes to 2 am to finish the quote…so be it.

Frustrations and Joys

But there are both frustrations as well as great joys to being a business owner, and one of the greatest joys of being the owner is the fact that you can do exactly what you want, when you want and no bastard can tell you different.

I often work on the weekend. As a matter of fact I am writing this article on Saturday evening as we speak (Nigel no friends obviously)… But I don’t mind… On the contrary. I’m going to take off half a day on Monday to do two yoga sessions in the middle of the day and on Thursday I am spending several hours cooking dinner for my daughter and her family and I’ll probably knock off work by lunchtime.

The great joy of being your own boss is that you have the ability to design your work and your life to suit yourself:

  • Want to burn the midnight oil tonight? Great, go for it.
  • Want to sleep in tomorrow and go for a walk? Nobody’s going to stop you.
  • Wake up and the sun is shining, the surf’s up and it’s monday? Grab your board and jump in the car and have a ball.

And if that means you have to catch up tonight and tomorrow night, all good… You’re the boss.

To me, having the flexibility I have is the biggest reason I would never want to work as an employee ever again. It would drive me insane.

Idealised Pictures

Have I sketched an idealised picture of life as a small business owner? Probably.

Do most business owners actually have such a perfect life? Are most business owners actually living the dream?

No most of them don’t for one main reason: Guilt.

Guilt

guilt trip Business owners don’t take off and go surfing when the sun is out and the surf is up because of guilt.

True, right?

Tell me. how many hours a week do you think you have to be at work, working, not to feel guilty? Is it 40 or more?

Truth be told it’s not about the hours, is it? It’s about being seen to be the first one in the door in the morning and the last one out the door at night.

Really? Is that what you started your business for so you could always be the first one in the door and the last one out?

I had a first coaching session with a new client the other day. Talking about the logistics of having regular coaching sessions with me, led to her concerns about her work commitments and how to fit in the hours working with me. She said, can’t we have our sessions in the evening maybe, because today when I left the office I felt I had to make some kind of excuse about why I left the office for the afternoon. I feel guilty leaving the office when they’re all working hard on a Friday afternoon.

I often say that small business owners are the most guilt driven people on the planet (even worse than Catholics, and that’s saying something obviously)

Food for Thought

So think about this… You have created your business. You have given it life and you’ve done so, because you wanted it to provide a certain type of life for yourself and your family and to make you feel proud and challenged and excited and engaged and rewarded; to build on your resourcefulness, to maximise your skills and experience and expand your opportunities in life.

And instead? You feel guilty for wanting to sleep in tomorrow and get to the office at midday.

Do you see my point?

Exactly… You know what to do tomorrow I think!

More about the myth of work life balance and small business owners and yet build the Great Business and Life you dream off here.

Time Management

Business Masterminds Observations

Time management for smart business owners:

double your profitsHere is a brilliant anecdote from “Double your profits in 6 months or less” by Bob Fifer. (Link to the book)

The book is full of brilliant tips and advice, I highly recommend any business owner to read it and then put stuff into action.

This about time management: “The first thing I do when I get to work in the morning is to divide everything I have to do into three lists. List 1 holds only items that brings in new business or reduces costs. List 2 includes the things I have to do to maintain existing business or to keep an internal operating process running. List 3 includes all the things that someone else expects or wants me to do but add no value to the bottom line.
I always start on list 1 and will not proceed to any item on list 2 until all of list 1 is complete and I will not start list 3 until list 2 is complete.”

I love the simplicity of this approach and one of the brilliant benefits of this process is that the most important stuff gets done when you are at your freshest and most efficient. And when you go home at night, you know that you’ve done all the stuff that matters most, even if you haven’t completed all three lists entirely.

1001 Business Bedtime Stories… Laura Had a Fashion Label

1001 Business Bedtime stories… Laura had a fashion label… Truth 2

Here follows another one of the “1001 Business Bedtime Stories”. Every one of the “1001 Business Bedtime Stories” come straight from the New Perspectives Small Business Bootcamp, stories of business and courage and they illustrate an aspect of one of Ten Truths. You might recognise some of them from your own experience. This story is about Truth num 2: “A Business without a plan achieves everything in it”

Once upon a time… a long long time ago in a country not unlike Australia… Laura had a fashion label…

Laura had a little shop in Sydney and a fashion label and a small dedicated band of followers for her unique brand of office fashion for successful corporate women. Laura’s business was 4 years old and although it was gratifying to see the same customers come back season after season for her latest lines and to know how happy her customers usually were when they left her shop, Laura felt strongly that there was a wonderful opportunity for her to grow the business and bring her unique designs to a larger audience, but she just didn’t know where to start.

“Should I get involved in some social media, or maybe I need to take the plunge and open a shop in the cbd or should I look for a partner in Melbourne or knock on the door of Myer, and how will I finance an expansion, and can I continue to manufacture in Australia, and what if I am not good enough to manage more staff and various localities, and is the market in Perth the same as the market in Sydney, and what if Cue designs simply decides to knock off my designs, and if I grow will I lose the loyalty of my customers” etc etc etc

“There are so many what-ifs and so many different priorities to choose from, how do I know where to start?” was the constant refrain in Laura’s head.

Laura was stuck in a classic decision paralysis loop.

The Bootcamp

Working in The Bootcamp with me, Laura came to realise that the only way to cut through her dilemma’s was to face her lack of confidence of business planning head on and get to work with me to develop a thorough Business Plan, in a form that worked for her.

So she did… and it took a lot of courage… but Laura got under way and together with me she started creating a big mind-map in which she put all the dilemma’s and questions and start to work systematically to order them, prioritise them and answer them.

The mind-map evolved to a series of small one page documents for different aspects of the business and a time line with projections for different stages of the business development.

From there Laura simply started to work progressively through the plan, and every time another question or dilemma came up she could go to the plan and the mind-map, and find a place to house the question. This simple process of planning allowed her to be able to focus on the immediate step ahead without being afraid that she will forget something crucial.

Making this step to getting involved in an appropriate level of consistent planning is the one thing that started to shift Laura’s business into a new realm.

Now, 1.5 Years later, Laura has opened a second shop in Sydney. The planning process has helped her understand that her opportunities in the short to medium term are not in the CBD, nor in large scale production Off-shore, but in a series of small unique shops in specific inner city suburbs like Balmain and Mosman, followed by similar expansion in Melbourne and other major cities in Australia.

Laura is looking forward to the next 5 years of consistent controlled growth and building a loyal national following of her label.

And Laura and her business lived happily ever after… The End

Ask yourself… Where will you find the courage to make Profound things happen in your Business?

Find out more about the Small Business Bootcamp here

Or follow this link to New Perspectives Business Coaching