What, How, Why? Revisit your business purpose


In this world of immediate access to information, and on-demand service, it’s more important than ever to communicate your business purpose to your customers and clients. But how clear are you about what drives your company forward? In this post, we capture some hints to help you clarify your ‘why’.


A memory popped up on my Facebook page last week, about a blog post I’d written when I was first considering setting up my own business. The post drew on what I was learning at the time from a FutureLearn MOOC – or Massive Open Online Course – on The Secret Power of Brands. As well as a huge amount of information about branding – obviously! – the course also drove home the importance of a clear business offer.

In the same week as this FB memory, I attended the Federation of Small Business annual conference in Glasgow. One seminar was led by Andrew Brave, founder of Glasgow digital creative agency, MadeBrave. Andrew echoed the Branding MOOC: that branding should humanise business. How? Through knowing your ‘why’!

So, where does this ‘why’ come from? It’s perhaps best illustrated through Simon Sinek’s concept of the Golden Circle, expertly explained in his TED talk: How Great Leaders Inspire Action. The talk may be a few years old now, but it’s well worth the 18 minutes of your time.

The argument goes like this. When it comes to business, most people think from the outside in, starting by describing what they do and how they do it, and only ending with why they do it, if they get to that stage at all. However, great leaders – whether they are businesses (like Apple), civil leaders (Martin Luther King) or great innovators (the Wright Brothers) – think from the inside out.

In other words, great leaders start by talking about why they do what they do and, only after that is understood, do they talk about how they do it and what they do. This, according to Simon, is because ‘people buy why you do it, not what you do’.

This chimes with me, as it has with many businesses. At their heart, MadeBrave focus on being creative, having fun and being brave with it, and it really shines out from their work. Even their team photos encapsulate their ‘why’. And global corporates, like Apple, Virgin, Nike and Unilever, have understood the power of a clear ‘purpose’. Some of these have even joined together to make sure that organisations the world over reflect this purpose, putting people and planet alongside profits and redefining business for this century. (For more, visit the B Team website.)

I’m now 18 months into my business venture, so I think it’s time I reflect on what my own ‘why’ is. This might affect what I do, but it will also mean that my business should stand on a firmer footing. Why not join me? And if you need help articulating your mission, then get in touch.

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