I am blogging about 20 Clarity Questions that we need to answer in order to set our business focus and direction. When we can answer these questions, we’re well on your way to a very clear strategy and message.
Let’s consider together the vital question of purpose, and how that will shape the future direction of the company.
Clarity Question #5 – What’s Your Big-Picture Goal?
I will tell you unashamedly that, in my case, I am building a lifestyle company, which is very purposefully designed around…me. I am not seeking to create a larger entity. I don’t want employees. I’m not looking to cash out down the road – I want to continue working as a consultant and advisor all my days.
In other words, I am my company, and my company is me. It is a consciously chosen business model that informs all of my decisions. I have set my GPS accordingly.
How does this work out? Well, for instance, this Steve-as-consultant/advisor approach impacts how I present my business on the web – I’m not presenting a sterile entity with some kind of abstract offering, but instead I put myself front and center. I am the offering. Lots of folks do this: Mark Schaefer, Brian Moran, Carol Roth, Chris Brogan, Carrie Wilkerson, Seth Godin, Scott Monty, and many others come to mind. Creator/artists in particular do this: see Jeremy Cowart, Aldey Stump, or Jon Acuff for some local (Nashville-area) examples.
This highly personal approach works for me – but would it be the best way for, say, GM to market themselves? Of course not. Different business models, different audiences, different offerings, different goals.
Creating a lifestyle business, or even a hobby business, is a big-picture decision. Clarity means you embrace the goal you’re committed to and build toward it. That’s true of every business model.
Maybe you’re a serial entrepreneur – you want to launch new businesses, then sell them downstream once they’re established. Then it’s time for you to move on and start another. For the entrepreneur, nimbleness and creativity come to the fore; this approach involves a higher risk tolerance and a different set of goals, both short-term and long-term.
Some people want to run, or work for, established companies that will steadily grow over decades. In this case, these longer-term goals lead to a strong emphasis on operational excellence and employee development. The brand will revolve around an identity larger than one person.
One business owner with whom I was doing a clarity session stated that his true goal was to become, essentially, a public-facing guru in his area of focus. But his current book of business, and approach, was not leading in that direction. Once we got the goal out on the table and embraced it, that led to a very different strategic approach that focused less on short-term revenue (“keeping the lights on”), and more toward engagements that would build toward…well, guruhood!
Actually, I was speaking with a fellow consultant a few weeks back who brokers businesses – he works with buyers (and sellers) looking to get into or out of business opportunities. He described the sad case of an older owner of a very specialized family business who is ready to retire, and who was hoping to sell off the business. Unfortunately, he never structured the company or developed its people with such a future in mind. Without him, the company had no real value. This would actually not be a problem for a lifestyle or hobby business, but if the goal is to have a transferrable asset, then the value created must transcend the creator. This business owner is stuck, because he did not structure his approach backward from a clearly-defined goal.
Where are you headed? It’s not enough to just randomly drive around. If you want to get someplace, you have to program the destination into your GPS. That end point will determine the route you take.
Recommended reading for potential entrepreneurs: Carol Roth’s The Entrepreneur Equation
Here’s where we’ve been thus far in this series:
- What are your Company Strengths?
- What is Your Company’s Domain Expertise?
- Who Loves You?
- What’s Your Company Culture?