One Big Family… Or A Team?

This week is Thanksgiving, a time when many of us gather together as a family. Sometimes those gatherings can get interesting, because our family is… well, interesting. We often have people we really appreciate, and some we merely tolerate. Either way, they hold a special place in our heart because they’re family. And families stick together no matter what.

Some businesses, especially small to mid-sized ones, think of themselves as a “family.” I propose that this is a wrong way of thinking.

You see, families are all about people committed to one another. They don’t (usually) choose each other, but do choose (hopefully) to stand by each other through thick and thin, because preserving the relationship is what matters most.  A healthy business, however, understands that its people are part of a team, not a family.

Teams are assembled for a common purpose. Its members are chosen based on their character and what each of them can contribute to the team’s effort. In other words, they fit the mission of the team. While they may occasionally make mistakes or act inappropriately, overall they continue to earn their place on the team by the value they bring. Otherwise their positions are in jeopardy.

Because for a team, preserving the Purpose matters more than preserving the relationships. I know this doesn’t sit well with many people, even among those in leadership positions. And that’s a problem, because it means at times they are willing to sacrifice the integrity of the team for the sake of the feelings of a few individuals. This is a losing proposition in the long run. As we must remember, unlike a family, team members choose their team as well. The best and brightest on a team will not continue to choose a team that allows others to barely scrape by, not bringing value and detracting from the mission of the team. So in an effort to protect the worst, leaders can lose the best.

As a business leader or owner, you have a responsibility to build the strongest team you can. Choosing the best People, both to add and to keep, is the most important element of building A Business That Matters, so choose wisely.

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What’s Your Point?

Purpose

pur·pose [pur-puhs]  noun (from Dictionary.com)

  1. the reason for which something exists or is done, made,used, etc.
  2. an intended or desired result; end; aim; goal.
  3. determination; resoluteness.
  4. the subject in hand; the point at issue.
  5. practical result, effect, or advantage: to act to good purpose.

If Purpose is simply “the reason for which something exists,” then all businesses have a clear and easy purpose. Restaurants exists to sell prepared food, while grocery stores exist to sell packaged food (and various other things). Automotive manufactures exist to make vehicles, and mechanics exist to fix them when they break. Lawyers exist to make business more complicated, and consultants exist to simplify it… Okay, that last one was a bit tongue-in-cheek, but you get the idea.

But if purpose is merely what a business does, then why, when there are already so many restaurants, do new ones open? Why are there multiple hardware stores and advertising agencies and construction companies? Is it just to meet a growing demand, to capitalize on a need? Perhaps. But if so, then that makes these businesses extremely vulnerable. Market conditions fluctuate, demand rises and falls, and perceived “needs” shift with our ever-changing world.

So for a business to be Successful, Sustainable, and Significant, its purpose must go beyond what it does and speak to the deeper issue of why it does it. There must be an answer to the questions, “What is the desired result or goal?” “What advantage does it offer to the world?” “What is the point of it’s existence?”

Because knowing that answer allows a business to adapt in changing times and still stay true to what it stands for. A business that understands its true purpose and remains focused on it is not lured off track by “promising” ventures that don’t fit, and yet recognizes the right opportunities when they present themselves and has the confidence to pursue them. When its purpose is clear throughout the organization, a business has employees that are motivated by more than a paycheck, who believe they are doing something more meaningful than simply selling or servicing widgets. And its customers are more excited about what the business is doing than what it’s selling.

A business with a clear sense of Purpose is one with meaning, with the potential to make a profound impact, and on its way to being A Business That Matters.

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Introduction: A Business That Matters

Does your business matter? If your business shut down for good tomorrow, would it be missed? Would it have left an impact?

Sure, there would be employees out of work, and customers who would have to get their products or services somewhere else. But your employees would find new jobs, and your customers would buy from someone else, and life would go on. If your business was just a business, then its absence wouldn’t be noticed for long, and in a short time would fade from memory altogether.

Or you could have a business that matters, one that is Successful, Sustainable, and Significant.

Successful business is not just one that is making money, but rather is one that people want to be a part of, either as customers or employees. Its customers don’t just buy its products and services, they endorse the business with their purchases and recommend it to others. And its employees don’t just work there for a job, they are there to do meaningful work, and be a part of something bigger than themselves.

Sustainable business is one that is not dependent on any person or product, but rather is built on an idea and a purpose that is lasting. Its activities, its people, and its offering will change over time to adapt to the world that is changing around it, but the business itself will endure.

And a Significant business is one that is not simply surviving, or even thriving, but rather is leading the way in its marketplace. It sets the standard that other businesses compare themselves to and aspire to be like. In other words, it makes a noticeable impact.

If you rated your business on each of these three elements, how would you do? How could you do better? In my future posts I will write in more detail about these elements, and what it takes to become a business that matters.

Next post: “What’s Your Point?” >>