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Purpose Simplifies Critical Decisions

December 2, 2014

Decisions are powerful tools of transformation. Before a decision is made; everything is possible, yet nothing is done – a blank canvas that overwhelms and terrifies many people. The moment a decision is made ideas begin to take both shape and form (even if only to apply, or not-to apply gesso). Though they might seem insignificant, these early decisions become a system that impacts the direction and dimension of all decisions to come.

Painters often start with a sketch of glorified stick figures and reference marks to roughly transfer the basic composition of ideas from their imagination onto canvas. Though unseen when finished, these early decisions serve as crucial framework that helps focus the details and proportions of works of art commonly referred to as masterpieces.

One of the ways business leaders can apply this is to formalize a clear statement of purpose (sometimes called a mission) that will provide framework for critical decisions down the road. It should be simple and specific, yet open-ended so that there is room for interpretation and growth.

Google’s mission is to “organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useable”. Compare this with Yahoo!, who strives to “make the world’s daily habits inspiring and entertaining”.

Both offer many similar services like Internet searching, relevant display advertising, and free email accounts; but they do so in very different ways. Though similar in some services, they also offer very different services – each reflecting the company’s culture, expertise, and purpose. You can see how these early decisions set the course for financing, staffing, product design, and customers.

Here are a few ideas about how your PURPOSE can guide you through some of the toughest business decisions.

FINANCING/INVESTING
Banks, Venture firms, Angels, Wall Street, and private investors all want the same thing from their money. The main difference is their appetite for risk and timing of their returns. Regardless if you are seeking initial funding for your start-up, or are an established Fortune 100; the nature of your financing plans impacts nearly every aspect of operations.

Use your PURPOSE to help identify and align money sources before making commitments.

BUSINESS PARTNERS/LEADERSHIP/EMPLOYEES
Attracting and retaining ideal staff is never an easy task. Your people are often the loudest (if not largest) voice for your business. No matter what is said in outward communications (marketing, PR, paid advertising, etc); consumers will believe, read into, and respond to the actions and thoughts of your people – especially those in leadership positions. Consider how much negative PR was generated by the tweets and leaked emails from Uber executives. This has directly lead to crowds of customers leaving for other services.

Use your PURPOSE to help focus the thoughts and actions of your people, and unite them into a true team.

PRODUCT DESIGN/FEATURES
It is vital to listen to feedback from existing customers as well as would-be customers. They provide us with a never-ending stream of ideas about what to improve, new features to add, and a variety of solutions they might potentially purchase from us. Many of these ideas are great. Many are great for someone else to pursue. Decades ago, Apple launched an innovation called Newton that was supposed to launch the pda market. It was a flop in the market, and the division was sold off to a fledgling company called Palm who made the technology work with their hugely-successful Palm Pilot devices. Ironically; this lead to the smartphone, which Palm could not significantly compete.

Your PURPOSE helps serve as a filter and ranking system for this myriad of ideas to keep you on your ideal path to profitability.

SALES/DISTRIBUTION/PRICING
The point of the transaction itself is one of the most significant (yet often overlooked) aspects of the sale of the products you offer. Whether you design and control your own environment (think Apple Stores or Southwest.com) or rely on an outside/established channel (think mass retailers or selling through Amazon.com); the place and price you select communicates a lot about who you attract as customers.

Your PURPOSE helps align the right qualities and characteristics to bring about ideal sales.

As you can see; a clear statement of PURPOSE serves as a frame of reference for ALL critical decisions within your business. Invest time into developing this and communicating it throughout your company.

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