As an entrepreneur, chances are that you are pretty passionate about what it is your organisation is offering the world. As the creator and designer of the business you are more than likely armed with a wealth of information that goes into infinite detail about various levels of where you can positively impact your client’s life.
That passion and product or solution knowledge are brilliant and will serve you well as you continue to grow and develop your organisation. But there is obviously a caution – there has to be otherwise this will be a very short chapter! The point is that more than likely your client doesn’t care about the same level of detail that you do!
Let’s look at this from another angle. As a new business you are looking for funding from various places. To each of those potential investors you need to essentially sell your business. You need to sell why they should be giving you their hard earned money in exchange for (potentially) shares in your business.
Investors – even more so than potential clients – are incredibly focussed on what’s in it for them. They do not really care that you started the business with your best friend that you have known since you were both still in nappies. They want to know why they should care; what’s in it for them and what do they need to do next.
Entrepreneurs spend a lot of time having to talk about their business and what makes them better or different from the next guy. The lesson that many learn only after a few years is that the answer to this question should not be 15 minutes into your meeting; or on slide 24 in your presentation pack. This is the overt statement that holds the attention of your audience.
Simon Sinek (professional speaker and author) has a powerful yet simple concept he has called the Golden Circle. Basically what he says is, “start with why”. People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.
This is positioning. This is the reason. This is the why your business exists.
Many entrepreneurs I have met with in my journey, as an Endeavor South Africa Venture Corps Mentor, all flounder in being able to encapsulate their business and why they exist into a short sharp overview. We all tend to get a little lost in the detail; trying to deliver too much information and hoping that some of it will stick in the mind of our audience and convince them to take action. This is unfortunately not ideal. As entrepreneurs, we need to be far more disciplined in how we articulate our businesses.
Why are we here and why should you care?
An organisation I met with recently had a great story to tell. A family owned business; father and son run; with the core of their business being the use of traditionally unemployable labour to assemble their product. When I asked them to introduce their business to me; they took full advantage of telling me their story. It was twenty minutes of history and interjection between father and son. Only right at the end of the story did they get to the bit where they use a traditionally unemployable labour force. Not only is this a great means of cost reduction and differentiation from their competitors; but the they got so excited about this part of their story that it made it uncompromisingly clear that this was why they existed! They engineered their business around the concept of changing the lives of the traditionally unemployable.
Unfortunately, if they were meeting with me as an investor; I would have probably lost interest about 15 minutes into their pitch and stopped listening by the time they reached the really powerful part about how they are changing lives.
At their core they exist to change the lives of the traditionally unemployable. How they do that happens to be by offering them employment by manufacturing the products of their company. But their product is a commodity; there are competitors around every corner with incredibly low barriers to entry. Their labour differentiation is not easy copied and shows their real passion and commitment to why they exist.
When thinking through how to position your organisation; start with the why. Leading with, “we exist to make money” is not a good enough reason to exist. Your reason for existing needs to be external of yourself. You need to be solving a problem or alleviating a need. This doesn’t mean that you are placing your destiny outside of your control; but it means that from the outset you are designing everything that you do to make a difference in the lives of your audience.
Your statement of being is as important for your customers and investors as it is for your staff. When it permeates through your organisation it galvanizes everyone to the cause and aligns them to deliver value in the right areas.
Don’t misunderstand me however. I am not saying work out your “why” and then call it quits. The “how” and the “what” are still important questions that need to be articulated. These help to define you on another level.
The “how” is potentially what sets you apart or makes you special from your competition. These are arguably your points of differentiation: cheaper labour; faster turn-around; local deliver arm; etc.
The “what” is literally – what you do. We make pens; we write code; we install geysers.
Every single company on the planet understands “what” they do. Think of the “what” as the result, the end product. Less understand “how” they do things to make them special. Think of the “how” as the process of getting things done and then the absolute minority can fundamentally and succinctly state “why” they do things. The “why” being your purpose for being.
It is these minority organisations that are setting themselves apart and are being noticed.
Be succinct by starting with “why” you exist and those who align with why you exist will be more inclined to buy-in (excuse the pun) to how you do it!