Your company may be small enough to put all its employees at a dinner table, but there may come a day where you’ll need to rent out a banquet hall to keep them at the same piece of furniture. And when that day comes, it means there will be new additions to the family who were not there when you were starting out. They are still equal parts of the charge you’re leading, but the longer you’re around, the more people will develop different feelings about it. And, at some point, they may come to you and ask, “Why do we exist?”
This is a question you should darn well have an answer prepared for, and it had better be something more compelling than “to make money.” This question is explored in a recent New York Times small-business post, and the conclusion drawn is take from author Simon Sinek’s TED talk, “How Great Leaders Inspire Action,” is that “people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”
And if you think about it, the “why” you do something will lead you to everything else. The “how,” the “when,” the “where” and so on. But the reason that “to make money” isn’t sufficient is because that is why every business exists. If you aren’t doing it to make money, then it’s either a hobby or a charity, and, well, that will dictate how you go about accomplishing it very differently than opposed to, say, wanting to provide a very specific demographic with a very specific service or product to address a very specific need. If you ever slip into just doing it for the money, then the other details will become hazy. Your work will become sloppier. If all you’re attuned to is the bottom line, then you start losing the “why” of what you’re doing.
And since, as the originator of the business, you are more likely to make more money (eventually) than those who came later, that’s a surefire way to alienate and turn your workers off. Keep your eye on the why, and the rest will follow.
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David Wolinsky is a freelance writer and a lifelong Chicagoan. In addition to currently serving as an interviewer-writer for Adult Swim, he's also a comedy-writing instructor for Second City. He was the Chicago city editor for The Onion A.V. Club where he provided in-depth daily coverage of this city's bustling arts/entertainment scene for half a decade. His first career aspirations were to be a game-show host.