What Business Are You Really In?

Business LeadershipWe all have ways of describing our businesses. It usually involves a description of our services and products, and how they are delivered summarized in a snappy “elevator speech.” But these finely crafted and well-rehearsed statements are often a “red herring” in many ways and we get caught up in details instead of seeing the true bottom line of what we do. I was reminded of this when I read Google’s announcement of the formation of a new umbrella parent company called, “Alphabet.” What struck me was the line from one of the founders stating, “Sergey and I are seriously in the business of starting new things.” This is the bottom line of what Google’s founders have to say about what business they are in. They start new things. Tony Hsieh made a similar statement several years ago about Zappo’s, (and I am paraphrasing), “we are a customer service company.” It seems to me to be particularly powerful and important to see your business in such a deceptively simple way and also to be able to articulate it so clearly.

What I am talking about here is very different than the classic, “vision, mission, values.” I am talking about the deeper, underlying reason for the existence of your organization. As another example, I know of a home care agency that provides caregivers for the elderly and people with long-term debilitating health conditions. This company is really in the “trust and safety business.” My daughter is on the board of a non-profit that provides therapy dog training, education, and outreach. She will tell you they are in the “compassion business.”

If you could understand and articulate your organization’s existence in this type of way, what would you say? What do you really do? Understanding this should drive every aspect and layer of how you move forward. It should be the underlying anchor for strategic development and it should be taken into account as a critical yardstick when questions arise as to which direction the company is moving and how to proceed when there is a fork in the road.

How well do you think your employees and executive team members understand what it is you really do? Are they all aligned behind this cause?

Do you remember daily what your organization is really about? Do you walk that talk? Do you insist that others do as well?

What if you aren’t sure? Or have become unsure over time? There are lots of “bright, shiny, objects” and distractions that pull companies’ off of their true purpose for being. If you are reading this and your answer to “what business am I really in” isn’t top of mind and clear, it’s time to do some reflection. It’s time to remember. It’s time to get clear and use this clarity to refocus yourself and your team.