START WITH WHY
Let’s make this simple and start with the answer to the question “Why does your business exist?”
First and foremost, it’s to add value
Secondly, it’s to make money
Most people read this and instantly call me crazy. Some dismiss it as “a Millennial thing”, or a difference of opinion. All of these are arguments I’ve heard, and some arguments have merit here, until you use a different vocabulary. Let’s rephrase.
Your business first exists as to facilitate a vision.
Your business, when run well, should make you a profit that supports the vision.
This formulation is much more in-line with people much smarter than myself. One of the first big shifts in thinking started at least as far back as Michael Gerber in the 1986 book The E-Myth (which he revised multiple times for specific verticals too!). Twenty-five years later, Chuck Blakeman was still tweaking the same core concepts in a book literally titled Making Money is Killing Your Business.
These books really start with the big question - Why would you even bother to start a business? Certainly, it’s not just about making money, because if all you wanted was to make money, there is no reason to start a business. 50% of business fail in the first 5 years where there is no profit to be had, and ultimately only 1%-10% ever succeed at all (% depends on your sources). Clearly, a 1 in 100 shot at success means that it’s more than just the money. Why bother risking anything when you can just work for someone and have a nearly-guaranteed income?
At this point in the conversation, other well-read people will throw other book titles out. “Yeah, but what about Profit First by Mike Michalowicz? That title is all about the money!” Yes, yes it is, but if you actually read what the author is getting at, it’s about how to structure your business internally so that you can actually reach your vision. He talks about his system like this:
“Without [the Profit First mindset], we get stuck in trying to sell our way out of the struggles. Sell more. Sell Faster. Get the money anyways you can. It is a trap - a dangerous trap that would even have Frankenstein’s monster poopin’ his panties.”
And now, that sure sounds a whole lot like Making Money is Killing Your Business, right?
GETTING BACK TO BASICS
Fine, let’s get down to brass tacks here. You need a vision, and a vision is more than just a goal. Vision is a set of carefully cultivated goals that align to bring about a much larger vision. A vision might be:
Personally, I want to be able to afford a home in a major metropolitan city, stay married to my until I die, and help as many people achieve their own goals as I can.
For the business, I want to position my business to be the niche expert in health products, build an app that people find irreplaceable, and support a well-orchestrated team of remote workers.
Notice how there’s only one or two statement that directly involve money here? Buying a home. Building an app. Yes, money is important in being able to support a team or convince my partner that I’m worth staying around for, but that’s secondary.
From here, I want to divert from discussion goals and keep it simple. I want to you think about your vision. Your vision is not “grow revenue by 15% this year” - that’s a goal. Your vision needs to address why you wake up, why you sweat, or why you risk anything at all.
Only once you’ve done this can you really understand what your business is supposed to be. Depending on your personal vision and the vision for your ecommerce company, an Amazon store might be all you ever need. Or, you might need Amazon, Shopify, and eBay, but it will depend solely on what your vision is. Here’s what I do know - those that focus only on “how many sales channels do I have, and what is my revenue?” miss the bigger answers to the bigger questions. They end up trapped in their business, selling lots of stuff and feeling more trapped each day. They hit their revenue targets, and go home to cry each night. They fail to enjoy life at the end of the day, and that’s what I’m here to fight against.
The first step is finding your vision. What is yours?