So you are building, have built, or planning to build some product as a startup. Perhaps it solves a problem better, cheaper, and faster than the alternatives. Maybe it is truly revolutionary. Regardless of its merits, why are you creating it?
Founders usually want to gain wealth, get famous, and leave their mark on society in some concrete way. However, a startup can be so much more. It can change lives, improve circumstances, and/or provide a means to do something never before possible.
I am the first to become excited with the promise of building something incredible. I love making things. Always have. The problem is that the things I make usually do little for others. That is one reason I stopped developing software and started helping others with their creations.
My financial software, mobile ad system, digital surveillance software, and countless e-commerce applications all performed as required. Some even made lots of money. However, as I look back, I wonder if they helped anyone other than the few who made their living from working on them.
By help, I mean the life changing kind. Not the I can do my job better type. See, the truly great companies change lives. They aim to help others first and profit second. It is by this philosophy that a startup can do more than any nonprofit while making unheard of amounts of money.
That is have a purpose. You need to have a purpose and by reflection, your startup needs to have a purpose. Not some corporate slogan but an actual purpose that truly helps others. Is this difficult? Absolutely. However, when you work toward doing something greater than selling a product, it fuels a passion so great that you actually become better at selling too.
Having a purpose also makes it easier to attract followers. No one wants to follow a product. People want the idea of the product. Even that is often superficial, but people are so hungry for purpose they fall for the gimmick. Instead, imagine if the purpose is real. How loyal would your followers be if they discovered your purpose was real?
I started Fortative to help others thrive with their startup. It is not a gimmick. Instead, it is a way to help those who have an idea and a dream get to a point where they can play in the same arena as others with much greater opportunity. That is my purpose. To tap into the unrealized potential of people who want to do more.
Do not get me wrong. My motives are not 100% altruistic. I know that by helping others achieve greatness, I will profit too. That is in all aspects of the financial, emotional, and spiritual sense. Thus, when I am writing late into the night, it is to help someone who will awake the next morning and apply what I have given them.
What is your purpose? Is it to just to build a successful company, become famous, sell to Google, or ring the bell at NASDAQ? I hope not. Because if it is, it will be very difficult to achieve. Instead, pursue your passion. A passion that goes beyond products and business to the core of helping others.
Everyone has some passion when it comes to their business. Some are excited about making money. Others enjoy building accolades. Then there are those who awake each morning with the goal of helping someone do something today they could have never done before. That is the company, the leader, and the message worthy of following.
It must be genuine. This cannot be faked. You may get away with faking it for a little while but the truth will eventually surface. So how do you know when it is real? When people scoff, make fun, and ridicule your efforts and you continue on. That is when it is real.
The late Zig Ziglar, sales trainer extraordinaire, wrote dozens of books, and traveled the world with a the goal of helping others succeed. He helped many people establish rags to riches stories. However, everywhere he went there were a few who would interrupt his message, questioning his purpose. Each time, Zig calmly explained that he did not create the message for them. He created it for the people who wanted to listen.
That is the attitude you must adopt. Your purpose, if genuine, will be attacked. No one attacks a corporate slogan - not really. However, people will become angry at you for pursuing a passionate purpose. That is because no competitor can duplicate it, no critic can tear it down, and no antagonist can destroy it. Genuine purpose is dangerous.
No one really cares if Pepsi is the New Generation or Coke is the Real Thing. These companies do not get angry tweets or emails trying to discredit their slogan. However, try to say that your business exists to ensure no one will go without shoes and people will question your motives. Even say that your purpose is absurd, unrealistic, or untrue.
Blake Mycoskie, the founder of Tom’s Shoes has heard it all. He created a revolutionary type of company. One that in his words, “Does something that matters”. We all know the story of the buy one - give one philosophy. However, the drive behind it came when Blake was on vacation in Argentina.
He meet a lady who was leading a shoe drive to help the poor children unable to afford shoes. They were 100% donation based and thus had no control over the inventory of shoes available. The main problem was sourcing the correct sizes to fit the children. Thus Blake thought of creating a charity. However, that idea seemed to not be the right answer either. Since it too would be bound by donations. Instead Blake started a company that sold shoes to people who could buy them, charging a little extra to fund the additional shoes needed by barefoot children in poor areas of the world.
It worked. The children got shoes and Blake became incredible successful in business and life. His success was directly related to his purpose. He was able to get incredible exposure, sell out of shoes on a regular basis, and remain profitable from the very start. All from a guy who knew little or nothing about selling shoes.
The point is to have a purpose for your startup. Even if you already started selling a product. Develop a purpose for doing it. Something greater than business. Something beyond marketing. Something that helps people do today what they could have never done without you.
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