Finding your sweet spot as an entrepreneur needs to start with a meaningful, personal purpose that is also a business opportunity. Some people are so passionate about a cause that they forget to consider the lack of business potential, while others are so enamored with profit that they jeopardize their ethics. Both ends of this spectrum fail to bring long-term satisfaction or success.
Many entrepreneurs are finding their “secret sauce” these days by combining a strong purpose with a good business opportunity. For example, the handmade-item platform, Etsy, sponsors free entrepreneurship courses for underemployed and unemployed people, including assistance in setting up a store on Etsy, thus adding more artists and artisan sellers to their platform.
Patagonia, a successful outdoor products company, combines building safe high-quality products with philanthropic efforts to help the environment. In the name of this cause, the company donates time, services, and at least one percent of their sales to hundreds of grassroots environmental groups around the world. Purpose must not be perceived as just a gimmick.
So the question is, how do you find a personal purpose and a business purpose that are in sync, to be the driver of business success, as well as your own happiness? I just finished a book, “The Purpose Effect,” by renowned author Dan Pontefract, that provides a good framework and background or doing just that. I recommend his tips for creating and maintaining that sweet spot:
- Define a personal declaration of purpose. Deciphering one’s personal purpose should be priority one. Keys to this must include how you want to operate your life, and how you incorporate your strengths, interests, and core attributes. Write it down and make it specific, expressive, yet succinct and jargon-free. Then take ownership and make it happen.
- Don’t stop believing, learning, and developing. If one stops growing and experiencing, personal purpose will be inhibited. We all change as we mature, and we all need to keep changing. To find new work you love, it helps to do job shadowing or short-term rotation. Outside of work, it’s important to join a club, do volunteer work, and help at local events.
- Establish a team-defined declaration of purpose. By constructing with the team a purpose-first strategic direction with a role-based mindset, a business will have far greater buy-in from its team to achieve its mission and objectives. When every team member sees purpose in their role, the benefits will accrue quickly for all.
- Set specific targets to serve all stakeholders. The challenge of every business is to create a win-win relationship between business owners, partners, team members, customers, and the community at large. By setting specific targets, you can apply measurements to chart progress and be able to celebrate successes along the way.
- Delight and deliver value to your customers. Without customers, there is no business. Thus even purpose-driven entrepreneurs need to maintain a “customer-first” perspective. When the customer is put first, the team will rally around that focus. When the customers are delighted, they become the best advocates of your purpose and your business.
- Create an engaging and ethical workplace. Prioritizing an ethical culture is a critical step to gain the respect of customers, team members, and the community in the pursuit of becoming a purpose-based organization. Factors that increase engagement include more manager face-time, flexible work rules, and better recognition opportunities.
In the long run, both purpose and business are all about people. Neither of these can be static, and still stay vital. Both should be thought of as in perpetual motion, so finding your sweet spot is not a one-time event. You and your business are on a journey, by way of new experiences, insights, and knowledge, requiring constant attention, or the sweet spot will be lost.
That should convince you that finding and maintaining your sweet spot in business will not be easy. It takes hard work and requires hard choices be made, which can be painful. In the difficult early stages of any business, it can also seem like you are leaving some things for others that should be in your pocket. But you will soon find that the joys of giving far outweigh the taking.
Image credit: CC by US Department of Agriculture