At the end of last year, we discovered that The Skillery, the co-working space Blue Kite had used for two years, was shutting its doors.
We were terribly disappointed by the news.
We loved being a part of The Skillery community. It was a great place for our team to collaborate, meet with clients and connect with other entrepreneurial, like-minded folks.
And yet, I am incredibly proud of The Skillery for making this difficult decision.
You see, they didn’t close their co-working space because it was a financial failure. In fact, it was quite the opposite – 2016 had been their best year yet.
But, they no longer felt driven and inspired by the work. Given the shift in the co-working landscape, The Skillery felt pulled to create more private office spaces – pushing them more into and landlord role instead of a community cheerleader.
That’s something that The Skillery didn’t want to do – even though they believed they could be profitable doing it.
Ultimately, The Skillery made the difficult decision to close their space because continuing to run it no longer aligned with their vision as a company.
The Skillery was created to inspire and educate entrepreneurs to do satisfying and meaningful work – and have fun doing it. And for them to pivot in a new direction, it would no longer be satisfying and meaningful for The Skillery.
The reason The Skillery was able to make this decision with confidence is because they have a clearly articulated something that Blue Kite calls your Core Why.
The Power of Your Core Why
Your Core Why articulates the vision or deeper purpose for your organization.
Essentially, it answers this important question:
Why do you exist as a company?
It might be tempting to respond with what you do – whether that’s roasting coffee, cleaning carpets or providing financial planning services.
But, oftentimes, that misses the point.
As Simon Sinek pointed out in his powerful Ted Talk, people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.
In other words, people care about your motivations and vision as a company.
The reason this matters is because people are more likely to buy from companies whose beliefs align with their own. After all, It’s much easier to get behind a company that stands for something than one that’s simply just focused on the bottom line.
A Cleaning Company’s Surprising Core Why
Let me give you an example. I once heard about a commercial cleaning company that struggled with staff turnover (as most cleaning companies do). The company recognized that no one wants to work at a cleaning company long-term. Most of the time, it was simply a stepping stone to a bigger goal or dream.
So, this company wondered, why not offer incentives, tools and resources to help their employees pursue their dreams?
The cleaning company became entirely focused on empowering their employees to pursue their own dreams. But by doing so, something interesting happened – their retention went way up!
Even though some employees used the resources available as a launching pad to leave the
company, most stuck around because they recognized what a great culture the company created. This led to happier employees, happier clients and a successful, growing business.
So, what was the Core Why of that cleaning company?
It wasn’t to create a spotless work environment for their clients. Their Core Why was focused on empowering employees to pursue their dreams.
See the difference? Isn’t that the kind of cleaning company you would want to hire?
I know I would.
Why Your Core Why Matters
If that story isn’t enough to encourage you to articulate a Core Why, here are a few reasons why this is so valuable:
- It drives decision-making. As in the example of The Skillery, a strong Core Why serves as the north star for your business. A strong Core Why makes it easier to determine when to say “yes” because it allows you to focus on a strategic approach that aligns with your vision as a company. Essentially, it becomes a foundational component to your approach.
- It creates focus. One of the biggest barriers to success is lack of focus and constraint. (That’s why “constraint” is one of my guiding principles
for 2017.) Organizations get derailed when they stray too far from their Core Why. Without a strong Core Why, it’s easy to add new products or services that don’t align with your original vision or get distracted by the latest shiny object. Your Core Why provides focus.
- It helps you differentiate. A Core Why is the first step in creating a strong Culture Brand. Apple, Patagonia and Warby Parker are all great examples of
Culture Brands. These companies stand out because you know exactly what they believe as a brand. You can get a phone, winter coat or pair of glasses from anywhere. But there’s a reason people buy from those three brands.
- It fuels your messaging. Your Core Why helps you create powerful messaging that will resonate with your audience. This allows all of your marketing and messaging to center around what you stand for instead of what you sell.
- It attracts the right customers. Your Core Why is like a dog whistle for the right audience. Instead of trying to attract everyone, you’ll attract better clients and customers who believe and value the same things you do. Who doesn’t want that?
- It inspires your team. When you get your Core Why right, it can be a powerful driver for your employees. The cleaning company was the perfect example of that. People want to do work that matters. When you have a strong Core Why you are giving people the opportunity to work on something that makes a difference.
What’s Your Core Why?
If you don’t already have a powerful Core Why, I challenge you to create one.
Here are a few questions to ask to help you get started:
- What do you stand for?
- What do you believe?
- What change do you want to see in the world?
- Why did you start your company in the first place?
- What would happen if your organization didn’t exist?
This may not be a question that you can easily answer. And that’s okay.
But, it is worthwhile to take the time to get this right. Articulating your Core Why might just be the most important thing you do this year.