Thursday, January 14, 2010

Purpose. Passion. Profits.

Who says you can't have your cake and eat it too. We did, in our family business, taking it from staff size of 5 to over 50. We enjoyed rapid growth, client loyalty, and profitability greater then average for our type of business and industry.

In the book "It's Not What You Sell, It's What You Stand For: Why Every Extraordinary Business is Driven by Purpose", authors Roy M. Spence Jr. and Haley Rushing discuss the importance of having a purpose, a reason for being, beyond just making money. They go onto say that having a clear sense of purpose, that's in line with a higher cause, almost always results in making more money too, then you ever thought possible. This is exactly what happened for us.

For now, money aside, having a higher sense of purpose became even more important when running a small business for it was really hard work. It was 24/7/365. Business lived in the board room and in the bedroom. Competition, employee issues, cash flow, payroll, tough client deadlines, keeping up constant marketplace changes and technologies, to name just a few--while having very limited resources. It was a constant juggling & balancing act and past success was no assurance of future success. Every day, every month, every year was a new beginning and one could practically overnight go from hero to zero.

Add in the dynamics of the family run business, in which I was for nearly 20 years, it was a whole different ball game. These years ended up being the best of times and the worst of times. There were days filled with joy. Others when we want to simply choke the living daylights out of each other, or simply hide or just run away. (More on family business dynamics, both challenges and opportunities, to come in my future postings.)

Through it all, two things kept me going. One, fear. Yes, fear, fear of failure. We had lot riding on our business since as a small business, we had to personally guarantee many of the business loans. Second was a sense of higher purpose. While there were moments my fear took over, derailing me, it was my sense of higher purpose that I kept me focused and kept me going, providing the fuel to persevere.

As for our marketplace, something we fell into, it was serving mostly associations and non-profit cause groups. And I was thankful for this for with it came a sense that the work we did was connected to a higher purpose. I always felt that in some indirect way, we were contributing to making the world a better place and that was very soul satisfying for me.

In addition, the clients we served were constantly under enormous pressure and experienced lot of stress in the workplace. So for me personally, I had a motto that daily energized me and got me out of bed.

The way I saw it, my job was to take care of my clients, make their life easier as best as I could. To me, they were taking care of the world, and my job was to take care of them. Therefore, I was even more fanatic about providing the best customer experience I could.

I always believed that once my clients turned something over to me, they shouldn't have to worry one bit. It way my job to take care of them, make their life easier, help them look good, and to indirectly help them make their dreams come true, for my clients had in some way their own dreams, hopes, quality of life tied into quality of work we produced for them. So if I failed them, I felt I hurt them and that was unacceptable to me.

So daily I was driven by my own sense of purpose (to work towards making this world a better place and take care of our families and clients) and I was fueled by my own passion (to build a strong business and provide outstanding client experiences). Through this, we generated very healthy profits too.

In closing, as I said earlier in my opening, it is possible to have your cake and eat it too. To do that, one has to become clear on one's purpose, do work that is aligned with it for that will provide fuel to do the necessary work and that will lead you to do your very best, which then will result in profit. And more importantly provide sense of fulfillment and happiness that comes from spending ones days in work that is personally meaningful. This is what happened for me and it's one of the many factors that contributed to our business growth and profitability.

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