When I started my career, I hadn’t heard the term “know your why.” My interests and passions pulled me in so many different directions. Back then, I didn’t know I would end up with my own business.
My first big break was a packaging design job at Victoria’s Secret in New York. As I developed my design skills, I landed a job as a fragrance package designer with Avon.
On the surface, I had everything. A nice job. A thriving city. Success in my field.
But something was stirring inside me. I loved creating—bringing these new products and packaging to life and watching them thrive. On the other hand, I didn’t enjoy working on somebody else’s terms. I wanted freedom to pick which projects I would work on, to take designs in my own direction, and to pack up and travel if I wanted.
So, I struck out on my own. Wanderlust took me to Europe. I loved it so much that I ended up starting Crème de Mint there. Being an entrepreneur is what allowed me to travel and live anywhere. It changed my life in profound ways. I wanted to help others access the kind of freedom that I was experiencing.
I had discovered my purpose—to inspire and empower entrepreneurs to do what they love.
What is Your Why?
Most businesses start with WHAT. The WHAT is typically expressed as the products or services they offer. Or they focus on HOW—the way they operate that sets them apart from their competition.
But the most successful brands start with WHY (think Apple). WHY is more compelling—it taps into interest and passion. It speaks to a purpose, cause or belief. It’s the very reason your business exists.
For example, Apple:
- WHY: We think differently. We want to challenge the status quo.
- HOW: The way we do this is by making products that are easy to use, elegant, and well-designed.
- WHAT: And we just happen to make computers as our products.
Getting to know your why as it relates to business can take some soul searching. It helps to separate the “what” from the “why” – or what you do for a living from why you are doing it.
“Your why is the fundamental core of what inspires you. It is the spark that drives you.”Simon Sinek, author of “Start With Why”
Explore your why by asking yourself the following questions.
1. Why do I do what I do?
Your why isn’t a goal to be checked off. It is an ongoing commitment to something you believe in. Your why brings you joy and satisfaction. It inspires you to take risks and motivates you to keep going, even when things aren’t going your way.
Think about times you felt passionate about what you were doing. Times when your skills intersected with your values and you felt like you were making a difference. Can you find a common thread among those experiences? What is something you would devote time and energy to, even if you weren’t getting paid, because it matters to you?
By taking time to get to know your why you will have more clarity and direction as you build your company. When your business is tied to your why, you will feel more energized and alive, knowing your skills are contributing toward something meaningful.
“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs; ask yourself what makes you come alive, then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”Howard Thurmon, civil rights leader
2. Why do I do this rather than anything else?
It’s rare that someone holds one job their entire work life. Many of us have tried on a few different hats before we figured out what we really wanted to do.
What inspired you to start your own business? Maybe several years of work in large-scale manufacturing made you more sensitive to environmental ethics. Or perhaps you had a growing need for self-expression that wasn’t being met in your work as a corporate attorney. Or maybe you’re driven by your product idea—you know it can help people and you can’t wait to get it out into the world!
There is freedom in being an entrepreneur. Working for yourself gives you the opportunity to create a company that aligns with your values and supports the lifestyle you crave. But don’t forget, starting a business requires a lot of hard work. Having a clear vision of the company culture you want to create and the greater purpose you are serving will help you stay the course, even when it would be easier to quit and go back to working for someone else.
3. Why should other people care?
If you don’t know your why, how can you expect your employees – and your customers – to feel passionate about your company? A research study conducted by Cone PR and marketing agency found that 78% of consumers believe it is no longer acceptable for companies to just focus on profits—that they should also work toward positively impacting society.
When you build your company with a clear purpose in mind, it inspires customers, employees, and investors to support your vision. Employees feel motivated when they know their hard work goes toward something meaningful. What is your company striving to do that would inspire others to join your team?
A Final Word on Getting to Know Your Why
My “why” stems from a desire to see everyone reach their greatest potential and create a life that gives them freedom and fulfillment. Whether it is for their business or their personal life, when someone is speaking from their heart and sharing their dreams with me, I feel inspired to support them in overcoming their obstacles.
Separating my “what” from my “why” helped me realize that running Crème de Mint is more than a job. Going to work every day is not just about making money—I am motivated by my passion for empowering entrepreneurs to create the life they want and share their ideas with the world.
Whenever I find myself at a crossroads, I like to reflect on my why and how I can better align my actions with my purpose. I hope the questions shared in this post have helped you gain some clarity. Spending time getting to know your why will be time well-spent—for both you and your company.
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