Commerciality vs Purpose in Business

I was giving a presentation to a business recently when I received a question from the floor that has had me thinking ever since.

I was discussing the importance of having clarity of purpose in any business, along the lines of Simon Sinek’s ‘start with why’. We were discussing Sinek’s philosophy that people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it, when one of the team asked what happens when a client doesn’t care about your why; they just want to know what you are going to do for them and how much it’s going to cost!

My text book response was, ultimately, you want alignment with the people you do business with, whether they are partners, employees, clients or customers. Sinek says your goal isn’t to do business with everyone, but with those people who believe in what you believe. I reiterated this and indicated that if you don’t have alignment in your purpose, the relationship won’t last.

Well, it’s not that easy is it. I’m an accountant, so I know the commerciality that is also required in every business. Those who are starting out for instance will do business with everyone they can, because without customers and clients, your purpose isn’t going to amount to much.

I also thought about when I go to buy groceries; whether I go to Coles or Woolworths will normally depend on the proximity to where I park rather than a consideration of their purpose or philosophy.

However, businesses that effectively communicate their why, will attract people who are aligned to that purpose, providing a great opportunity to build lasting business relationships. Clients may just want to discuss the how and the what, and that’s OK, as chances are it was your ‘why’ that got them into the room in the first place.

Be clear on your purpose, communicate your why, and you will ultimately build a business with people who believe in what you believe.

So I’m off to Aldi now!


This article was featured in the August issue of Hunter Business Review Magazine.

Find more of Scott’s insights here.