“Life, too, is like that.
You live it forward, but understand it backward.”
I fully recognize that thinking about how to build a successful business has been discussed and pontificated through maybe a zillion books.
But … the one thing they have on common?
There is no one agreed way to do it.
No matter how sincere and steadfast and strident someone is when stating ‘here is what you should do’ … they are simply stating how they believe it should be done.
They could be drawing off of good personal experience or they could be drawing off of experiences of others and they could be drawing off of a combination … but in the end they are simply drawing up what they ‘believe’ is the best way to approach it and not what they ‘know’ is the best way.
That is a truth.
That may not be an inner truth <albeit I wish more ‘experts’ would explore their own inner truth a little more often> but it is certainly a business truth.
About inner truth and inner driven business thinking.
Some people argue … start with ‘outer truths’ … like what consumers want or meeting some need and working inside from there in building an appropriate relevant business model.
Some people argue … start inside the company and the culture and the passion and build your business <seeking appropriate customers> from there.
<please note that, despite your belief, any business thinker worth a shit will not ignore the inner or the outer no matter where they begin>
I believe every business has a core inner cultural truth <sometimes they lose sight of it under the flash & dazzle of a variety of things … including a desire for money>.
Believe me … it is there … somewhere … even in the most seemingly soulless business.
But I also believe a business has a core inner functional truth. This is something they are really really good at which gets embodied within the products & services they offer and bring to market. And, no, this isn’t some tripe like ‘customer service’ or ‘making everyone count.’
This functional truth is always interesting to uncover. I have found it is most likely discovered in one of two ways.
The first is often found buried somewhere in the ‘day one’ of the company.
What do I mean?
If you sit a founder down … almost always … you will find a short list of ‘here is what I was thinking when I decided to begin the business.’
Most of the list is simply just a fun listen … but … within that list there is almost always a gem.
And by a gem I mean … whether on purpose or simply thru power of personality something on that list has threaded its way throughout what the organization does … and I mean actual behavior not a word or a thought.
Sometimes it is something small … but big in that everyone does it <consciously or subconsciously>.
It makes the founder/owner feel good <and rightfully so> and it makes an organization/employee feel good <and it should>.
For me … these are the most rewarding to uncover.
The second is found by doing a deep audit of ‘what is.’
Good companies typically align themselves in useful ways over time.
For example … companies which have a widget-gwonk as a founder begin based around some fantastic widget. The business is not created around any well articulated mission or culture.
The founder certainly has the idea of some mission or vision or even some aspects of a ‘desired working culture’ but just sucks at articulating them because … well … he/she is a widget gwonk.
But over time as the company has grown and adapted to meet challenges they have inevitably coalesced into a living breathing organism.
The organism is often flawed in some form or fashion but at its core it has some inner functional truth hardened thru experience & trial/error.
But remember … it is a TRUTH … functional … but still a truth.
Not something made up in a smoke & mirrors way.
I say that last point because these types of truths are really difficult to isolate.
They are most typically buried under the bullshit standard ‘here is our company manifesto’ type thoughts that all employees must exhibit.
In addition … this one is a hard truth.
Hard in that as an organization naturally grows in fits & starts it will certainly … uhm … no … absolutely … gather up some bad characteristics.
Maybe not really ‘bad’ … but certainly some less than desirable characteristics which are like barnacles on the ship.
They slow you down.
Eliminating those barnacles is hard.
And the hard truth in this exercise is they must go.
The most obvious is a product.
With all the right intentions your business is now selling a product which makes someone very happy.
It’s customized. And you do make some money from it.
But it just doesn’t fit into the rest of the portfolio and it … well … takes your eye off the ball.
If it makes anyone feel better about what I just shared … I would say that in most cases you show the ship … all the barnacles … and then suggest eliminating some – not all … if they like some of them – of the barnacles. It isn’t optimal but it will still make the ship faster and more agile.
The point at the initial stage is simply to have the organization recognize they have barnacles … that all these things on the list are actually barnacles <whether they actually want to get rid of them or not> and get rid of at least some of them.
But there will also be people within the organization … some successful financially … who are actually doing something, which in finding this inner truth, you do not really want them to do anymore.
But they have to go <also>.
Just because I was thinking about it … I will share something we used to use at one of the past companies I worked at.
<note: I believe they no longer use this once I left – he says hopefully or will get his ass sued>
Enjoy and use whatever you want if you think it will help you.
UNCOVERING THE BRAND INSIGHT
Key to business success is uncovering the Brand Insight – of what we call The Inner Truth.
We have a process we use to uncover the truth. While we read all the articles and hear all the rhetoric on how the “consumer is king,” we believe it is a marriage of brand and consumer. Yes, the consumer is important, but our process and belief system, hearkens back to Shakespeare, “to thine ownself be true.” True of any happy marriage, one needs to understand himself before he can find or be the perfect mate. This is what we believe and that is how our process is built. We seek the soul of the brand and the consumer, and to create a dialogue between them.