The role that purpose plays in business (a contrarian view)

Jun 17, 2022

Purpose and passion are not necessary to succeed in business.

In fact, they could be getting in the way of our success! Especially in the early days.

There is so much out there that tells us that we “should build a business around our purpose and what we are passionate about”… and yes, I do agree with this BUT not to begin with.

Let’s take a look at the life cycle of business growth through the lens of purpose. Business growth can be broken out into 3 stages.

  • Stage 1 – Start Up. Our focus in stage one is to find a product/service the people want to buy from us, and to get good at selling it. The goal of stage 1 is to create a full clientele and/or a steady stream of income with products.
  • Stage 2 – Foundation. Now that we have money coming in the door and feel solid in our ability to sell, stage 2 is about looking at our business foundation. Getting solid operations in place. Refining our offerings. Bringing on the right team members to get us out of the day-to-day and free us up to focus on continued growth.
  • Stage 3 – Scaling. With a solid foundation in place we can now work towards the longer term vision and goals of the business. We can work towards serving more clients in bigger ways and doing what we really love to do with a team of amazing people.

Purpose and passion are NOT necessary in stage 1. This may be contrarian to what other folks say, but in my experience they can inadvertently become more of a hinderance than a helper.

It’s important in stage 1 that we stay focused on these 2 things – finding something that people want to buy from us and getting good at selling it. The thing we sell in stage 1 doesn’t have to be the ultimate expression of our purpose and passion. It just needs to get the ball rolling so that we can start to make money and get experience working with clients and/or delivering our product.

This isn’t to say that you should start a business you don’t enjoy at all or that is out of integrity for you! Ugh, no thanks. But you certainly can start a business based on the things you know already and are good at, but that aren’t necessarily the fullest expression of your purpose or passion.

If we focus too much on purpose or passion in stage 1 – we may never even get our business off the ground! I’ve seen countless folks fall into the trap of “I must find my passion!” or “I need to make sure I’m living my purpose” to the point where they never even get their business off the ground. Or – even worse – they start working with clients, run into a challenge or two, think that means they are off-track (or off purpose) so they stop what they are doing to look for the next “right thing.” This puts them into an exhausting cycle of constantly starting over.

Purpose becomes more important in stage 2 of your growth journey. Once you’ve got the ball rolling, you have clients and you are making consistent income – NOW is the best time to bring your purpose into the mix. You’ve created fertile soil for your purpose work to emerge.

This is where I work with most of my clients. They want to hone in on their zone of genius. They want to refine their offerings to focus on the work they are meant to do. They want to create an environment of support around them (team & systems) that allows them to let go of the stuff they should no longer be doing so they can focus on doing what matters most. They want to step into their next level of leadership so they can bring this all to life.

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