Bringing your first dream business to life is like herding dozens of cats while you keep your eye on the horizon. Sometimes it's hard to remember the big picture. The details get chaotic and you literally think, "Why did I get myself into this? Why did I ever think this was a good idea?"
Don't worry, feeling lost in the weeds at times is totally normal. This post will inspire you to get your Why out of your head and heart and into the real world - written, recorded, video - in a format you can check in with when the going gets mucky. Which it will.
Before we get to that, here is why your Why is important.... and its one of your secret weapons!
Impact, that's why.
Chances are, your Why is probably about more than wanting autonomy or getting away from a bad boss (although those are perfectly fine reasons as well!). Women often want to start businesses that are not only profitable but also have impact. “Goal-driven women enter midlife with a lot of pent up energy for creating their mark on the world” says Marcia Reynolds, Psy.D., consultant and author of Wander Women: How High-Achieving Women Find Contentment and Direction.(1)
The Story Exchange, a fascinating project to document over 1000 stories of women entrepreneurs, has this good news to report: “The women we’ve met over the last three years are stretching the definition of business value well beyond its traditional “masculine” measures, they are adding to the mix...traditionally “feminine” values like helping, inspiring and satisfying other people as well as personal goals...Indeed, these contours of female entrepreneurship combined with the increasing presence of women in business can and are changing business itself."(2) (emphasis added)
Generally speaking, how is this approach different from men's motivation? Susan G. Duffy, executive director of the Center for Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership (CWEL) at Babson College calls it intentional impact, as opposed to coincidental spillover. "Whether they are women entrepreneurs or women in government or women in corporate leadership, they want to make a difference, and so they’re motivated to have an impact on the world beyond profits,” she says. (3)
Our unfair advantage.
As it turns out, the female bias for valuing multifaceted impact (our Why) is great news as a natural competitive advantage. Why?
In this famous (as in 29 million views famous) TED talk from Simon Synek, he makes a strong case for the fact that the companies doing the best job of connecting with their audience are those that understand their why. He says, “People don't buy what you do; they buy why you do it. If you talk about what you believe, you will attract those who believe what you believe.”
His examples include Apple and Lockheed Martin, but (sadly) do not include any companies founded or co-founded by women. So, let's add Martha Stewart Omnimedia, LearnVest, Harpo Productions, Kate Spade, TaskRabbit, and Kiva to the list of women founders whose laser focus on their Why helped them succeed by providing the guiding motivation and foundation for everything the company does.
On a smaller scale, think about your favorite woman owned-business, maybe one in your town. What is it about her place, space and approach that delights you?
Those qualities start to point at her Why.
Bring It On Home.
So, how do we get at your "Why?" Don't be surprised if you feel a little resistance to this process! There is likely a deeper story here. It may be that your Why is an impact you want to make that you don’t talk about too much, even to yourself. It just sounds too big, ambitious, crazy and scary.
So even though most of us will not create the next iPhone or miracle drug, here is the thing: Life is a great pool of goodness that wants constant expansion until it overflows into each nook and cranny of this world. Every expression of a woman's truest self is incredibly valuable, especially right now on the planet. Starting a business is a huge brave act, its often an expression of our voice. If you think your Why for your business is "small", it most definitely is not. Every Why matters.
Put your business in the hot seat.
OK here we go!
If your business could talk, what would it say to the world? Grab a piece of paper, open a new doc, or record a video or voice notes with your phone, and interview your business.
Go ahead, pretend like your business is 1 year old and you are proud of its progress. Interview your business right now. Don't overthink this, just have fun with it.
Here are some questions to get you started, but you don’t have to stop with them, of course!
Those answers will lead you to your "why", the values you want to express through your business. If you weave this into your products, services and communications with customers or clients, the connections with like-minded customers will flourish.
Tip: Put a note in your calendar to revisit this interview every few weeks and at the end of the year, see what, if anything, has changed.
And lastly, we would be over the moon happy to share some of you interviewing your business at ClearCEO in our Inspiration Marketplace. You cannot imagine how much your story can help other women. Feel free to email me directly if you want to share.
And, if you want more, here is another post that will shatter your self-imposed boundaries and help you get at your Ultimate Goal, a close sister to your Why.
1 (Psycology today,https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/wander-woman/201105/what-female-mid-life-crisis-looks(