The consequences of losing your way

  • Why are you in business?
  • What is your purpose?
A typical answer is that you are in business to make money. If that’s the first thing that popped into your mind, then you’ve already lost your way. You’ve already forgotten why you’re in business. If you said to yourself that you are in business because you spotted a gap in the market then you’re a little bit closer to having the real purpose. You could still be closer than you think to losing your way. Here’s the right answer: The reason that you’re in business is to help other people to improve their lives. If they buy your products or services, and you deliver on the promises that you made in respect of them, then the lives of your customers will improve. That’s why you’re in business. 

Why is that? 

It’s because a gap in the market is nothing more than an unsolved problem. And when you create products and services to meet that need, you improve the lives of those who have it. That is the driving force behind genuine sustainable success. The more you help others improve their businesses or lives the more success will come your way.  However, when you lose sight of the real reason behind your business, then you can lose your way. And it can be a monumental hill to climb to find it again. 

What can cause you to lose your way? 

How is it possible to shift your focus from the real drive behind your business, serving the needs of others? In a word, it’s distractions. Distractions ever so subtly take your mind off of the most important part of your business which is to help others to improve their lives. And distractions can take on a variety of forms. They can be little things or big ones. But the size of them doesn’t matter. What matters is the fact that they change your focus. Many exchange their original passion for enjoying the glory of success.
When you’re distracted from that which is most important, you then justify in your own mind why you’re doing it. You start telling yourself that it was a nice journey in the beginning, but now you have to get down to the business of running a business. It is easy to get trapped in the boardroom, dealing with HR, strategic planning, choosing suppliers and advisors, trimming costs, maximising profits and even thinking of acquisitions. It is easy to lose touch with customers and the core offering of your business. 

If you forget your purpose, then you suffer both short- and long-term consequences 

  • The short-term result is that it cost you money: A lot of it. 
You see when you stop thinking about the value that you can give to improve the lives of others then you also stop thinking about other ways to solve their problems. It is easy to take customers for granted and then you stop giving them what they are paying you for. In other words, when you focus purely on the money, it can easily elude you.
For example, even Alan Sugar has said his ownership of Tottenham Hotspurs cost him many millions because he took his eye of his businesses and missed a number of significant opportunities, including a fore runner of the iPad. 
  • The long-term outcome is that it can destroy your reputation. 
Once you have lost the trust or respect of customers it can takes years to prove that you are once again dependable, that you once again create the best products, or provide the best service. Apple is one of the few companies to make such a dramatic come back once Steve Jobs returned to the helm, with the company becoming significantly stronger and more profitable in his second term as boss. Often once customers have decided to walk away they do not come back. 

And how does that happen? 

By a change in your attitude caused by your own success; it is possible to lose a grip on your original ambitions, the thrill you once had making something, selling something or solving another’s problem. Other things crowd in and shout loudly that they are important. Once complacency sets in, once satisfaction replaces hunger, your purpose drops from sight and you lose your way.
In order to create sustainable success in business, you have to remain focused on your original purpose; how you can help more and more people to improve their lives. As long as you do that, you’ll be able to handle those noisy side issues and prevent them from distracting you.
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