As a business owner you can directly impact your future by realising and realigning with your ‘why’ (your purpose). Valued’s MD Stephen Paul gives us his insight to the true value of finding your why, through his own story, and shares how you can find yours by asking yourself some simple questions.
Why is finding your purpose as a business owner so important
Let's be brutally honest, there are some days when you really don’t feel like going to work. Instead you just want to throw the duvet back over your head and hope it all goes away. There are lots of different reasons for that. Maybe we have a client we wish we had a better relationship with, or maybe there’s a problem with our supply chain. Maybe there’s even a staffing issue that we just don’t want to face.
What we need to remember is that we all have a ‘why' and a purpose behind our businesses and that’s the one thing that should make us want to get out of bed in the morning and go to work, despite everything else. The biggest problem, for all of us, is that we aren’t often in alignment with what our true purpose (or why) really is.
Today’s session is all about the Why.
How to find your true purpose as a business owner
How many of us follow celebrities, friends, or neighbors on Instagram, on Facebook, and on other platforms? How many of us want to travel first class, go to luxury destinations, and stay in lavish hotels? How many of us want to employ hundreds of staff, or to become multi million-pound consultants?
How many of us truly want that?
How many of us think that we should want that?
It is almost drilled into us that to be successful as business owners we should want all of that. We should also want to read the business books that tell us that we should employ hundreds of people and make millions of pounds in profit. That's a great financial opportunity and I respect that. But sometimes the real truth is that that picture isn’t what we truly want at all.
Sometimes business owners just want the ability to be able to go away on holiday and not worry about the business. Sometimes they just want to be able to drop the kids off at school everyday. Sometimes they just want to have money in the bank, to pay the wages and then in a month or two buy a new car. Or maybe they just don’t want to feel worried when the car, or the boiler breaks down.
Sometimes people want to be successful enough with their businesses that they can build a nice buffer. They want to be comfortable. Or to build in enough profit to seek the right support for their business. How many of us really feel like that?
I was speaking with a client recently, she works for herself and she needs help. She needs support. She's working too many hours and she needs to bring that new member of staff. In her case it will be her first member of staff. It feels like one heck of a leap, bringing in that first person.
If you've got your why, if you've got your purpose, then it makes all these decisions so much easier.
Let me tell you a little bit about the Valued journey. Ten years ago, my mum got terminal cancer. I got the phone call that nobody ever wants, “Your mum's got cancer. Can you tell us when you can bring her to the hospital tonight.” We took my mum to the hospital and we followed the journey. We followed the path that ultimately ended up in my mum passing away eight months later. Setting up Valued and moving away from my full time partner position with another firm, gave me the opportunity to spend time with her in those final months. My ‘why’ during that time was to go shopping with her every Friday morning. My ‘why’ was to embrace every single second that I could with her, because we knew we had a limited amount of time. Those people who sadly perished twenty years ago in the Twin Towers didn't have that time. They didn't have that moment. They went to work that day, thinking that they would go home that night. Sadly, many never came home. Tragically, many never came home.
So it is important that we find our purpose in our lives and our businesses, now we have some clarity. But how do we do that?
I remember not so long after, I was getting married and I wanted to spend more time with Kate, my wife and also earn enough money to pay cash for our wedding. We also had our daughter coming. It was a brilliant year in life and in business. I was talking with my friend Paul Bulpitt about it on a trip to London, when he asked me what my ‘why’ was.
“What are you talking about? What's my why?” And he explained a little bit and talked about a guy called Simon Sinek. My friend said, “If I buy you a copy of his book, will you read it?” Of course! I’ve since bought many copies for friends and clients. In his book, Simon talks about the ‘why’, how you find it and what you need to do to get it.
When Paul, my friend, sent me that book, I read it on holiday. And I realized that my ‘why’ and Valued was different from our reality. We had been doing well, but we had some customers that really I didn't want to work with. We had some suppliers that we didn't want to work with. We had premises that really didn’t fit our team. We were also working in a way that really didn’t fit what I thought we were about.
So two months later, I had new premises. Then as team members moved on I replaced them with staff who were much more aligned with our vision. We also brought in different suppliers and we started working with different clients. We did all of this because we needed to align our ‘why’ with our reality.
But I missed something.
I was moving along quite happily for many a year after that, happy in the knowledge that I had my ‘why’, I had a purpose. Then people would turn around to me and say, Stephen, why have you not got your why and your purpose on your website. I told them that I didn’t want it to just be about my website, I wanted it to be something we lived and breathed. We had these five guiding principles on the wall at work, to guide us you see. Why did we have five guiding principles on the wall, because I read a book that told me we needed five guiding principles and that was where our ‘why’ sat, no where else, just on the wall. I remember walking in one day, and taking those five pictures down and putting them in the bin, because they weren't our real why at all, they were someone else’s. We still needed to sit down and identify what our true why was going to be. The problem was, I didn't really understand what my true purpose was, and that was to make a real difference.
When COVID came along 18 months ago, I knew I wanted to help and support every single one of our clients. I knew I wanted to wrap my arms around every team member that we had, because they were wrapping their arms around our clients. I knew that we weren't going to charge for furlough, even though many accounting firms did. We never did. That was part of our ‘why’, to make a real difference.
One of the things I also learned during COVID was that you can press the reset button, you can say, you know what, I don't want to continue as we have for the last several years. We can do things differently and we can make a difference in more ways than one, internally and externally, carrying our ‘why’ right through the business. So we spoke to our team and we said, “Do you want to continue working remotely?” The team said yes, so that’s now Valued. We work remotely. That fits with our ‘why’, that fits with our purpose.
In making a difference for our team, we knew this would have an impact on our clients, so we asked them, “Do you mind if we work remotely?” Most clients didn’t have an issue. That's brilliant. That allows us as an employer, to be able to offer a better work life balance to our team. It's not just about our ‘life moments’ now. Something else that we offer the team. Instead our new remote working gives them the ability to drop the kids off at school, or to pick the kids up. It's also about being able to be at home for that boiler service or Amazon delivery. Going back two years I would never have thought for one second that I would have a fully remote team. I never thought for one second that I wouldn't be able to see my team physically in an office. I also never thought I would walk into the office and see all of the IT equipment standing idle.
Discovering our why has moved us into a new era here at Valued. A business where we can truly help make a positive impact on our clients, and our belief in helping them change their lives, all from positively impacting our team’s lives and working environment. Suddenly it wasn’t about seeing empty chairs and computers switched off, it was back to the reality that we were making a difference.
This is our new normal.
My honest belief is that your why and your new normal have to be aligned.
How to find your why
My friend Paul Dunn is a celebrity in the accounting world and to actually have Paul spend some time with me recently, absolutely blew me away. It really did. Paul shared his why, his journey and how he helps others to find their why. And with his permission today, I'd like to share that.
Let me ask you a question.
Complete the sentence, “Mary had a little lamb…”
Are you singing the next words?
Now I'd like you to pick up your phone and I'd like you to press record. Then I want you to complete this next sentence, just like you did with Mary had a little lamb.
“I get up every morning because...”
Just say what's on your mind.
You might say, I get up every morning to go to the toilet or to have a shave and a shower, in order to get ready to go to work. That's brilliant. Do it again. “I get up every morning to…”
Don't spend a lot of time thinking about it, it will come naturally. It took me three attempts to find my true answer.
Pause for a moment and take that in.
When you've done that, I would like you to add two words to what you've recorded.
Say, “I get up every morning so that...” Tell me what impact you wish to make.
I spoke to one of my colleagues the other day, who told me that he gets up every morning to give his wife and his child a better life. That's beautiful. That's wonderful. I get up every morning to make a positive impact on others, so that I can make a difference.
What’s your why?
What do you do once you have found your why?
I was recently lucky enough to host an event for the Mint Business Group and we went through this same exercise. It was great to hear how different people’s ‘why’ was. Not at all like they had been scrolling through Instagram for a randomly prescribed answer, but instead really profound personal choices.
Where the magic really happens with this is when you align this with your business financials, your cash flow in particular.
If you can understand that you as a business owner can have an impact on your business purpose, then you can understand that you can also have an impact on your fiscal year.
Let’s say you want more holidays. You have got to find the money for them. What if you want to finish early to pick up the kids from school? You have got to find a way to earn more each hour, in order to take time off with pay. Some people would like to buy a bigger house, a better car, whatever it might be. Nine times out of ten, it comes back to money in whether you can make that desire happen or not.
Look at your financials, and underline your ‘why’ with your new normal. It's so important. From here you can start making financial decisions based on what you really want and what you need to get you there.
As you know my ‘why’ is about making a positive difference. As a result of speaking with my friend Paul Dunn and refocusing my own ‘why’ to align it with my new normal, I was able to donate ten toiletry packs to children in vulnerable positions, normally in a home that has been affected with domestic violence.
I believe you can make a positive change in your new normal too.
So please, from the bottom of my heart, spend the time doing what you want, rather than what you feel you have to do. Align your why with your new normal and work towards the life that you deserve.
Stephen Paul, MD Valued.