Very few of us can change the world all by ourselves. That’s the price of having a vision that’s large and has a significant impact.

So we work with others along our journey.

I try to capture this concept with the word “partnering.” But that’s not primarily about the legal structure of being Business Partners. That’s totally fine, but only a small fraction of the people you’ll need to work with.

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This landscape of values-based businesses can be quite confusing.

I had a chance to discuss this with a researcher in the field recently, and we started off with the term itself. Purpose-driven. Conscious. Values-based. Mission-driven.

Such a mishmash of buzzwords! But if you look underneath that, you see a common thread:

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What you measure gets attention. What gets attention gets worked on. And what gets worked on is improved.

This is such a basic train of thought, yet how often do we actually lead this way?

Let’s say that the key to your particular business success is developing personal, nurturing relationships with your customers. Yet when you have meetings and talk about progress, you’re showing revenue, expenses, on-time delivery and defects. Where did customer relationships even get mentioned?

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I get it. People are a pain. Employees. Customers. Random people in the store.

Not you, of course. You’re perfect. But everybody else is so annoying sometimes!

So how do we deal with this reality? Well, first, it’s about recognizing that this is the human condition. We’re all flawed and make mistakes.

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Customers are the lifeblood of a business. You’re delivering value to someone, and in return they pay you for that value.

So why do so many companies make it hard for an interested person to connect? It’s almost as if they don’t really want the business.

Sure, customers can be a pain sometimes. They … want stuff. They’d rather have it their way than the way you currently do it. But I assume you’d rather have customers than not. Right?

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I recently had the opportunity to lead a workshop about building marketing from a strong foundation of mission or purpose. But there was a sticking point for many in the room: They weren’t the business owner, so they didn’t feel they had the right, or the power, to declare what their company’s mission might be.

And they were right. This is the kind of stuff that gets created by owners and executive teams and such.

But that’s not the end of the story!

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I talk with employees all the time who are a bit lost on this concept of “mission.” They can’t bring anything to mind when I ask them what the mission of their company might be, and it doesn’t seem to have any relevance to their job even if there was one.

This is a problem.

Honestly, I don’t really care if you call it a purpose or mission or values or goal. I don’t mind if it doesn’t have a name at all. And I don’t care if it’s in highly refined words which precisely capture in a beautifully wordsmithed paragraph.

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I heard an interesting article on the Innovation Hub radio show recently, talking about how riskiness affects people’s decisions. It got me thinking, because I’ve wondered for many years about the connection.

When we’re working on connecting our products and marketing to the customer need, we often start with their needs and desires. The customer desires a phone which is functional and attractive, with long battery life and easy-to-use apps.

That’s fine as far as it goes, but it’s a pretty surface-level way of thinking.

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I was recently asked about what to do when it feels like you need to change the core purpose of your business. Another person answered that “your core purpose is always to return money to your shareholders, that never changes.”

I believe that attitude is fifty years out of date.

Sure, if you choose to create a company which is merely about extracting money from your customers and giving it to your investors, fine. But that’s not the people I’m working with.

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We’ve all been learning things during our entire lives. That’s called experience, and it’s what helps you build valuable skills and teach others.

But wisdom is more subtle than just stuff you know.

It’s about putting choices into a larger context: namely, your values. And the values of the larger community you operate within.

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