Purpose and Legacy
Tony Stark, in Iron Man II, makes his appearance at the Stark Expo as Iron Man, takes off the suit, and after pompous, self aggrandizing statements, asserts that it’s not about him, and its not really even about us, its about legacy.
Simon Sinek did a Ted Talk about how great leaders inspire action and focuses in on the question “Why?”. He suggests that people are engaged by causes in which they believe.
Conflict Between How and Why
Initially, business owners may have a great cause or legacy which they are trying to build or accomplish, but it is easy to get bogged down in the practical issues of how. How am I going to make a living? How am I going to work with the people around me? How am I going to survive so I have something to pass on, or so I can make an impact on the world?
Perhaps part of the difficulty lies in the reality that a cause or legacy, by itself, is can be superficial and ineffective. Meanwhile, without a why, the how can become mechanical and meaningless. It is only when the why and the how come together and inform each other that one can be successful at both.
The Role of Business Structures and Planning
Business planning and structures are certainly a how, but we really do not know the best way to do it unless we start asking the question why we are doing it the way we are doing it. It is also important to realize that even if other parts of the business are done in a way that is consistent with why the business exists, how we set up the business structure will either support the continued purposes of the business, or it can interfere and undermine everything else being built.
The Business versus the Owners
Add to this that each business owner has their personal why. Many business fall apart, and hurt the goals of one or more of the owners, because the goals and purposes of the owners do not really coincide. The owners may have been united at first, but things change. Owners need to recognize that the business they build together needs to have its own purpose, its own why, which they are going to work together to accomplish. It is okay if owners’ purposes start to diverge from the purpose of the business, or if they need to move on or out, but when the business’s purpose is known and enacted, it becomes possible to keep the business and its purposes going while the owners change.
Working It All Together
Business structure and agreements can be used and fashioned in a manner to facilitate the purposes of the owners, so they can work together for the purpose of the business, and can weather changes in owners, directors, shareholders, and employees. When owners know why they come together in the first place, they know how they can come apart. And this works for businesses that start with multiple owners, or with one owner who later admits additional, different, or new owners.
Owners might come together for a variety of reasons. Owners may even develop the real goals and reasons they are together as a result of the process of doing business and/or by learning while working together. Developing and implementing these reasons into the structure and planning of the business will ensure that they work together well, and that they can continue or leave without loosing the benefit for which they engaged in the first place. When owners do not articulate and advance their personal, and joint, purposes, they will often find that the structures and agreements they have in place, or the natural operation of the business without such structures or agreements, will work against them.