Finding your business why

Finding the why of your business

Alex Johnson
Owner, Designer & Strategist
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A business without a purpose might as well be spinning in circles. It has no direction and means nothing to anyone, including the owners.

Every successful business started as an idea that met a need. But often, those businesses grew from a greater understanding of their Why or reason for being. And that Why resonated with the owners and their customer base creating a rallying point that people could get behind.

A great Why gives people a reason to purchase beyond basic desires. From donating to a charity to creating a community of devoted fans. Fans that will sleep outside your store to get the newest version of your product, e.g., Apple users. Your Why is critical to your business.

The core of Why

Your business Why has power. It can steer every decision that you make for your business. When you understand your Why, there are no longer questions of whether something aligns with your business. You know. And if you stray off course, your audience quickly lets you know.

Your why is a guidepost for your business
Your why is a guidepost for your business

Your Why will drive the purpose of your business beyond making money. A clear Why defines that purpose in no uncertain terms. It will guide which products you create. Every product or service will align with your specific purpose.

Your purpose will fill a need in those that surround you. Your family or your employees will feel and resonate with the same core purpose and passion as you do. For example, if your business is passionate about helping save the environment, then everything you do will show that. Your small business will make a difference through its operation. And your family will feel good about the work and changes being made and want to contribute.

Having a strong Why will also ensure you are authentic in your business. It’s hard to say you stand for one thing and then turn around and do another. And not just when people are watching us. As small business owners, we should all be honest all the time. Your Why creates a feeling across your brand that you will always strive to meet. And feel bad when you fail to stand up to it.

Finding your Why

So how do you find your Why? Some might be passionate enough about something that their Why is right there, slapping them in the face. Others might be a struggle to define. But no matter which side of the fence you are on, finding it should be a priority.

What drives you and your business?

Start with your purpose for running this business. What prompted you to go into business? Why don’t you work for someone else who does that same thing? What is your core inspiration?

Give this some thought. When we opened my wife’s candle business, it was born of a necessity to find a cleaner product for our family. We loved using some candles we received when we were married, but the after-effects were not enjoyable. After learning that something cleaner solved the problem, we wanted to share that knowledge and those better products with others.

It was our core inspiration and goal throughout the years. There have been more than a few times that we have dumped our entire product line to redo it with a healthier version. Our passion is worth more than money.

What parts of your business do you love?

There will always be parts of your business that you enjoy. And I would be willing to bet that there are parts you don’t. I mean, is there anyone who likes paying taxes?

Make a list of those parts that you enjoy. Are there things that you see in common? For most of us, passion will show up in the things we enjoy making or the interaction with our customers.

Think about the ways you can ignite or enhance that passion. Can that passion be stirred up in your followers? Our candle business started as a love of candles and a need for cleaner living. My web design business has a passion for helping other small businesses succeed. Those mom-and-pop shops of the world have everything against them. I love hearing your stories and being a part of them.

What problem are you solving for your customers?

Remember to dig deep with this one. Sure, you might sell handmade trinkets. But what does that handmade trinket do? Does it provide a sense of nostalgia? Or invite a sense of relaxation while they use it? Or, as I discussed in this article (The Business Of Time), provide time and peace of mind?

Write out all the problems your business solves. Both those you sell and those that are intangible such as feelings. How do the issues you solve align with your passions and reason for being? Do you see an underlying motivation for why you are doing what you do?

Follow your gut, and your Why will follow!

Your why should ignite passion
Your why should ignite passion

Your Why is not about your mission. Sure, you may be on a mission to provide perfect customer service. Or the best darn whatchamacallit that you possibly can. But your Why is not that goal. Your Why is the passion that stands behind your product. It makes you want to press on in the hard times.

Your Why is the very core of your business. Your business’s purpose for being. It’s also great to refer to when the chips are down. You can remind yourself of why you got into this thing in the first place.

Most small businesses start as an owner working towards a goal. The owners share a passion for what they do as the business itself. This passion is part of your Why. And to lose it often results in the business failing or business partners going their separate ways.

Be aware of changes

As your business grows and changes over time, your passions may change. It’s normal. So, from time to time, step back and look at your Why. Does it still fit your business? If not, re-evaluate where you are and create a new Why. We did this a few years back when we decided to drop computer repair from our offerings. The passion was no longer there, so it was time to move on.

Secure and share your why

Now that you have found your Why, you need to write it down. Keep your Why somewhere safe, refer to it often and share it with everyone.

Share your Why with employees so they can rally behind and share it. They will use that passion to guide how they treat customers. Employees often become the face of the business, so ensure you empower them with your core passions.

Share your Why with your customers and audience. Your passion works on social media. The reality is that people do business with those they know, like, and trust. When others find out what you are passionate about, it can connect you to them if they are passionate about that same thing too!

If you want to take this further, I highly recommend reading Start with Why by Simon Sinek. It’s a great read and goes in-depth on how a why can inspire and drive business and great ideas.


Every great business needs a Why. By defining yours, you are placing your business on a sturdy footing for the future. Without passion, your business will fizzle out. The flame you bring will not be strong enough to last through time.

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