When growth stalls or is rapidly accelerating, or when you’re seeking investment, or when you’re thinking about who will succeed you, these are the triggers that compel you to plan for the future. When the time to plan arrives, what’s the best first step?

Throughout your organization, heads are down and focused on the near term, ever reacting to marketplace changes. Over time, what began as an opportunistic, hopefully profitable venture, becomes preoccupied – first with survival, and then hopefully, with growth, and the need to remain profitable. Along the way, the true purpose that caused the launch of the business, how you were going to make a difference, becomes lost in the daily churn.

When you begin your planning process, your first step should be to consider why you’ve been successful:

  • Tell your story – why does the business exist? When it was launched, how did you or the founder expect to make a difference in your market, for your customers?
  • When you reflect on the success you’ve earned, what makes you most proud? Are you making the difference you expected? What would happen if your business vanished?
  • What makes your business distinctive and valuable? What is your “uncommon promise” to your customers, your competitive advantage, what you own in the market?
  • What quantifiable value are you creating for customers? Why do they buy from you? How is doing business with you strengthening their competitive advantage? How are you helping them succeed?
  • Why do your people invest their energy in your business versus the alternatives?

Answering these questions exposes the founding purpose that inspired the launch of your business and has sustained it. It’s a discovery that validates your competitive advantage, and motivates your people by recognizing their contributions and revealing the meaningfulness of their work. And, it generates energy that drives action and builds positive momentum to propel your planning process.

Does your purpose still endure at the core of your business?

Is your profit motive still linked with the purpose motive?